December 5, 2023

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Missouri Fishing Guide: the Complete Guide

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Stretching 365 miles east to west, Missouri occupies a serious chunk of the American Midwest. But despite its size, Missouri’s fishing is somewhat underrated. We’re here to change that.

The “Show-Me State” is peppered with water sources – split by lakes and flanked by rivers. Its 4,000-plus springs release billions of gallons of water a day, giving life to the old tourism slogan of “Where the Rivers Run.”

Indeed, the great Mississippi forms its entire eastern border. The Missouri River cuts through the center of the state. A meandering chain of lakes dips in and out of the southern border with Arkansas. Clearly, there’s no shortage of places to go fishing in Missouri!

What you target – and how you fish – in this state is just as varied. From casting flies in mountain streams to spearing “Suckers” in the Ozarks, Missouri offers an insight into fishing cultures from across the country. Which is appropriate, really, for this quintessentially American state.

Types of Fish in Missouri

Missouri has a unique blend of habitats for fish to thrive in. That’s why there are over 200 fish species in Missouri – from the inch-long Pygmy Sunfish to the gigantic Alligator Gar. Whether you want to test your skills or cook up a fish fry, here’s a run-down of some top fish to catch in Missouri.


Trout is, hands-down, the most popular fish in. And, given the quality of Trout fishing in Missouri, it can be hard to believe that this species has only lived here for about 150 years. There are hundreds of miles of world-class Trout fishing waters and a real chance of a trophy.

A closeup of an angler in a baseball cap holding up a Rainbow Trout to the camera on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Excel Fishing Charters

Every Missouri Trout fishing area carries its own classification according to how the Department of Conservation manages the waterway:

  • Blue Ribbon areas are smaller streams where Rainbow Trout can reproduce naturally.
  • Red Ribbon areas are mostly home to Brown Trout and are a good habitat for them to grow to a nice size.
  • White Ribbon waterways can support fish all year-round and receive regular topups of Rainbow Trout and, occasionally, Brown Trout.

On top of that, Trout Parks and the Taneycomo Special Management Area have their own management system – and seriously abundant fish.

If you’re looking for an almost guaranteed catch and the chance of a trophy, you’ll probably find the best Trout fishing in Missouri in Lake Taneycomo. But there are hundreds of other quality waterways to choose from. Montauk State Park, the Current River, Roaring River, and Bennett Spring all offer abundant Trout and beautiful surroundings.


The nation’s favorite freshwater fish is also here in abundance. Missouri Bass fishing is some of the best in the country, with several lakes attracting professional tournament anglers every year.

Three male anglers holding up their Bass catch in Missouri on a cloudy day, with clouds visible above them in the sky
Photo courtesy of Rainbow Chasers Guide Service

You can find three species of Bass in Missouri – Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass. Largemouths are the biggest and there are several fisheries across the state where you can find lunkers of 10 pounds or more. But what Smallmouth and Spotted Bass lack in size, they make up for in energy. These popular game fish provide bursts of pure adrenaline to anglers fishing in otherwise peaceful surroundings.

Some of the best Bass fishing in Missouri takes place in the Ozarks. The cool, clear Ozark streams are ideal for Smallmouth Bass, while the magnificent Lake of the Ozarks also holds lunker Largemouths. That said, there’s great fishing all across the state, with local anglers swearing by Table Rock Lake, Stockton Lake, and the Truman Reservoir to name a few.


Two men in hoodies and baseball caps holding up two Crappies each to the camera at sunset on a day with sunny intervals
Photo courtesy of Real Deal Guide Service

If you’re looking for a challenge on light tackle and a meal to remember, look no further than Crappie. One of the best things about Crappie fishing in Missouri is that these fish live just about everywhere. They’re also available all year round.

Given the quality of both Black and White Crappie across the state, locals are divided over the best Crappie fishing in Missouri. But the Truman Reservoir and Mark Twain Lake consistently top lists in terms of numbers and size of the fish.


A man in winter gear looking at his Walleye catch that he's holding with both hands, with a barren shoreline behind him on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Freedom Fishing Guide Service – Branson

While we’re on the topic of good-eating fish, we have to give Walleye a mention. Anglers go crazy for these fish almost exclusively because of their credentials in the kitchen. And thanks to an extensive stocking program, Walleye fishing in Missouri is getting better and better.

Lake of the Ozarks, Bull Shoals, and Stockton Lake offer some of the best Walleye fishing in Missouri. Because these fish live quite deep in the water, you’re most likely to catch one if you fish from a boat with a guide who knows the local waters well.


