Stockton Lake - A Sleeper Crappie and Walleye Destination Bill Cooper Crappie and walleye fishermen are a dedicated lot and often fish for these favored species in the cold weather months. However, if duty and reponsibility kept you off the lakes and streams over the winter, don't despair. You can still get in on the crappie an walleye action at Stockton Lake. Kris Nelson, owner and guide of Tandem Fly Outfitters on Stockton Lake, in western Missouri, says that Stockton is an underutilized fishing resource. Stiff winds and pelting rain greeted us as Kris swung his big SeaArk boat into open water. We had launched at Stockton Lake State Park in the shelter of a well protected cove. Our only consolation at the moment was the fact that temperatures had soared into the fifties, after a long spell of bitterly cold temperatures. Kris had guided a trip in 8-degree weather just the week prior to our fishing trip. We were braving the elements to pursue walleye, best known for it's culinary qualities. The delectable fish is known by most as a northern species and pursued heavily in Michigan, Wisconsin and surrounding states. 'The Missouri Department of Conservation does an excellent job of stocking Stockton with walleye,' Nelson said. 'I'd say it's the best walleye fishery in the state of Missouri.' Nelson and his wife, Amanda, own Stone Creek Lodge on Stockton Lake. They have a dozen or so clean, comfortable rooms along with a pizza and tackle shop just a stone's throw up the hill from the lodge. It's a perfect combination for anglers visiting Stockton Lake. John Bishop, Kris's business partner, joined us for the day. He bounced into action as soon as Kris motored into a cove sheltered from the wind. 'We've been catching crappie like crazy in here for several weeks, Kris said. 'We've been catching limits in an hour or so. I want to check on them before we start walleye fishing.' Kris maintains the latest electronics on his boat and as soon as he walked to the bow of the boat, he pointed to the Lowrance unit and said, 'look at this Bill.' I didn't know what I was seeing, but Kris indicated the blob on the screen was a huge ball of shad accompanied by an equally large ball of crappie. John stepped to the front of the boat and dropped a Shad Daddy bait rigged on a jig head into the chilly water. He halted the jig at about 25 feet. Seconds later his rod arched and he swung a fat crappie into the boat. 'I'll grab the video camera,' I said as Kris snatched a Lew's crappie rod out of the rack and joined John on the front of the boat. By the time I dug the camera out of my bag, the guys had a double on. 'I think you've found them, I teased. 'Ooh, they've been here for some time,' Kris retorted. 'My clients caught limits here yesterday.' What happened over the next thirty minutes was some of the best crappie fishing I had ever witnessed, but that is another story. We really had walleye on our minds. 'We gotta stop this and catch some walleye,' Kris said. Thunder rolled in the east. John checked the weather radar. 'It looks like we are on the edge of some heavy stuff, John said. Lightning flashed to the north. 'I think we'd better head for the shelter of the dock,' he said. We quickly racked our rods and Kris fired up the big boat motor and sped towards home base back at Stockton State park. When he swung the Sea-Ark into the main channel, we were greeted by big waves and a dark curtain of heavy rain bearing down on us. I was especially grateful that Kris ran a big boat. Rain blew at us sideways as the boat easily cut through the rolling waves, providing us a safe and comfortable ride back to the dock. 'It would have been impossible to find the dock in that squall without the electronics,' John pointed out. We all relished the cover of the boat slip and checked our phone messages and e-mails while the squall blew over. Twenty minutes later, we were water borne again. I fully expected walleye to be in a different location, but Kris swung the boat into the very same cove we had left earlier. He and John began rigging rods. 'Here they are, Bill,' Kris said, as he pointed at the LED dispaly. Groups of walleye were strung out on the bottom in 30 feet of water. Kris worked on cutting up a fresh shad, while John rigged a big, fat worm on a jighead. John yelled, 'walleye on,' before Kris had finished cutting up the bait. 'I think I will go with a worm rig,' Kris laughed. I joined them. Kris controlled the trolling motor to maintain the boat on a drift course that paralleled a long line of walleye strung out on the bottom. It was easy to feel the jig bumping the rocky bottom. The fishing method invovled slowly, but steadily, sweeping the rod forward and reeling up the line and repeating the process. 'I'm stuck,' I muttered under my breath. 'Oooh, that rock moved,' I muttered again. 'Here we go guys,' I chuckled. 'Good fish!' Kris slid the net under what had become the first walleye I had ever caught intentionally. I had caught them incidental to bass fishing. 'What do you think about that, Mr. Bill? Kris asked. 'I want to do it again!' I said. We were about to complete a drift when John hooked up again. 'This one is bigger,' he said. On his next cast his rod arched. 'Oh, this one is bigger, he said. Shortly after his third cast, he moaned, 'I think this one is bigger.' The bite had really turned on. In short order we all had a limit of walleye in the boat. We had scarcely noticed the steady rain and heavy wind. 'That's the way it is when you are catchng wallleye,' Kris said. We paused for photos. 'This is amazing,' I said. 'We haven't seen another boat all day.' 'I'm telling you,' Kris responded.'Stockton Lake is the most under utilized fishing resource in the state of Missouri. It's a real sleeper.' I believe him. The crappie walleye bite at Stockton Lake changes as spring and summer approaches, but Nelson can still find fish. To get in on the action, call Kris Nelson at 417-839-2762, or look him up on Facebook at Tandem fly Outfitters.