Are you ready to take on Missouri’s greatest angling challenge? Hunting for catfish is an exciting outdoor activity that anyone can enjoy, and the Show-Me State offers some of the best spots for finding these monstrous invertebrates.
From local ponds to monstrous rivers, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite locations in Missouri for targeting big cats with your rod and reel! Get your tackle ready as we explore some of Missouri’s best places to catch catfish.
Top Catfish Fishing Locations in Missouri
Missouri is home to some of the best catfish fishing spots in the country. With its abundant rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, there’s no shortage of places to cast a line and reel in a monster catfish. Here are five top locations for catfish fishing in Missouri:
1. Missouri River
The Missouri River is one of the state’s most popular catfish fishing locations. Stretching over 2,300 miles, this river is home to many catfish species, including channel catfish, flathead catfish, and blue catfish. Anglers can access the river at various points throughout the state, but some of the best spots for catfish fishing include the areas near Kansas City, Glasgow, and St. Charles.
When fishing the Missouri River, it’s essential to use heavy-duty tackle, as the current can be quite strong. Live bait, such as shad or sunfish, is highly effective for attracting catfish in this river. Fish along the riverbanks, sandbars, and deep holes where catfish tend to congregate.
2. Lake of the Ozarks
Lake of the Ozarks is a massive reservoir in the heart of Missouri, spanning over 54,000 acres. This lake is well-known for its excellent catfish fishing opportunities, particularly for channel catfish and flathead catfish. Popular fishing spots on the lake include the Gravois Arm, Osage Arm, and Niangua Arm.
Anglers can succeed using various techniques on Lake of the Ozarks, such as drift fishing with cut bait or anchoring and fishing with live bait. Look for catfish around submerged structure, drop-offs, and creek channels.
3. Truman Lake
Truman Lake, located in west-central Missouri, is another excellent location for catfish fishing. This 55,000-acre reservoir is home to a healthy channel, blue, and flathead catfish population. Some popular fishing spots on Truman Lake include the Osage Arm, Grand River Arm, and Tebo Arm.
When fishing Truman Lake, use fresh-cut bait or live bait like shad or bluegill. Target areas with structure such as brush piles, rock formations, and sunken trees, as well as deeper channels and flats. Night fishing can be particularly productive for catching catfish on Truman Lake.
4. Mississippi River
The mighty Mississippi River forms Missouri’s eastern border and offers fantastic catfish fishing opportunities. Anglers can find all three major catfish species in this river: channel catfish, flathead catfish, and blue catfish. Some of the best spots for catfish fishing on the Mississippi River include areas near St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, and New Madrid.
Fishing the Mississippi River requires heavy-duty tackle due to its strong currents. Live bait, such as shad or skipjack herring, is highly effective for attracting catfish in this river. Focus on fishing wing dikes, deep holes, and outside bends where catfish tend to congregate.
5. James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area
The James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area, located near Lee’s Summit, offers a variety of fishing opportunities across its 12 ponds and lakes. While it may not be as well-known as some other locations on this list, it’s an excellent spot for catching channel catfish.
The Missouri Department of Conservation regularly stocks the lakes in the wildlife area with channel catfish, ensuring a healthy population for anglers to target. Nightcrawlers, chicken liver, and stink baits are all effective for catching catfish in the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area. Fish along the shoreline, near vegetation, and around submerged structures to increase your chances of success.
6. Mark Twain Lake
Mark Twain Lake, located in northeastern Missouri, is an 18,000-acre reservoir created by the Clarence Cannon Dam. This lake is home to many catfish species, including channel, flathead, and blue catfish. Some popular areas for catfish fishing on Mark Twain Lake include the North Fork and Middle Fork arms and the many coves and tributaries.
When fishing Mark Twain Lake, use cut or live bait like shad, sunfish, or crawfish. Target areas with structure, such as submerged timber, rock piles, ledges, and deeper channels and points. Night fishing can also be productive for catching catfish in this reservoir.
7. Table Rock Lake
Table Rock Lake, situated in southwestern Missouri, is a 43,000-acre reservoir known for its clear water and diverse fishery. While bass fishing is the primary draw for anglers, Table Rock Lake also offers excellent opportunities for catfish fishing, particularly for channel catfish and flathead catfish.
Anglers can succeed using various techniques on Table Rock Lake, such as drift fishing with cut bait or anchoring and fishing with live bait like bluegill or shad. Look for catfish around submerged structure, bluff walls, and creek channels. Fishing near the dam can also yield good results.
8. Pomme de Terre Lake
Pomme de Terre Lake is a 7,800-acre reservoir located in southwest Missouri. This lake is home to a healthy channel, blue, and flathead catfish population. Some popular Pomme de Terre Lake fishing spots include the Lindley Arm, Hermitage Arm, and various coves and tributaries.
