Up the creek: It's not always a bad place to be

Saturday, April 13, 2013
Danny Strafford, Springfield, with some of the crappie he caught on Turnback Creek last weekend.

While many fishermen were busy running up and down the lake in pursuit of white bass and crappie as spring began, there were many others up the creek catching fish.

One of the best places to fish early in the spring can be one of the many creeks in the Ozarks, including Swan, Beaver, and Flat Creek. We chose Turnback Creek in Dade County to test the water.

When the word gets out that the crappie, white bass and walleye are moving up the creek, it's nothing to see dozens of boats in a 2-mile stretch of water and most of them are pulling in fish.

Danny Stafford, Springfield, and Aaron Shimkus, Mountain Home, Ark., launched their kayaks into the creek and proceeded to haul in stringers of crappie.

"This is a great place to catch fish in the spring and by using kayaks, you can hit spots where big boats can't reach," Stafford said. "Turnback is not only a good spring spot, it is also very good for catching catfish in the summer.

"I usually come up here in June, set limb lines and catch lots of cats. I have fished the creek for several years and have always caught fish. Earlier this year, I wasn't sure if there would be enough water, but with the snow and rain last month, the creek is about normal and the fishing is great."

Ned Franklin, Joplin, is another angler who looks forward to spring fishing on Turnback.

He said, "By using 1/16-ounce white jigs, I catch whites, crappie and walleye. Last week, I even caught a big drum on the jig.

"I try to hit the water from about dawn to mid-morning before too many other boats move in. By using an ultra light rod and reel, you can have all the action you want.

"Last week, my son and I caught limits of whites and crappie, along with a 23-inch walleye. Turnback is my favorite place to fish in April and usually, the weather is good."

Many travelers passing over the creek on Highway 160 east of Greenfield have wondered how the creek got it's name.

"I had been curious about the name turnback, related to the creek, so I looked it up and talked to several locals to find out," Franklin said. "It seems that there were a group of settlers from Tennessee who were looking for land and headed out of Springfield and camped along the stream.

"However, several of the settlers decided to return back to Springfield, hence the name Turnback Creek was coined."

Anglers as far away as Kansas City make spring trips to the area. Jim Parker, Independence, is a frequent visitor who thinks Turnback Creek is the place to be when the white bass and crappie make spring runs.

"For many years, I have made trips to the creek and this year was no exception," Parker said. "I stated catching small white bass males, but yesterday, I caught some females that weighed more than 2 pounds.

"I also caught a limit of crappie within a 50-yard stretch of the creek. I know where to fish in the creek, unlike fishing on the big lake, where the fish could be anywhere.

It's a lot less frustrating looking for fish in the creek than on the lake. Sometimes, the boat traffic can get heavy after the word gets out that the whites are running, but by fishing during the week and early in the morning, I avoid most of the boat traffic. It's nice to be retired, so I can go most any time and not just on weekends, like it used to be."

Jack Larson, Nixa, is another believer of spring fishing on Turnback Creek.

"One day several years ago, I was fishing on Stockton and the wind came up and nearly blew us off the water," he said. "We moved into Turnback Creek to get out of the wind and right away, we started catching fish. Ever since that day, we start fishing on the creek first and usually catch all the whites and crappie we want."

Some of the best fishing of the year can be up the creek -- with or without a paddle.

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