Jefferson City, Mo. — Something’s fishy . . . and in Missouri, that’s a good thing. Pros and amateurs alike agree: fishing for sport and recreation is a prime activity in every section of the Show-Me State. That’s a big area to cover, so let’s zero in on Missouri’s central region; a mecca for the twice-a-year fisherman, the tournament pro, the never-done-that-before novice, the go-every-weekend fanatic, and everybody in-between—no matter the age, gender, race or place of birth. If you have a “fishy” desire, central Missouri has a place for you.
Missouri’s official tourism website, VisitMO.com, is loaded with listings and events with a tie-in to fishing. But what’s the first thing you need before you go fishing? No, not a fishing license (although that is required); not a rod and reel or a line and a pole (although, those do come in mighty handy); not even a boat, because fishing from the shore is available almost everywhere; some would say bait, but that’s not what we have in mind—the first thing you need is . . . water.
When you talk public fishing spots in central Missouri, you’re talking lakes, a trout stream, and the mighty Missouri River. Again, that’s a lot to cover, but let’s wade in (pun intended) and hit some high spots. Give your cell phone the day off, set the DVR, load the car with gear and food, and let’s go fishing.
Harry S. Truman Reservoir is Missouri’s largest lake, at 55,600 acres and 958 miles of shoreline. When the lake was
formed and filled with water, many of the trees were left standing, leaving a mostly undeveloped, non-commercialized shoreline. Whether casting a line from shore or from a boat, these stands of trees make Truman Lake an excellent place to fish for crappie, bass, catfish and walleye. Three state records can be claimed by Truman Lake, including a 7 lb. 4 oz. white catfish.
- At the end of the northwest arm of the lake, Bucksaw Resort, near Clinton, is a full-service location with lodging, a marina, boat rentals, a floating restaurant, and fishing guide services.
- At the eastern end, outside of Warsaw, Long Shoal Marina offers a restaurant, guide services, seasonal slip rentals, and a boat repair shop.
Other than fishing, Truman Lake provides numerous recreational activities: boating; water skiing; sailing; camping; hunting; horseback riding; and hiking; along with primitive and modern camping facilities; numerous lodging choices; and marinas.
- Near Warsaw, on a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides, Truman State Park is ideal for camping, swimming, picnicking, hiking, and yes, fishing. The on-site marina has a variety of boats for rent.
- If you need a quiet place to spend the night, you won’t go wrong at Fincachivo Lodge and Goat Farm, perfect for fishermen, hunters, nature lovers and folks in need of a break from the hustle and bustle. Accommodations range from a two-bedroom suite with full kitchen and cable TV to rustic cabins in the woods.
- North of Tightwad, on the shore of Truman Lake, Hickory Hollow Resort has 16 tree-shaded cabins, plus RV sites and boat storage.
- Don’t overlook a visit to Harry S. Truman Visitor Center, atop Kaysinger Bluff, two miles north of Warsaw. The spectacular views of Truman Dam and Reservoir alone are worth the stop, and the exhibits and trails are educational and enjoyable.
- Top off your day with some Ozark-style barbecue at The Cook Shack, just north of Iconium. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all scrumptious.
The Lake of the Ozarks has a slightly smaller surface area of 55,000 acres; however, the lake’s serpentine shape results in more than 1,150 miles of shoreline (that’s more shoreline than the entire pacific coast of California). The main channel of the Osage Arm stretches more than 92 miles from Bagnell Dam to Truman Dam. Referred to as “The Lake,” it differs greatly from Truman Reservoir in that most of the shoreline is developed; but the fishing is just as good—four state record fish have been taken there, including a 56-pound buffalo and a trophy muskellunge that weighed in at 41 lbs. 2 ozs.
The Lake’s thousands of private and public boat-docks provide excellent cover for many species of fish, including bass, crappie, catfish and walleye. There is a variety of shoreline cover, and most of the lake is deep and clear, with coves that taper to shallow areas, excellent for spawning.
- Osage Beach Bait & Tackle has everything any angler needs to fish Lake of the Ozarks, whether you’re a serious tournament angler, panfish enthusiast or are running catfish trotlines. Plus, they can service and repair your rod and reel, and give fishing tips.
