Missouri's lakes and state parks will be getting busy with the Memorial Day weekend coming up to mark the unofficial start of summer, but recent flooding could have an impact on folks trying to get outdoors in the state.
The water is higher than normal at several area lakes, and flooding has forced officials to keep some areas closed at least temporarily.
While state parks and conservation areas are still trying to recover from the flooding, officials say there is no reason for people not to enjoy the outdoors as long as they use some safety precautions.
Brian Canaday, Fisheries Division Chief for the Missouri Department of Conservation, is urging people to avoid places that are shut off and to be careful around trees and other floating debris in the water. However, he said the flooding did not have a negative impact on the fish in the water.
“Our fisheries are very resilient,” he said. “They go through flooding and droughts and do just fine.”
The water was reported to be 10 feet high last week at Stockton, 11 feet at Table Rock, 20 at Pomme de Terre, 21 at Truman Lake and 35 at Bull Shoals. The water is close to normal at Missouri fishing spots closer to Kansas City and on the Kansas side, although high winds have made fishing tough at some spots.
Lake of the Ozarks also was close to normal. Truman Lake is often flooded to prevent damage to Lake of the Ozarks, which was reported to be 1 foot lower than normal.
Bob Bates, a fishing guide at Truman Lake, said the water there will remain high through Memorial Day. It is dropping about 6 inches per day, he said.
Despite the high water, Bates said fisherman are reeling in white bass, crappie, catfish and hybrids at Truman Lake. Bates advises fisherman to stay where the water is 20 to 25 feet deep around points and flats.
Canaday said fish also like to stay around logs and other local habitat when the water is high.
“Wherever there is flooded trees or shrubs, that is a good place to fish,” Canaday said.
Conservation department officials said wildlife for the most part survived the heavy rain. Most wild animals can get to high ground during flood.
Some animals such as deer and elk are strong swimmers, biologists say, and are occasionally sighted swimming across bodies of water as large as the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Canaday said that while folks may need to check to be sure lake access points and other areas are open, they should still be able to enjoy the outdoors in Missouri.
“Fishing spots may look different after the flood,” Canaday said, “but the fish are still there and fishing will still be good.”