Table Rock Lake in the Ozark Mountains is a prime fishing destination near Branson, Missouri. This lake created by a dam on the White River is in fact part of a network of three lakes covering southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.
Within Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals lakes resides a large number of various fish species. Many of these fish like minnows and shad are really small and serve as food for the larger fish that guides target.
Below are 5 common species that fishing guides around Table Rock Lake will target during an outing. Continue reading for a brief description of each of these fish species, including their appearance, average size, diet and more.
Largemouth Bass – As you may have guessed, the largemouth bass gets its name from the very large mouth it has. The upper part of the largemouth’s body is a light green color while its lower parts and the belly are white. The largemouth can also be identified as having a black stripe going down its midside. Dorsal fins are not well connected. Some largemouth bass will also have dark spots on their belly. Largemouth bass average between 10 and 20 inches long, weigh between ½ and 4.5 pounds and typically feed on other fish, crayfish, insects, frogs and even snakes.
Spotted Bass – The spotted bass shares many similarities with the largemouth but has a more elongated body. It has the black stripe going down its mid-section along with the green upper body and white lower body. Unlike largemouth bass, all spotted bass will have dark spots on their bellies that look like streaks. Spotted bass average between 10 and 17 inches long and weigh between ½ and 3.5 pounds. They generally feed on crayfish and insects.
Smallmouth Bass – While the smallmouth bass’ mouth isn’t nearly as big, it is still quite large considering. The smallmouth is slightly different than the other two species because it doesn’t have the signature black stripe going down its side. Also, the smallmouth’s dorsal fins have a more defined connection than a largemouth’s. The back and side of the smallmouth is a greenish-brown color while the belly is white with a dusky pigment. Smallmouth bass average between 10 and 20 inches long and weigh between ½ to 4 pounds. Like their largemouth and spotted bass cousins, they generally feed on fish, crayfish and insects.
Bluegill – One way a bluegill can be identified is from its spiny dorsal fin, which if not grabbed properly, can be dangerous. The bluegill’s mouth is rather small and its upper jaw doesn’t reach the front of the eye. The bluegill’s color can be described as a dark olive green on its back and sides and yellow or red-shaded orange on its breast and belly. The bluegill gets its name from the color of its chin and lower gills, which are blue. Bluegill average around 9.5 inches long and 12-ounces and feed on crayfish, insects, snails and small crustaceans.
Paddlefish – This fish is somewhat similar to a shark and gets its name from the long paddle for a snout. In smaller paddlefish, the snout constitutes over 1/3 of the fish’s length. Their mouth is located under the paddle, and while it’s a little on the large side, it is covered by the paddle. The paddlefish’s top or back is a bluish gray and sometimes black color while the belly or bottom is white. Paddlefish also have a forked tail and no scales except on the tail. They are quite large, averaging around 7 feet long and 160 pounds. Paddlefish like to feed on crustaceans and insects they catch as they swim through the water with their mouths open.
If your fishing guide decides to venture into one of the other lakes, they may have to change up their approach since Walleye, Crappie and Trout are more common. A good Table Rock guide will determine the right species to target depending on the location, time of year and other parameters.
If you’re visiting the Branson area and would like an experienced guide to take you fishing on Table Rock Lake, John Sappington offers both spin and fly fishing tours. He has been fishing competitively for the last 20+ years, so he understands what to look for to ensure you don’t come back empty handed. To learn more, visit JohnSappington.com or contact John today to schedule a trip.