Did you know Missouri is home to some of the best catfishing? Here at Hook and Bullet, we’ve compiled a list of the 26 best places to catfish in Missouri. So whether you reside in the Bootheel, Springfield, St. Louis, Jefferson, or Kansas City, we have you covered. From Lake of the Ozarks to the Missouri River, you’ll want to make sure you check out these catfishing spots.
Before we list these prime catfishing spots, let’s go over the best time of year to catfish in Missouri.
Best Time to Catfish in Missouri
In my findings, the best time to catch catfish in Missouri is in the spring and fall. The spring and fall seasons occur right before and after the spawn. For example, in Missouri, catfish will spawn anywhere between mid-May to early August. Specifically, catfish spawning begins when water temperatures reach around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
26 Best Places to Catfish in Missouri
Lake of the Ozarks
First on our list of best places to catfish in Missouri is the Lake of the Ozarks. LOZ is one of the most popular destinations in Missouri. This lake has even gotten more famous from Netflix’s original series Ozark. The surface area of the lake is 54,000 acres with a fishable 1,150 miles of shoreline. Fun fact, the lake’s shoreline is longer than the entire coast of California.
The Lake of the Ozarks is an angler’s paradise for those targeting bass, crappie, paddlefish, and most importantly, catfish. According to MDC, the peak time of year to go for channel catfish at the Ozarks is from April to September. However, the blue catfish bite year-round.
East of the Ozarks is Truman Lake. Truman is a hotspot for blue and flathead catfish. For example, many anglers find success drift fishing or jugging for blue catfish with cut shad. Blue catfish from 26-inches to 34-inches in length are protected at Truman and Lake of the Ozarks. So if your blue catfish is between these measurements, ensure you release it safely into the waters.
Atkinson Lake resides on the Schell-Osage Conservation Area. According to MDC, the channel catfish angling is good at Atkinson. Also, the MDC recommends anglers use stink baits and chicken livers to target channel catfish on this lake.
Residing on the Montrose Conservation Area is Montrose Lake. At Montrose Lake, fishing for channel and flathead catfish is very popular. Additionally, there’s a concrete boat ramp on the premises for easy boat access. However, you can only operate your boat at an idling speed. Since this lake is wake-free, it’s a great candidate for kayak and canoe fishing.
Bagnell Dam separates the Lake of the Ozarks from the Osage River. Also, you can access some decent bank fishing spots for catfish below the dam fairly easily. Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) maintains the access point, and it’s open seven days a week from 4:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Additionally, there’s a boat ramp at Bagnell Dam where anglers can launch.
Pomme De Terre Lake
Pomme De Terre Lake, which roughly translates to potato lake, is another fun catfishing spot. Specifically, at this lake, you’ll primarily find channel and bullhead catfish. Nevertheless, anglers have reported hooking into some monster flatheads here as well. Additionally, this lake is better suited for fishing out of a boat. However, you can still drive around the state park roads to walk into spots off the bank.
The Mississippi River runs along the border of Missouri and Illinois. The Mississippi is home to trophy-size flathead, channel, and blue catfish. Furthermore, some catfish anglers opt-in to go on guided catfishing trips in the hopes of hooking into a big’n. However, if you choose to go on this quest unguided, I recommend drifting the main channels for blue catfish. Blues love swimming in stronger currents, whereas flatheads and channels prefer slower moving water.
Creve Coeur Lake
If you’re into more of an urban setting, go check out Creve Coeur Lake in St. Louis. If you plan on catfishing at Creve Coeur, I recommend getting to your spot early. This inner-city lake can get packed at times, especially if you plan on doing some bank fishing. Otherwise, there’s one boat ramp at Creve Coeur, but only the use of electric motors is allowed. Additionally, Creve Coeur consists primarily of eating-size channel catfish.
Pro Tip: At Creve Coeur, use medium-light tackle and punch, dip, or dough baits for the channel catfish. I’ve had a lot of success at this small lake using Team Catfish’s Sudden Impact fiber bait.
You can find just about anything in the Meramec River. The Meramec is home to over half of the fish species you can find in Missouri, from black bass to walleye and an abundance of channel and flathead catfish. Although, most people tend to go to Meramec to flyfish at its red ribbon trout area.
The Osage River, stretching 500 miles long, is a tributary of the Missouri River. At Osage River, you can find monstrous paddlefish, as well as large blue, flathead, and channel catfish. Furthermore, there are several boat ramps you can launch from, including:
- Bagnell Dam
- Bonnots Mill
- Kings Bluff
- Pikes Camp
- St. Thomas Ferry
Table Rock Lake
Table Rock Lake has a high channel and flathead catfish population. Plus, campgrounds spread across the lake and 24 boat ramps. So whether you’re staying near Indian Point or by the Kings River arm, you’ll be in for some pristine catfishing.
