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Missouri Lakes - Northwestern Missouri

Bilby Ranch Lake

Information: (816) 271-3100

Excellent fishing opportunities await those anglers trying this 110 acre lake, 15 minutes west of Maryville. Largemouth bass are plentiful in Bilby Ranch Lake. Spring electrofishing in 2005 again revealed an astounding number of largemouth bass 12-16" range, as well as a few lunkers. Bass anglers should concentrate their efforts along the dam rip rap, over the rock islands, or in the flooded timber in the upper two arms of the lake. With the high density bass population, the panfishing in Bilby is outstanding. Shore anglers enjoyed catches of bluegill over 9 inches and master angler-sized redear sunfish up to 11 inches in 2005, and 2006 should be no different. Crappie anglers have taken their toll on the 3-5 year old year class, so crappie will run a bit smaller in 2006 than anglers are accustomed. Fishing with small plastics and jig and minnow combinations over newly installed cedar tree brush piles, or over rock piles will still produce limits in the spring and fall. Bilby Ranch usually freezes thick enough in the winter to allow ice anglers a chance at crappie and bluegill. Channel cats are plentiful in Bilby, with a chance at a fish over 25 inches. Try the rip rap of the dam with dip bait and liver. Walleye from the 2002 stocking are growing extremely well in Bilby’s clear water. Spring fish sampling produced many walleye, with fish up to 24 inches. The Missouri Department of Conservation continued the walleye stocking program with 5" fingerlings stocked in September 2005, these fish should be legal (15"+) size in 2007-2008. Please release all under-sized walleye back into the lake unharmed. A disabled-user accessible covered fishing dock at the boat ramp has brush piles and deep water within casting distance, and produces good catches of all species for shore anglers. Numerous 1-acre and larger ponds on the area hold good populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish for those anglers willing to walk in from the public parking lots.

Buffalo Bill Lake

This 45-acre lake is located on the northern edge of Pony Express Lake Conservation Area. The lake goes unnoticed by many anglers on the area but it provides excellent fishing whether you are targeting bluegill or largemouth bass. A new fishing dock was installed in 2005 along with cedar brush piles submerged within casting distance from the dock. Good catch rates for nice-sized bluegill (7-9") are common. The bass are abundant and scrappy, but sizes tend to be less than 15". The crappie are tougher to locate but can provide fast action and an excellent meal.

Che-Ru Lake

This 160-acre lake on Fountain Grove Conservation Area offers anglers a unique fishing

experience. Numerous habitat types such as submerged levees, borrow ditches, rock reefs and standing timber hold several fish species. The lake has moderate numbers of largemouth bass with several longer than 15 inches. Anglers fishing with crank baits, jigs, or live bait may pick up an occasional walleye. The crappie population has good numbers of 9- to 11-inch fish. White bass can offer fast paced action on windy days. The lake is gaining a reputation for trophy flathead catfish. The lake has several fish over 20 pounds. This fishery is unique and can be easily destroyed. In order to estimate harvest, numerous flathead catfish have been tagged. If an angler catches a tagged fish, they should contact the Missouri Department of Conservation at 660/646-6122. A new disabled user fishing dock and privy have been popular additions to the lake. The lake is closed to fishing from October 15th through February 15th.

Grindstone Reservoir

The City of Cameron raised the outlet height on this 180-acre reservoir during 2005 to increase water capacity. Higher water levels will provide added nutrients and increased cover for fish, and the fishery should respond favorably. However, a large watershed causes water levels and water clarity to fluctuate after rainy periods and fishing success can be slow until lake settles down. Channel catfish may be caught despite unsettled conditions with good catch rates for fish from 15-22". Crappie fishing can be good during more stable water level times for 7-9" fish, and a few from 11-13". The largemouth bass show good overall sizes with most fish from 12-20".

Happy Holler Lake

Crappie remains the fish of choice for most anglers heading for this Andrew County lake. Stringers of crappie in the 9"-12" range can be found hidden along the dam and rock jetties. This lake is far enough north that during most winters there is enough ice to find crappie among the numerous brush piles. Redear sunfish is another panfish that might draw an angler’s interest. Although difficult to catch, the use of small worms or crickets in the shallows in late spring and early summer can reward you with 10"+ fish. Bluegill are common in the 6"-8" size range. They can be found near the habitat enhancement enclosures and off the dam. The dock and shoreline areas are fished heavily but the use of a boat will get you back into the standing timber and virtual isolation. Largemouth bass sizes continue to fall short of the 18" length limit. Fish the standing timber to entice the bite of one of the few legal fish in the lake. Channel catfish continue to be stocked and are readily caught off the rock jetties. This lake continues to be a solid performer in both the size and number of fish available.

Harrison County Reservoir

Located northwest of Bethany, this 280-acre reservoir continues to provide excellent panfishing opportunities. Bluegill in the 8 to 10 inch range are abundant and can be caught throughout the year on light tackle. Crappie fishing was a bit slower in 2005 than in recent years, but fish from 9-11" were caught consistently, with some fish over 13 inches. For best success, use bobbers or slow vertical jigging with small jigs or minnows in and around submerged brush. Channel catfish are abundant and range in sizes up to 26". Largemouth bass are also numerous, but not too large (12-15" on average).

