With a multitude of lakes, rivers and streams, Missouri is an angler's paradise. Fishing is a favorite throughout the spring, summer and fall, but casting a line during the winter months offers its own special appeal.
Winter fishing is a peaceful pursuit, even at Missouri's most popular spots. You're sure to find plenty of solitude – as well as scenic views. With the leaves off the trees, towering bluffs and rock formations offer impressive sights often hidden the rest of the year. Misty mornings, brilliant blue skies and glimpses of wildlife add to the experience.
Thousands of acres of state and federal land throughout the Show-Me State provide easy access to waters filled with bass, crappie, catfish, trout, walleye and muskie.
Plan a fishing trip to one of Missouri's beautiful lakes. The best winter fishing is often found at the lakes with the clearest water such as Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock, Stockton, Pomme De Terre and Bull Shoals.
Every lake is different and presents different fishing challenges. Fish follow their food supply, so they can be found in both shallow and deep water, depending on their feeding habits, the water temperature and other factors. When temperatures dip, the fish's metabolism slows down so they will need a little more time to react to the lure on the end of your line.
Lake Taneycomo is a cold-water fishery, unlike any other lake in the state. Fifty-degree water pours into the lake from the spillway of Table Rock Dam – 200 feet below the surface of Table Rock Lake, providing ideal conditions for trout. New state records for brown trout are frequently set at Lake Taneycomo. Some anglers believe it's only a matter of time before a world-record brown trout is pulled from the lake.
The lakes in the southern half of the state rarely freeze over in the winter. However, the boat ramps can become slick, so it's best to wait until the temperatures are above freezing to take a boat out.
Winter fishing is outstanding at many of Missouri's rivers, including the Current, Jacks Fork, Eleven Point, North Fork, Niangua and Gasconade. The state's spring-fed rivers receive a constant flow of water year-round, creating favorable fishing conditions. As colder weather arrives, the fish congregate close to the springs – a good place to catch smallmouth bass, crappie and trout. They also gather in the river's deep pools and spots where the current is slow.
Fishing in the rivers below dams is also good in the winter. Conditions vary according to how much water, if any, is being released from the dam, the current being generated and the clarity of the water. Two spots to try are the Osage River below Bagnell Dam and the Osage River below Truman Dam.
Take a winter trip to one of the state's trout parks: Bennett Spring State Park, Roaring River State Park, Montauk State Park and Maramec Spring Park. They're open for catch-and-release fishing only from mid-November through mid-February, but the payoff is a lot more elbow room along the spring-fed, trout-filled streams. With fewer anglers around, it's a perfect time to learn the art of fly fishing.
You can also fish for trout at more than 30 lakes – many located in city parks – across the state. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks the lakes with rainbow trout during the winter months. Some of the lakes are catch-and-release while others allow you to keep a limited number of fish. Limits and tackle restrictions vary by the lake and season.
When planning a fishing trip in Missouri, be sure to get a fishing permit (and a trout permit, if required) and know the regulations for your destination. Learn more at https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing/regulations.
Written by Liz Coleman