There’s nothing like the thrill one gets when they feel their line go taut and they see their rod bend to absorb the strength of a fish as it fights to get free. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first fish someone’s ever caught or the thousandth, the excitement never wanes. It’s for this reason so many anglers return time and time again to Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks – because no matter the season, the “bite is on.”
The Lake of the Ozarks, which has been an angler’s paradise since its creation in 1932, is a must-visit for anyone that wants great odds on catching their daily limit of fish. Known as one of the best fresh-water fisheries in the nation, this man-made reservoir features 54,000 acres of water stretching 92 miles end to end with 1,150 miles of shoreline. That’s a lot of water holding a lot of fish.
“Big Ed” Franko, professional fishing guide and owner of Big Ed’s Guide Service based in Lake Ozark, has fished all over the U.S. and Canada and insists the Lake of the Ozarks holds its own when compared to any other lake.
“The Lake of the Ozarks is special because it’s such a healthy lake and, as a result, it holds so many great big fish,” Franko says. “There’s an unbelievable amount of 3- to 5-pound largemouth bass swimming around and we catch far more bass here than anywhere else I’ve fished. Day in and day out, it’s my favorite lake and that’s why I live here. I’m able to be out on the water chasing fish 250 days of the year and I get to help make sure people who are visiting the Lake have the best fishing experience possible when they’re here. That’s what it’s all about. Having fun and catching a bunch of great fish.”
The variety of fish at the “Best Recreational Lake in the Nation” includes largemouth and spotted bass; white bass; black and white crappie; hybrid white bass/stripers; bluegill; walleye; and channel, flathead and blue catfish, as well as paddlefish. However, the most popular species are easily crappie and bass. The Lake hosts over 500 professional and amateur fishing tournaments each year, the two most popular being the semi-annual spring and fall Big Bass Bash tournaments, with each typically paying out a whopping $100,000 cash prize to the amateur that reels in the biggest fish.
For any first-timers to the Lake of the Ozarks — whether it’s someone’s first ever attempt at fishing or their first time fishing at the Lake — the surest strategy for success is to get hooked up with a professional guide. The local pros know the water better than anyone and have all the equipment and knowledge to make for a memorable day (or days) out on the water. The Lake of the Ozarks’ guides are a great resource and they are eager to show off the highlights of their home waters. With a guide, beginners can learn the basics: how to properly cast, what habitat the fish like and what type of baits work best for each species and during which time of year. They’ll also pick up many simple tips on easily overlooked essentials that will help them catch more fish and have more fun. Most guides have set rates for either a half-day (four hours) or a full-day (eight hours) fishing trip, but special arrangements can be made ahead of time for a customized trip. To book a Lake of the Ozarks fishing guide, all a visitor has to do is call the guide of their choice to arrange their fishing excursion and the guides will provide the rest. A list of fishing guides in the area can be found at www.FunLake.com.
For anglers bringing their own boat, multiple public launching sites are available at Lake of the Ozarks State Park as well as at full-service marinas and resorts around the Lake of the Ozarks. A lot of the same marinas and resorts also offer boat rentals for their guests’ enjoyment. Fishing licenses are required for most anglers in Missouri. Licenses can be purchased at many Lake-area resorts, convenience stores and bait shops.
With more than 200 restaurants and nightspots in the Lake of the Ozarks area, there is no shortage of options for great places to eat. One of the most memorable and popular ways to enjoy a meal is dining lakeside, where the views are as spectacular as the food. Named as one of the top five destinations in the country to “dock and dine,” Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks features over 60 restaurants that are situated lakeside, either with a stunning view of the water or with convenient marinas where boaters can tie up their vessels, step off their boats and onto the dock and walk up to the restaurant to enjoy their meal.
Some of the most popular “dock and dine” restaurants at the Lake offer a variety of fare, ranging from Cajun cooking to classic American cuisine and beyond. And, most feature live musical entertainment and each has its own unique amenities and experiences as well. Although arriving to dinner by water is arguably a lot more fun, having a boat is not necessary to enjoy these great lakeside dining options – all of the restaurants are also accessible by land.
Featuring two sandy beaches, four Tiki bars and Captain Ron’s very own pirate ship, customers can appreciate the diverse menu options, including handmade pizzas, grouper dinners or a “B-Lob-T” (bacon, lobster and tomato) sandwich while choosing to dine inside or outside on the expansive patio. Located at the 34.5 Mile Marker (MM) or by land at 82 Aloha Lane in Sunrise Beach, is a pirate-themed dining and entertainment complex
Located on the 7 MM of the Gravois Arm of the Lake or by land at 15208 Red Hollow Road in Gravois Mills, this bar and grill brings a tropical paradise to central Missouri. Artificial palm trees, a sandy beach, multiple swimming pools and a swim-up pool bar are prominent features of this Caribbean-themed bar and grill. The restaurant’s popular menu items include its Caribbean Rice Bowls, tropical salads, crab legs, fish tacos and other tropical-inspired dishes.
Dog Days Bar and Grill, at the 19 MM or at 1232 Jeffries Road in Osage Beach, has been named one of the top 10 “performance boating watering holes in the nation” by Powerboat magazine. Dog Days features gourmet burgers, tasty appetizers as well as steaks, seafood and pasta and a wide array of popular frozen cocktails. Dog Days has multiple swimming pools and a swim-up bar.