- At Big Ed’s Guide Service, in Lake Ozark, Ed knows bass and where to find ’em. You can take your own gear if you want, or Ed can supply all of the equipment you’ll need to fish from his fully loaded, Coast-Guard-licensed bass boat.
- Also Coast-Guard-licensed, Jack’s Guide Service, in Linn Creek, is knowledgeable about the entire lake and every type of fishing. Jack’s policy: If you don’t catch fish, you don’t pay.
- If you want to set out on your own, Lake of the Ozarks Marina, west of Camdenton, rents a variety of boats and personal water craft; and, for that all-in-one vacation, they rent luxury houseboats (they’ll teach you how to pilot them).
- Lake of the Ozarks State Park is Missouri’s largest state park, at 17,626 acres, including 89 miles of shoreline. In addition to outstanding fishing, the park includes: swimming beaches; marinas; camping and lodging choices; biking, hiking and equestrian trails; and guided tours of Ozark Caverns.
In addition to outstanding year-round fishing, the Lake of the Ozarks is a very popular vacation spot, with activities ranging from a large outlet mall to small gift shops, dozens of golf courses, world-class wineries, restaurants from upscale fine dining to walk-up hamburger stands, and a mind-boggling list of resorts and accommodations.
- Osage National Golf Resort, north of Bagnell Dam, boasts three 9-hole sections, two of which were designed by Arnold Palmer. That gives you three 18-hole combinations; plus, you can choose from five sets of tees.
- At Sycamore Creek Golf Club, in Osage Beach, rates for 18-holes include a motorized cart. This facility has been voted one of the lake’s favorite golf courses for nine years.
- In Linn Creek, Seven Springs Winery has a large covered porch and even bigger patio where you can enjoy top-quality Missouri wines and items from their bistro menu. They run a shuttle service (for a fee) to many lake area resorts.
- From high on a bluff overlooking Horseshoe Bend, the views at the Blue Heron are spectacular. This fine-dining restaurant sports a casual dress-code and atmosphere.
- For a down-home eating experience, stop in for barbecue at Wobbly Boots Road House, in Osage Beach. This crew boasts more than 40 national BBQ awards in the last 20 years.
- If you crave relaxation and luxury after a long day of fishing, book a guestroom at the Blackhawk Inn Bed and Breakfast, in Osage Beach. On a bluff overlooking Lake of the Ozarks, the views from the three guestrooms are spectacular; each suite includes a private bath and private balcony.
- For family fishing in a home-like setting, Dogwood Acres Resort, in Sunrise Beach, has fully equipped one-, two- and three-bedroom lakeside cabins. They have a covered fishing dock, a separate swim dock, an indoor pool, and boat rentals. Perfect for a family fishing vacation.
For a more laid-back fishing excursion, you can’t beat Lake Pomme de Terre. Though small in comparison, at 7,820 acres and 113 miles of shore, Pomme de Terre has a lot to offer for a lake its size. This is a deep, clear lake; 95 feet at the deepest part. Although the lake offers a wide variety of fish, this lake’s most sought-after trophy, year-round, is the muskellunge.
Stocked in the lake since 1966 by the Missouri Department of Conservation, muskie is a fierce fighting fish that can reach upward of 45 inches in length and weigh close to 40 pounds; definitely not suited for ultra-light tackle. A challenging fish to catch, they are known for their strength and their tendency to leap from the water in an attempt to dislodge the hook.
- Pomme Muskie Guide Service specializes in muskie and walleye fishing. They can supply all the fishing equipment necessary; you need a Missouri fishing license; rain gear; beverages; and lunch/snacks.
- The Clearlight Inn, in Hermitage, offers 37 guestrooms, with a restaurant adjacent. The parking lot has electric hook-ups for your boat and trailer.
- Sunflower Resort, outside of Wheatland, offers rooms with kitchenettes.
The U.S. Corps of Engineers manages six campgrounds spaced around Pomme de Terre Lake; all offer level campsites, lantern hanging posts, picnic tables and fire rings; five have electrical hookups available, showers, dump stations and playgrounds. Fees are charged at all Corps of Engineers camping areas on Pomme de Terre Lake, except Pittsburg Landing.
- Damsite, located just above the dam, boasts 80 electric sites and 22 non-electric sites.
