One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

We’re talking trash fish here, you know, fish not used in fishing and despised by many fishermen.

Buffalo, carp, gar, suckers, drum…they don’t get top billing at Lake of the Ozarks or anywhere else for that matter.

But maybe they should at least get a little respect. Avid anglers, including seasoned guides, know that unfished fish can put up a tough fight and taste surprisingly delicious if prepared properly.

So, move on bass, crappie and catfish. She gets a lot of attention, and rightly so. But this article is dedicated to giving some pub to the more die-hard lake crowd. It’s time to fish outside the main stream.

Where buffalo roam

Mark Bales may be a public relations specialist for the buffalo that roam the Lake of the Ozarks.

Mark Bales of Barnett, Missouri, enjoys fishing for one of the Lake of the Ozarks’ non-game fish, the buffalo.

“I’ve caught all kinds of fish — king salmon, different saltwater fish, big catfish, you name it — but I have as good a time catching big buffalo as any of them,” he said.


Yes, Bill loves to catch the huge non-game fish that turn so many anglers off their noses.

“If you’re just looking to catch something, how often can you go out and catch fish after fish, many of which are 10 to 25 pounds?” He said. “There aren’t a lot of people who catch these fish, but they don’t know what they’re missing.”

After years of hunting them, Bales now hunts buffalo scientifically. Step 1: Throw the corn into the water while enjoying your morning coffee. This is enough to accommodate the buffalo schools in the area.

Step 2: Bait a treble hook with a homemade dough bait: a mixture of cottonseed, banana, flour, and cornmeal.

Step 3: Throw it away.

No weight is used. He wants the ball of dough to slowly drift toward the bottom. They usually don’t get there before being intercepted by a large buffalo.

Bales puts those fish to good use. He has a way of cleaning fish to avoid small bones. He prepares buffalo ribs, which he compares to pork ribs, and dines on his idea of ​​ambrosia.

“I’ll eat buffalo as quickly as I eat any fish in the lake,” he said.

Beat the drum

I will never forget the day I joined guide Alfred Chapman for a day of fishing on the Osage River below Bagnell Dam.

We were fishing for largemouth bass, and caught quite a few keepers along the rocky banks and brush piles. But the real stars of the show were the big drum that hit the boogie sets and pigs we were using.

Catching drum in the Osage River photo

They hit like a freight train and often fought so hard they almost took our wrists into the water.

Chapman grumbled as each drum caught…but only a little.

“I’ve never had a client hire me to go drum fishing,” said Chapman, who runs a fishing guide service on Lake Ozark. “But it’s a nice extra fish.”

“They’re hanging out in a lot of the same places bass are. They’ll be along rock and gravel banks and in eddies.

Peak time for drum fishing is November and December. But February and March can be good too.

Drum image

Drum picture 2

The hunt is on

Like Chapman, Jack Oksa is often hired by clients looking to catch largemouth bass, crappie or catfish.

But when the fishing is unusually difficult and the kids in the party just want to catch something big, Uxa will often go for an unusual backup fishing plan.

The Lake of the Ozarks is full of long, toothy fish. They are not hard to find in the summer when they float to the surface to get doses of oxygen in the hot water.

They can be difficult to catch with regular bait due to their hard mouths and sharp teeth. So Uxa makes his own bait, a jig head with a 4- to 5-inch white line.

“They’ll hit this rope and their teeth get tangled in it and you can get them right in,” said Oksa, who runs Jack’s Guide Service. “If you get a big one, they’ll put up a fight.

“When you have a 3- or 4-foot fish jumping out of the water, it’s exciting.”

Big Jar Pictures

Guide Jack Oksa (right) views gar as an additional fish in the Lake of the Ozarks.

Targeting adults

When Jackie O’Quinn, boat designer for Tracker Marine, was tasked with creating a model for bowhunters, he knew he had to grab his bow and learn the sport.

On his first trip, he joined a team in the US Open Fishing Championship and released several fish. Then, he fell in love with the endeavor.

Photos by Jackie O'Quinn

Jackie O’Quinn, who runs Lake of the Ozarks Bowfishing and Adventure Charters, uses his bow to catch big rough fish like this carp.

Today, he is not only an avid bowhunter, he owns a guiding company, Lake of the Ozarks Bowfishing and Adventure Charters.

He takes out groups of anglers at night, navigating the shallow waters of bays and outlying points. They stand on the deck as a group of bright lights shine in the water. When the shadow of a large fish appears, it’s time to shoot the arrow.

Buffalo, cutieback, gar, common carp, and grass carp are all fair game. They are all abundant in the Lake of the Ozarks.

“The lights will blind them and sometimes they will freeze,” O’Quinn said. “I would say our average shot is 10 yards or less.”

Once the arrow reaches the fish, anglers use a short rod and reel with 100-pound braided line to reel in the fish.

Some species get a free entry pass. Bowfishing is limited to non-game species. But at Lake of the Ozarks, that’s no problem. The “Big Lake” contains a lot of raw fish.

A year-long hunt

Brian Wilson spends the entire year guiding clients to monster, rough fish that can stretch to a fishing line.

During the summer months, he and his staff at Stained Water Bowfishing and Gigging target large carp, buffalo, gar and other unused fish that roam the Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock and other Ozark reservoirs.

But in September, Wilson’s attention turned to the suckers that inhabit rivers, such as the Osage and Niangua Rivers, which feed the Lake of the Ozarks.

Pictures of the Osage River

They come out at night and use long poles to disturb suckers cruising in the shallow water.

This tradition is in the Ozarks. Generations of anglers gather in the cold fall and winter months to take overnight trips to the suckers.

Boats light up the dark Ozark nights as arrays of lights shine on the clear water. Two fishermen with trolleys peer into the water from the front deck, searching for well-camouflaged suckers.

They move the four-pronged jig into the water directly above the fish and attempt to connect with a short push.

“We call it the short poke,” Wilson said.

At the end of the trip, the night’s meal is brought ashore for a small meal. One or two fishermen clean the fish, others bake the meat and prepare the deep fryer, and others do the cooking.

Because the suckers are scored (Wilson has a scoring machine that works like an old-fashioned credit card scanner), only a few bones remain, and the crusty white flesh produces a fine Ozarks meal.

“We can have dinner, clean it, cook it, eat it, and still be in bed by 10 p.m.,” Wilson said. “The colder the better. When it’s cold, the fish aren’t as active and the water clears. You can sneak right up on them.”

The Ozark rivers’ bass season runs from September 15th through February 15th.

So, next time you want to wet your line, give the bass and crappie a break, and try fishing outside of the main current. You might just love him.

Brent Frazee is an award-winning outdoor writer from Parkville, Missouri. He was outside editor of The Kansas City Star for 36 years before retiring in 2016. He continues to freelance for magazines, newspapers and blogs.

(Tags for translation) Food

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