When fishing Pomme de Terre Lake, use fresh cut bait or live bait such as shad, sunfish, or crawdads. Target areas with structure like brush piles, rock formations, and sunken trees, as well as deeper channels and points. Night fishing can be particularly productive for catching catfish on this lake.
9. Montrose Lake
Montrose Lake, located in the Montrose Conservation Area in west-central Missouri, is a 1,600-acre reservoir known for its excellent catfish fishing opportunities. Anglers can find all three major catfish species in Montrose Lake: channel catfish, flathead catfish, and blue catfish.
Fishing Montrose Lake requires various techniques, such as drift fishing with cut bait or anchoring and live bait like shad or bluegill. Focus on fishing areas with structure, such as submerged timber, rock piles, ledges, and deeper channels and points.
10. Wappapello Lake
Wappapello Lake, situated in southeastern Missouri, is an 8,400-acre reservoir created by the Wappapello Dam. This lake is home to many catfish species, including channel, flathead, and blue catfish. Some popular areas for catfish fishing on Wappapello Lake include the St. Francis River arm, Lost Creek, and many coves and tributaries.
When fishing Wappapello Lake, use cut or live bait like shad, sunfish, or crawfish. Target areas with structure, such as submerged timber, rock piles, ledges, and deeper channels and points. Night fishing can also be productive for catching catfish in this reservoir.
Best Time to Fish for Catfish in Missouri
Missouri is home to abundant catfish species, making it a popular destination for anglers looking to reel in these whiskered wonders. The state’s rivers, lakes, and reservoirs teem with channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish, offering plenty of opportunities for a successful fishing trip. But when is the best time to fish for catfish in Missouri? Let’s explore.
Catfish are generally most active during the warmer months, from late spring through early fall. This is when they feed aggressively, making them more likely to take your bait. Here’s a breakdown of the prime catfishing times throughout the year:
- Spring (April – June): As water temperatures rise, catfish begin to move into shallow areas to feed. This is an excellent time to target them, particularly during the pre-spawn period in May and June. During this time, they are more aggressive and actively searching for food.
- Summer (June – August): Summer is a great time to fish for catfish in Missouri, as they are actively feeding in various depths of water. Channel catfish can be found in shallower waters, while blue and flathead catfish tend to prefer deeper areas. Night fishing is particularly effective during the warm summer months, as catfish are more active during cooler nighttime temperatures.
- Fall (September – November): As water temperatures begin to cool down in the fall, catfish will start to move back into shallower waters to feed. This is another prime time to target them, as they are preparing for the winter months and need to pack on weight. Focus on areas with structure or cover, as catfish will often use these spots to ambush prey.
Time of Day
While catfish can be caught at any time of the day, they are more active during low-light conditions. This means that early morning and late afternoon are often the best times to fish for catfish. Additionally, overcast days can be productive, as the reduced light penetration encourages catfish to move into shallower water in search of food.
Catfish are sensitive to changes in barometric pressure, which can affect their feeding behavior. A falling barometer often signals an approaching storm, and this can trigger catfish to feed more aggressively. Conversely, a rising barometer typically indicates clear and stable weather, which can cause catfish to become less active. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan your fishing trips accordingly to increase your chances of success.
1. What are the different types of catfish species?
There are several catfish species found in waters across the United States, with the most common and popular species being channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. Other less common species include white catfish, black bullhead, yellow bullhead, and brown bullhead.
2. What kind of bait should I use for catfish fishing?
Catfish are known for their strong sense of smell, so using scented baits is highly effective. Some popular options include cut bait (such as shad or herring), stink bait, chicken liver, nightcrawlers, and even hot dogs. Experiment with different baits to see which works best for the catfish in your local waters.
3. What type of tackle should I use for catfish fishing?
A medium to heavy action rod and reel combination is recommended for catfish fishing. Look for a sturdy rod that can handle the weight of larger catfish, and pair it with a high-quality reel with a smooth drag system. Braided or monofilament line with a test strength of 15-30 pounds is typically suitable for most catfish species.
4. Do I need a special license for catfish fishing?
Fishing licenses are required in most states and may vary depending on where you plan to fish. Be sure to check the specific regulations for your location, as additional requirements or permits may be needed for catfish fishing.
5. What are some tips for locating catfish?
Catfish are often found near structures like submerged logs, rocks, or vegetation, as these provide cover and attract prey. They also prefer areas with slower-moving water, such as river bends, deep holes, or the edges of current seams. Use a depth finder or sonar device to help locate potential catfish hotspots.