Pro Tip: The nighttime catfishing scene is the best at Table Rock. Furthermore, areas you should target for catfish are:
- Near the dams
- Shallow waters
Lake Springfield is a 318-acre lake where anglers often catch bass, channel catfish, and panfish. In addition, at Lake Springfield, anglers have access to a boat ramp, fishing dock, and several other fishing platforms. However, outboard motors exceeding horsepower are prohibited. This lake is also kayak and canoe friendly.
Right outside of Springfield is Fellows Lake. Fellows Lake is an 860-acre lake known for its superb muskellunge fishing. However, it’s also home to some nicely-sized channel catfish as well. This lake is better suited for boat fishing, but ensure you get there early because it can get packed.
About an hour northeast of Fellows is Stockton Lake. Compared to Table Rock, Stockton has clean and clear waters, where you can find channel and flathead catfish. For instance, the channel catfish activity is pretty high at this lake, from February to April.
Pro Tip: Fish the drop-offs, dropping your line around 10 to 15-feet deep, and using live bait.
Troost Lake Park
Northeast of Stockton, closer to Kansas City, is Troost Lake. MDC maintains and stocks Troost Lake park with channel catfish. It’s a great place to fish if you live in Kansas City and don’t feel like traveling outside the city. Catfish anglers suggest using nightcrawlers and punch baits for the channel catfish at Troost.
30 minutes outside of Kansas City is Smithville Lake. Smithville is approximately a 7,200- acre lake with a fishable 175-miles of shoreline. This lake contains high quantities of flathead, channel, and blue catfish. Catfish anglers have good luck using trotlines baited with live baits and chicken livers on Smithville. However, ensure you follow the lake’s limitations on blue and flathead catfish, which is five per day.
James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area
Another catfishing spot less than an hour outside of Kansas City is the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area. This area is over 3,000 acres large and is open from Monday to Friday, from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. This area contains 12 lakes you can fish in. Specifically, the catfish species you can target are channels and bullheads.
Also, between Kansas City and St. Louis is Binder Lake. Binder is a 150-acre lake stocked yearly by the MDC. The catfish population at this lake consists mostly of channel catfish.
Thomas Hill Reservoir
Thomas Hill Reservoir is about an hour north of Binder Lake. MDC manages the reservoir, and common fish species you’ll find at Thomas Hill are:
- Channel catfish
- Hybrid striped bass
- Largemouth bass
Another lake not far from Kansas City is Lake Jacomo. This reservoir is one of the best catfishing spots near Kansas City. Lake Jacomo is a 970-acre reservoir, where there’s plenty of channel and flathead catfish. Anglers can access this reservoir daily between 4:00 AM and 10:00 PM.
Longview Lake is another catfishing spot outside of Kansas City. This lake is a 930-acre freshwater reservoir and has two public boat ramps. Fish species you can target at this lake include:
- Channel catfish
- Flathead catfish
Little Dixie Lake
Closer to Columbia is the Little Dixie Lake Conservation Area. Little Dixie is a 205-acre lake containing channel catfish and other fish species. This conservation area is open every day, from 4:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
Mark Twain Lake
Mark Twain Lake sits north of Columbia on state park grounds. This lake consists of 18,600 acres of water and is well-known for its outstanding bass and crappie fishing. Nevertheless, you can also hook into some nice flathead, channel, and blue catfish.
Pro Tip: Fish the main channel of Mark Twain to target blue and channel catfish. Then, for flatheads, cast near tree stumps or other areas with cover.
Closer to the Bootheel region is an 8,400-acre lake, Lake Wappapello, that resides on state park grounds and has three concrete boat ramps. The best time to fish for catfish at this lake is from February to June, September, and October.
Not far from Lake Wappapello is Clearwater Lake. This lake is known for its beautiful scenery and scenic fishing spots. Channel catfish are a very common catch here, yet a small number of flatheads also reside in the lake. While catfishing at Clearwater, there are several campgrounds you can stay at.
We saved one of the best places to catfish in Missouri for last — the good ol’ Missouri River, the longest river in North America. It’s home to trophy-sized flathead, blue, and channel catfish. If you want to get on some big blues in the Missouri River, I recommend using live or fresh-cut bait.
Pro Tip: On the Missouri River, fish the bends, channel breaks, wing dikes, brush piles, and deep holes to find some monster catfish.
Where Are Some of the Best Places to Catfish in Missouri?
Honestly, when searching for the best places to catfish in Missouri, any of these 26 locations will get the job done. However, if you want to target trophy-sized catfish, I recommend fishing either the Missouri or Mississippi River. Or if you rather go for eating-sized cats, then any of the smaller catfishing lakes should suffice.
Where are you planning your next catfishing trip in Missouri? Please let us know in the comments below. Did you find this article helpful? Then consider sharing it with your friends on social media. Tight lines, everyone!