Two anglers aboard a fishing boat hold a large Paddlefish with the water and clear skies visible behind them
Photo courtesy of Catch Mo Fish Guide Service

While the other fish on our list are popular in lots of US states, Paddlefish is particularly important to Missouri. Also known as “Spoonbill,” this enormous filter feeder is native to the Mississippi River basin but came dangerously close to extinction towards the end of the 20th century. It was in Missouri that scientists worked out how to keep this 125 million-year-old creature alive through propagation.

The Paddlefish Missouri saved for prosperity is the last of its kind – its closest living relative became extinct in 2022. Thanks to its extensive stocking program, you can now catch and eat Paddlefish in Missouri without harming the overall population – as long as you stick to the local regulations.

Because they feed by moving along the water with their mouths open, Paddlefish won’t respond to normal fishing techniques. Instead, you need to target them by “snagging” – positioning a hook in the water and pulling it tight when a fish is nearby. As well as the Mississippi River, you can catch Paddlefish in Missouri in the Missouri River, Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock Lake, and Truman Lake.

Other Fish in Missouri

These fish are only the tip of the iceberg. Other popular game fish in Missouri include Catfish, Musky, and Pike. Some of these make for true trophies – Flathead and Blue Catfish come close to record size in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and local lakes!

Missouri’s non-game fish have their own devout following, too. Some invasive Carp species literally jump into boats and can be delicious when prepared properly. Bluegill is probably one of the nicest fish you can eat in Missouri, while Freshwater Drum and various Gar species are totally underrated for their fighting ability.

How to Go Fishing in Missouri

With all these fish to choose from, it can be hard to know how to go about catching them. So, here’s a rundown of different ways to enjoy an unforgettable Missouri fishing adventure.

Guided Fishing Trips

A view across the water towards a fishing boat, with five males of different ages standing on it and waving towards the camera on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Mike Doll Fishing Guide – “Best Fishing Value”

Whether it’s your first time fishing or you’re a seasoned pro, hooking up with a Missouri fishing guide will introduce you to the very best fishing the state has to offer. From floating and wading scenic rivers in search of Trout to snagging Paddlefish in one of the state’s famous lakes, to nighttime bowfishing… Guided fishing trips in Missouri cover a whole range of fishing experiences.

Missouri fishing guides usually provide all the tackle and bait you need for your trip. Just purchase a fishing license and get ready to go!

Fly Fishing

The fly fishing Missouri serves up around its crystal blue springs and mountain streams is world class. Thousands of fly fishers explore Missouri’s Blue Ribbon streams every year in search of naturally reproducing Rainbow Trout. Still, more can’t resist the lure of a trophy in a Trout Park or Lake Taneycomo.

It’s not all about the Trout, though. Fly fishing for Smallmouth Bass in Missouri can be just as exciting. Like Trout, these hard fighters like cold water and often swim around the lower ends of Blue Ribbon Trout streams.


A bowfishing angler in Missouri standing on a fishing charter and holding a fish in one hand and a bow in the other with muddy waters and a green shoreline visible behind him
Photo courtesy of All-Out Bowfishing Fishing Trips

While fly fishing relies on stillness, patience, and a carefully placed fly, bowfishing is faster-paced. Predominantly a nighttime sport, bowfishing in Missouri uses flat-bottomed boats and bows and arrows to spear and then pull in the fish in shallow waters.

Because you can’t catch and release with a bowfishing arrow, these trips mostly target non-game fish. That makes it the perfect way to target the invasive Asian Carp in places like the Moreau River. These fish will literally jump into the boat – and you’re encouraged to hunt as many of them as you can.


The traditional Missouri counterpoint to bowfishing is the centuries-old Ozark tradition of “Sucker gigging.” This technique uses a pronged spear to stab small fish (“Suckers”), Carp, and even frogs. Do it the local way, and you’ll be going out after dark, gigging for a few hours, and ending the night with a gravel bar Sucker fry with your friends and family.

Wrap up warm and enjoy this unique piece of Missourian culture in the wintertime. Gigging season in Missouri runs from mid-September through January.

Where to Go Fishing in Missouri

There’s so much variety in Missouri that you’ll find something worth catching in almost every waterway in the state. But the best fishing in Missouri mostly takes place in lakes and streams in the land of the prairies. Here are some of our absolute favorites.