- Outlet Park, below the dam, contains 21 sites (14 have water and elect.). This is a canoeing and kayaking hotspot.
- Nemo Landing has 12 sites with electric and water, another 41 have electric only. Wheatland Park offers 41 sites with electric and water, plus 26 with electric only. The handicapped-accessible picnic shelter, with electricity, accommodates 75 guests.
- Lightfoot Landing has 29 sites with electric and water, including one that is handicapped-accessible. Two group campsites allow 50 guests each.
- Pittsburg Landing offers shaded, primitive sites only.
The Missouri Division of State Parks includes two state park campgrounds on opposite sides of the lake: Hermitage and Pittsburg. Both include a shower house; a beach; picnic areas; trails; coin-op laundry; available water; and a dump station (the showers, water and dump stations are turned off November through March). Both campgrounds require a two-night minimum stay on weekends, April through October. In addition to these items, Pittsburg includes a full-service marina and a shelter house.
Important note for all campgrounds in Missouri: Do not take your own firewood—use local wood only.
Big lakes aren’t your style of fishing? Central Missouri has that covered as well.
Bennett Spring State Park, 13 miles west of Lebanon, is home to Missouri’s third-largest spring, which produces 100 million gallons of clear, cool water each day. The resulting stream offers anglers some of the best rainbow trout fishing in Missouri. The 3,216-acre park includes a trout hatchery, canoeing, hiking trails, camping and a restaurant.
Numerous small streams n the region are wonderful spots for bass fishing.
The Niangua River is one of the best smallmouth streams in the state, in addition to holding trout from Bennett Spring. The deep pools of the Tavern River hold bass and tons of panfish. On the Gasconade River (the longest river that flows entirely within Missouri), every mile holds smallmouth bass fishing that rivals any stream in the state.
Don’t overlook the mighty Missouri River, a haven for large buffalo, carp, gar and huge catfish. The rod and reel world record blue catfish—130 pounds, 57 inches long—was taken from the Missouri River in 2010; that same year, a father-son team hauled in a 99-pound flathead catfish. You might not bring in one that size, but you might.
Follow this link to see all of Missouri’s state records: State records.
For state fishing rules and regulations: Regulations.
Find a complete list of Missouri’s fishing seasons: Seasons.
Learn what fish are available in Missouri: Fish to catch.
We’ve only skimmed the surface (another pun intended) of fishing in Missouri’s central region, but this should be enough to get you excited. The key point is, get outdoors and enjoy nature. Whether you catch your limit, or go home empty handed . . . the rod-and-real fun is in the trying.
Hundreds of attractions, restaurants, activities and lodging choices in Missouri’s central region are listed on Missouri’s only official tourism website, VisitMO.com. While browsing the website, you can order a free copy of the 2012 Official Missouri Travel Guide; also available by calling 800-519-4800. And yes, there is a free app for that—in iTunes: “Official Missouri Travel Guide.”
About the Missouri Division of Tourism
The Missouri Division of Tourism (MDT) is the official tourism office for the state of Missouri, dedicated to marketing Missouri as a prime travel destination. Established in 1967, the Missouri Division of Tourism has worked hard to develop the tourism industry in Missouri into what it is today, an $11.2 billion industry supporting more than 279,000 jobs and generating $627 million in state taxes in Fiscal Year 2011. For every dollar spent on marketing Missouri as a travel destination in FY11, $57.76 was returned in visitor expenditures. For more information on Missouri tourism, go to www.VisitMO.com.
Links referenced in this feature:
Harry S. Truman Reservoir
Long Shoal Marina
Truman State Park
Fincachivo Lodge and Goat Farm
Harry S. Truman Visitor Center
The Cook Shack
Hickory Hollow Resort
The Lake of the Ozarks
Osage Beach Bait & Tackle
Big Ed’s Guide Service
Jack’s Guide Service
Lake of the Ozarks Marina
Lake of the Ozarks State Park
Osage National Golf Resort
Sycamore Creek Golf Club
Seven Springs Winery
Blue Heron Restaurant
Wobbly Boots Road House
Blackhawk Inn Bed and Breakfast
Dogwood Acres Resort
Lake Pomme de Terre
Pomme Muskie Guide Service
Missouri Division of State Parks
State Park Campgrounds
Bennett Spring State Park
Fish to catch
# # #