26 Best Places to Catfish in Missouri - Hook & Bullet (2023)

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.

Truman Lake

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

26 Best Places to Catfish in Missouri - Hook & Bullet (3)

Image Credit: Google Maps

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.

(Video) Best Catfish Rig (Works for bank fishing, lake fishing, and rivers)

Montrose 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

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

26 Best Places to Catfish in Missouri - Hook & Bullet (4)

Image Credit: Kiara Hovatter on Hook and Bullet

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.

Mississippi River

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

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Image Credit: Kiara Hovatter on Hook and Bullet

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.

Meramec River

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.

(Video) Kentucky Rig For Catfish (very simple catfish rig)

Osage River

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Image Credit: Google Maps

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
  • Osage-Tavern
  • Pikes Camp
  • St. Thomas Ferry
  • Tuscumbia

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
  • Drop-offs
  • Shallow waters

Lake Springfield

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.

Fellows Lake

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.

Stockton Lake

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Image Credit: Google Maps

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.

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Pro Tip: Fish the drop-offs, dropping your line around 10 to 15-feet deep, and using live bait.

Troost Lake Park

26 Best Places to Catfish in Missouri - Hook & Bullet (9)

Image Credit: Google Maps

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.

Smithville Lake

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.

Binder Lake

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
  • Crappie

Lake Jacomo

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.

(Video) Fishing at "Rutledge Wilson Farm - Springfield Mo"

Longview Lake

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
  • Bass
  • Crappie
  • Walleye
  • Bluegill

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.

Lake Wappapello

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.

Clearwater Lake

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.

Missouri River

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!


Where is the best catfishing in Missouri? ›

Table Rock produces some big blue catfish, while other area lakes, including Pomme de Terre, Stockton and the Lake of the Ozarks, have good populations of channel cats. Many serious catfishermen say that their favorite lake for catching catfish is Truman, where the water tends to be dingier and murky.

Where are the catfish biting in Missouri? ›

Fishing for blue catfish is limited to Missouri's large reservoirs and rivers and a few small lakes. Fish areas near swift current and deep water in large rivers. These areas are typically found along the main channel near the tip of wing dikes or just downstream of locks and dams.

Where is the best place to catch catfish right now? ›

During the day, look for catfish in muddy water areas, such as a tributary and its outflow. Also good are deep structures, like river bends, the base of drop-offs, deep holes, and humps. Catfish will also hold around cover, like standing timber and deep weed edges. Night brings excellent fishing.

What is the best catfish bait in Missouri? ›

Baits. Skipjack herring is the preferred bait for blue catfish. Gizzard shad are also popular and easier to collect.

How deep are catfish right now? ›

Conclusion. The best depth for catching catfish is between 15 and 20 feet deep in lakes. This is known as the catfish zone because they reside within such depths in most lakes. However, depending on the time of the year and the temperature of the water, they can also reside in shallow areas.

What is the biggest catfish caught in Missouri? ›

"This monster came in at 51.5 inches long with a girth of 32.5 inches from the Missouri River in Union County. Ethan caught the flathead catfish at 5 a.m. using cutbait. Congratulations Ethan!" For comparison's sake, the all-tackle world record for flathead catfish stands at 123 pounds.

How big do catfish have to be to keep in Missouri? ›

Size limit:

Blue catfish: 26" to 34" protected slot length limit; the daily limit may not contain more than 2 blue catfish more than 34".

What is the best month to catch catfish? ›

Late March, April, and early May are some of the best blue catfish fishing of the year for numbers of fish and also offers excellent opportunities for trophy class catfish as well. Channel catfish action is typically excellent and very consistent also.

How do you catch a catfish every time? ›

How To Catch TONS Of Catfish FAST (So Easy) - YouTube

How do you catch catfish on the Missouri river? ›

How to Bank Fish Missouri River - Catfish, Carp, Sturgeon - YouTube

What is the best stink bait for catfish? ›

His favorite bait is pieces of hot dog soaked in a mix of cherry Kool-Aid and garlic powder. For some reason, that combination sets catfish in fishing derbies on fire. “It's easy to get at the store, and it's easy to handle with kids,” Coleman said.

What is the best hook for catfish? ›

Treble Hook

Treble hooks are standard catfish hooks for any kind of fishing. They work especially well when you're trying to hook channel cats. You can pick a treble out of a crowd because it's a three-prong hook. They're common in a lot of fishing rigs for catfish.