Lake of the Ozarks – The Magic Dragon

An aerial view of the Lake of the Ozark in Missouri on a day with sunny intervals, with green islands and outcrops visible in the foreground and distance

One of the best fishing lakes in Missouri, the Lake of the Ozarks is probably already on your bucket list. This 54,000-acre body of water reaches depths of up to 130 feet and has more coastline than the entire state of California. It’s no wonder that it’s one of Missouri’s top tourism destinations!

This dragon-shaped lake is home to several professional Bass tournaments, thanks to its resident lunker Largemouth and healthy Spotted Bass population. Catfish, Paddlefish, Crappie, and Walleye are also popular Lake of the Ozarks fish.

Truman Reservoir – The Bank Fishing Paradise

With over 900 miles of shoreline, Truman Lake is possibly one of the best places to go bank fishing in Missouri. This gigantic reservoir is full of submerged structure, making it the perfect habitat for Largemouth and Spotted Bass. It’s also famous for its Crappie fishing and is renowned as a top Catfish fishing destination.

Table Rock Lake – The Best Place to Go Fishing in Branson, MO

A view from a hill towards Table Rock Lake, near Branson, Missouri, on a clear day, with tree-lined shores and some buildings between them visible

Want to get away from the crowds in Branson? Look no further than Table Rock Lake. Missouri’s favorite tourist town sits right next to this 52,000-acre lake, benefitting from its abundant fishery all year round.

This lake is most famous for its Bass fishing. Fish the part of the lake near Kimberling City to have a go at catching not three, but four varieties of Black Bass! The rare Meanmouth Bass joins the Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass action around here. Crappie, Bluegill, and Catfish are all options, too.

Lake Taneycomo – The Trout Highway

You can’t beat the specially-managed Lake Taneycomo for numbers and size of Trout. This is probably one of the best places in the world to catch a large Brown Trout, especially in the spring and fall. Come outside of Trout season, and you’ll be in with a trophy of another kind – Bass.

Pomme de Terre State Park – The Home of the Musky

A view from the shore towards Lake Pomme de Terre in Michigan on a clear day with a barren small tree visible in the foreground

Come to “Pommie” in September to enjoy some of the best Musky fishing in Missouri – or even the country. This toothy apex predator is known as being hard to catch, making it irresistible for anglers looking for a challenge. Pomme de Terre State Park is also home to Walleye, Catfish, Bass, and Crappie, among other species.

The Best Fishing Rivers in Missouri

When people talk about fishing in Missouri, they often overlook the state’s largest waterways – its rivers. The Missouri River is home to huge Blue Catfish, which swim right past the state’s largest cities. Huge Blue and Flathead Catfish also live in the meanders of the Mississippi River, which has seen record catches around St Louis.

But don’t overlook the smaller rivers. The southern stretch of the Current River is brilliant for Smallmouth Bass and is also home to Brown and Rainbow Trout.

Missouri Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the state flag of Missouri along with text that says "Missouri Fishing Regulations: What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background

Almost everyone who goes fishing in Missouri needs a fishing license – except kids under the age of 16. You’ll also need a Trout Permit to catch and keep Trout in most waterways. In Trout Parks and Lake Taneycomo, though, you’ll need a special Trout tag, which is a separate type of permit. For more information about who needs a fishing license in Missouri, check out our in-depth guide.

Other Fishing Laws in Missouri

Most game and non-game fish in Missouri have catch limits and size restrictions, and various species have open and closed seasons. Make sure to check out the Department for Conservation‘s rules before you head out. And for anyone looking to tussle with a monster hand to mouth, we’re sorry – it’s illegal to noodle or hand fish for Catfish in Missouri.

Missouri Fishing FAQs

Fishing in Missouri: Where Age-Old Tradition Meets Modern Techniques

A view from a hill in Branson, MO, towards Table Rock Lake, with a church visible on the left of the image

Missouri is a meeting point. It’s where the prairies join the eastern mountains, and it’s where the south seeps up to the north. It’s also where new technology meets a deeply-ingrained local culture. Fishing introduces you to all these sides of Missouri. Whether you’re snagging ancient monsters, taking part in a community gigging trip, or testing new flies against European Trout, fishing in Missouri is something special. So grab a license and get out on the water.

There’s so much more to Missouri fishing than we could fit in this guide. Where’s your favorite fishing spot? How do you like to prepare a Crappie? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Missouri Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Cat
Title: Missouri Fishing: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2023 10:01:46 +0000

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