Those who do not fish may not think winter is the time for it, but with big clear water reservoirs, and the winter catch-and-release fishing at one of Missouri’s trout parks, the state can actually be a great place for fishing this season. Here are a few spots in Missouri where winter fishing is at its best.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Lake of the Ozarks
VIDEOIn the winter, anglers are often seen fishing for Bass at Lake of the Ozarks using something called jerkbait. Jerkbaits are long, slender baits that are lethal to bass even in the cold of winter. The types of fish you are most likely to catch here are Large Mouth Bass, White Crappie, Blue Catfish, Channel Catfish, White Bass, Paddle Fish, or Blue Gill.
Check out this video on winter bass.
2. Table Rock Lake
VIDEOTable Rock Lake is home to many species of fish, including the sought after Large mouth, Small mouth, and Kentucky (spotted) Bass. The lake hosts fishing tournaments almost every weekend, and has even been host to national fishing events. During the winter season the temperatures seldom get cold enough to cause freezing on the lake’s surface, which provides anglers with a year-round fishery. In fact, some of the best fishing opportunities are during the winter when seasonal anglers no longer frequent the lake.
3. Bull Shoals
Bull Shoals Lake in southern Missouri is a 45,500 acre Corp of Engineers lake divided between Missouri and Arkansas with about 16,000 acres on the Missouri side. The Missouri side of Bull Shoals Lake is deep and clear with bluff, rock, and gravel shorelines. The available fish in Bull Shoals Lake are Black Bass, Crappie, Bluegill, White bass, Catfish, and Striped Bass. The average water temperature during the winter is 40 degrees.
VIDEOIt’s easy to find a great fishing spot at Stockton Lake, located approximately 50 miles northwest of Springfield. Types of fish you might catch include Bass, White Bass, Crappie, Walleye, Catfish or Bluegill. Fishing is not allowed near the boat ramps or the marina area.
5. Pomme De Terre
Pomme de Terre is a manmade lake in southwest Missouri, and is home to Pomme de Terre State Park, which consists of 734 acres in two sections of wooded hills on both the Hermitage and Pittsburg sides of the lake. It is the smallest of the Corps of Engineers’ lakes where there are also state parks. While you might find Black Bass, Crappie, Bluegill, White Bass, Catfish or Walleye, the lake is most popular for its abundance of Muskie. The Muskies are managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and are a fierce fighting fish that can reach up to 40 inches long, and can be caught all year long.
6. Cosmo-Bethel Lake in Columbia
Since 2003, the Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia Parks & Recreation, and the Mid-Missouri Chapter of Trout Unlimited cooperate to stock trout into Cosmo-Bethel Lake in order to create an urban winter fishery in central Missouri. Around 2,400 trout are stocked into the lake during the last week of October, most around 10-12 inches long. From November 1-January 31, fishing is allowed only as catch and release, with only artificial baits allowed. After January 31st, Cosmo-Bethel follows state regulations.
7. Kiwanis Lake in Mexico
Another lake stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation is Kiwanis Lake in Mexico. It is stocked each year with 1,200 Rainbow trout, and opened to catch-and-release fishing on November 1st. The fish are obtained from the Montauk Fish Hatchery in Salem, where they have been raised in spring-fed streams. From November 1st through February 1st, only catch-and-release fishing is allowed. The majority of the trout are between 10 and 12 inches long with about six larger fish added per acre. There are no size limits, but only artificial lures are allowed until the end of the catch-and-release season.
8. McKay Park Lake in Jefferson City
VIDEO Fishing is allowed year-round at McKay Lake but only bank fishing is permitted. The types of fish one might find here are Large mouth bass, Bluegill, Channel catfish and Red-ear sunfish. In November, the lake is stocked with over 2,400 trout in preparation for the Jefferson City Winter Trout Program.
9. Rotary Lake, Jackson
As with other winter trout seasons around the state, Rotary Lake’s annual winter trout fishery begins Nov. 1. Approximately 1,900 trout, as well as a number of ‘lunkers’, are stocked each year for the catch-and-release season that goes until February 1st, when trout will then be able to be harvested. Until that time, the trout must be released unharmed immediately, and anglers must only use flies, artificial lures, and unscented plastic baits, use only one fishing rod at a time and chum is not permitted. Rainbow trout are cold-water fish which live in water temperatures less than 70 degrees, so they do well in waters such as Rotary Lake during the colder months.
10. Liberty Park Pond, Sedalia
Also stocked by the MDC, Liberty Park Pond in Sedalia receives around 1,300 Rainbow trout in its three-acres, as well as 12 large, trophy-sized trout. Catch-and-release runs from November 1st-January 31st, and beginning Feb. 1, anglers with valid fishing permits and a Missouri trout permit may keep up to four trout. Only artificial lures may be used, live or scented baits are not allowed.
11. Lake Taneycomo
The best time to catch one of the big trout at Lake Taneycomo near Branson is from late fall to early spring, because the water temperature, oxygen level, and current created from the dam, make the trout very active. Lake Taneycomo was created with the construction of Powersite Dam in 1913, the first dam across the White River. It became a fishing sensation with the completion of Table Rock Dam in 1958 and the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery created at the foot of the dam.
12. Maramec Spring Park
The MDC also stocks the six tenths mile of the fishing stream at Maramec Spring Park in St. James daily. The park is privately owned and operated by The James Foundation, and contains the fifth largest spring in the state of Missouri.
13. Bennett Spring State Park
The Bennett Spring area near Lebanon was founded by pioneers who used the cool, rushing waters of the spring-fed stream for gristmills. Today it’s one of America’s premier trout destinations where rainbow trout is stocked into its stream every night. The Catch-and-Release season begins the 2nd Friday in November and goes until the 2nd Monday in February from Friday-Mondays 8am-4pm.
14. Montauk State Park
Montauk State Park is known for trout fishing, with the Current River containing both rainbow and brown trout. Trout season opens March 1 and lasts until Oct. 31, but in between there is a catch-and-release program for year-round angling. In the catch-and-release season, trout may not be harvested, but must be returned unharmed immediately, and only flies may be used. The season begins the 2nd Friday in November and goes until the 2nd Monday in February, from Friday-Monday 8am-4pm.
15. Roaring River State Park
Another state park known for premier trout fishing is Roaring River State Park. It is regularly stocked by the park’s own hatchery, managed by the MDC, and as with other locations, has a winter catch-and-release season. The season begins the 2nd Friday in November and goes until the 2nd Monday in February, Friday-Monday 8am-4pm.The catch-and-release area goes from the posted sign at the mouth of Dry Hollow Creek to the posted sign below the bridge on Highway F.
Are you an angler? Have you fished any of these places? Which one is your favorite? Share in the comments below.