What is the best size hook for catfish? ›

The optimal size for channel catfish is typically a 2/0 or 3/0 hook when using a Kahle hook. If you choose circle hooks for small to medium-sized channel catfish then a 5/0 or 6/0 size will usually work best.

Where can you find big bass in Missouri? ›

Top Bass Fishing Lakes In Missouri
  1. Lake Of The Ozarks. Want to catch a 9 pounder? ...
  2. Table Rock. Table Rock Lake boasts more than 52,000-acres of water and more than 800 miles of shoreline. ...
  3. Truman Reservoir. ...
  4. Bull Shoals. ...
  5. Mark Twain Lake. ...
  6. Stockton Lake. ...
  7. Taneycomo Lake. ...
  8. Pomme De Terre Lake.

Where's the best crappie fishing in Missouri? ›


The electricity apart, it also provides some of the best fishing water in the state. Built on the nutrient-rich Osage River, "LOZ" consistently provides outstanding crappie fishing year in and year out.

What is the best lake fish? ›

Largemouth bass is probably the most targeted lake fish in all the states followed by various species of trout and salmon as well as perch, bream, crappie and catfish. All the lakes offer diverse outdoor recreation for non-fishing family members, including camping, swimming, bird-watching, hiking and water sports.

What is the secret catfish rig? ›

In its simplest form, a paternoster is any rig where the hook(s) are on droppers above a fixed sinker. Besides a tidy presentation, this arrangement allows the angler to try more than one bait and you'll often find paternosters with two hooks, or even three or four.

How do you find a catfish hole? ›

Tips on Where to Locate/Find Catfish in Rivers - YouTube

How do you target big catfish? ›

Cut bait is one of the most effective baits for blue catfish

Large live shiners, herring, and shad are deadly, especially on flathead and channel catfish. But it's hard to top a section of cut bait from a herring, shad, or mullet for both of those species and blue catfish as well. Cut them into steaks ¾-1 inch wide.

What is the best time of day to fish for catfish? ›

The best time of day to catch catfish is from sunrise until 10 am. This time window is before the sun gets directly overhead and water temperatures are still cool from the evening prior. Catfish will be more active as they seek to feed before the overhead sun warms the water and prey fish seek cover.

Is hot dogs Good for catfish? ›

Hot dogs can be very good catfish baits if you are in a pinch. Hot dogs are great catfish baits because of their ease-of-use, lack of mess, and generally attractive properties for channel catfish. That said, for big channel cats as well as blue catfish and flatheads, I would not recommend using hot dogs.

Why do catfish like Kool-Aid? ›

The Kool-Aid will soak into the chunks and some of the liquid will come out of the meat to form a marinade that helps the flavor soak into the meat. This makes the flavor and sweet smell permeate the chunk and means the bait will keep its flavor and smell for a long time in the water.

What is Missouri state record blue catfish? ›

Greg Bernal of Florissant holds the new state-record and world-record blue catfish with this 130-pound giant. St. Louis — It's not every day you go out to fish on the waters of the Missouri River and come back swimming in a media frenzy.

Where was the biggest catfish in Missouri caught? ›

(WSIL) -- The Missouri Department of Conservation is highlighting a large fish recently caught on the Mississippi River. Carey Branham and his fishing pal Greg Branham, both of Farmington, caught a 101 pound blue catfish. This was the biggest catfish Carey has ever caught.

How many rods can you fish with in Missouri? ›

If you use more than three poles (or two poles on the Mississippi River) at any one time, the additional poles must be labeled with your full name and address or Conservation Number.

How many hooks can you snag with in Missouri? ›

Regardless of the method or number of poles, you may not use more than a total of 33 hooks at any one time; except on the Mississippi River the maximum is 50 hooks at one time.

Can you chum for catfish in Missouri? ›

Use of chum is prohibited. Catch and release. Flies, artificial lures, and unscented soft plastic baits only.

Can you use bluegill for bait in Missouri? ›

All bluegill, green sunfish and bullheads more than 5 inches long and other species of nongame fish more than 12 inches long must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught by any of the methods listed above except pole and line.

How big do channel catfish get in Missouri? ›

Adult length: commonly 12–32 inches; weight: commonly 1–15 pounds. Specimens as large as 45 pounds are uncommon in Missouri.

How big do catfish have to be to keep in Missouri? ›

Size limit:

Blue catfish: 26" to 34" protected slot length limit; the daily limit may not contain more than 2 blue catfish more than 34".

What is the most popular game fish in the Missouri? ›

One of Missouri's most popular game fish, smallmouth bass can be found throughout the Ozarks in rivers and streams, as well as the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries.


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