Hartell Conservation Area

Located just northeast of Plattsburg, MO in Clinton County, Hartell Conservation Area offers a quiet location to spend a day with the family, plus the opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime. This 114 acre Conservation Area has 5 small lakes (2-5 acres) that are intensively managed for high-quality fishing and a 6th pond reserved exclusively for special (i.e. kid’s) fishing events. Hartell CA is a catch-and-release only area, additionally only artificial lures and flies may be used. These strict area regulations help manage the area for trophy fishing for all species. Area lakes contain trophy largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, redear sunfish, and channel catfish. The best part about Hartell CA is its accessibility. The graveled road leading into the area takes you on a very scenic loop putting the angler right on the doorstep of each of the lakes. All lakes are accessible for small boats and canoes (electric motors only) and a few boats are available to use at no charge. There is also a covered, disabled user accessible fishing dock available on the largest of the area lakes. If you would like the opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime and leave an area with multiple Missouri master angler awards, visit Hartell CA. Bring a camera! If you make the trip once it’s a guarantee it won’t be your last.


Indian Creek Lake

This 192 acre lake is located on Poosey Conservation Area. Largemouth bass fishing is excellent. A 12- to 15-inch protected slot length limit continues to improve the bass population. Bass anglers can expect the majority of their catch to be fish 12 to 15 inches long. However, catches of large bass are increasing. A high quality channel catfish population exists in the lake with several fish longer than 20 inches. Anglers should use night crawlers or prepared baits fishing off the bottom. Anglers interested in panfishing will find good numbers of bluegill and redear. At times, crappie anglers can experience good catches of fish longer than 10 inches. Regardless of the catch, fishing is always a good experience at what many people consider the prettiest lake in north Missouri.


Lake Paho

Bigger largemouth bass continue to be the draw for most anglers at Lake Paho. Although catch rates may be lower, there’s a good chance of catching one or two of the lunkers near submerged brushpiles which are scattered along the lakeshore. New brushpiles, made from mature cedar trees, were added the last three years in depths around 10-15 feet. Tops of the brushpiles can be seen above the surface when water levels are low; however, a depth finder or GPS (if you have coordinates) is needed during high water. To protect from over-harvesting the fishery, bass must be over 18" before they can be kept and the limit is two per day. Most crappie continue to be small (7-8") but there a few large walleye (>25") remaining from past stockings.


Mozingo Lake

Largemouth bass densities are still very high in 1000-acre Mozingo Lake. Spring electrofishing in 2005 produced the highest fish sampling catch for bass since the lake opened. The 12-15 inch protected slot is producing larger fish then in the past, with 27% of bass sampled measuring over 15 inches. Fish the submerged brush piles, rocky points, and rip rap banks to find fish. Crappie fishing in Mozingo Lake is second only to bass in popularity, and 2006 looks to be no different. Limits of crappie from 9 to 17 inches are common for those anglers targeting the tasty panfish. Try small minnows in the shallow timber in the spring, and use your locator to find suspended schools in deep water in the fall. Bluegill fishing will continue to be nothing less than outstanding in 2006. Fishing with live bait in and around woody cover produces limits of bluegill in the 8-10" range. A growing number of anglers are taking advantage of quality walleye fishing available in Mozingo Lake, and some very large fish are available. A 28- inch, 10 pound monster was the largest walleye sampled during the nighttime spring electrofishing in 2005. Fish the dam at night from late March to early April with crank baits, or jig and minnow combinations. Follow the fish to the deep points adjacent to the old channel with deep diving crankbaits or crawler harnesses as summer continues. Fishing for channel catfish will continue to be excellent in 2005, with many channel catfish over 10 pounds possible. Excellent facilities provided by the City of Maryville surround the lake, with new campground areas, cabins, a fish cleaning station, picnic pavilions, and improved boat ramps, as well as disabled-user covered fishing docks.


Nodaway County Community Lake

Nodaway County Lake, just north of Maryville will provide plenty of action in 2006 for on-shore, as well as boat anglers looking for numbers of panfish, as well as a chance at a trophy largemouth bass, channel catfish, or walleye. Bluegill and crappie are very abundant, but most will run on the small size. However, some very large crappie over 14" were sampled in 2005. Anglers can find these panfish in just about any woody habitat, any time of the year on live bait, and are encouraged to harvest their limit. Efforts are continuing to increase the size structure of the panfish population by brush pile installation and aquatic vegetation re-introduction. Electrofishing in 2005 again revealed numbers of largemouth bass over 20 inches. Anglers fishing plastic worm or jig and pig combinations in any of the newly-installed cedar tree brush piles scattered throughout the lake will have a good chance at hooking into a memorable-sized fish. Shad are numerous in Nodaway County Lake, so shad imitating lures will also work well. Catfish anglers will find channel catfish to 10 pounds, and flathead catfish to 40 pounds in and around woody cover. Dip-baits or cut shad should provide channel catfish anglers steady action. Although MDC does not currently stock walleyes in this lake, some very nice fish to 10 pounds roam Nodaway’s deep creek channel.


Pony Express Lake

This 240-acre lake on the Pony Express Lake Conservation Area supports a variety of fish, but most anglers target catfish. Channel and blue catfish are stocked most years. Recent surveys show channel catfish from 15-22" in length are common. Anglers often enjoy good catch rates for catfish in the main body of the lake, or near inlets during periods of runoff, using cut bait and other prepared baits. Larger blue catfish, up to 30 pounds or more, may be caught with live bait suspended over deeper channels. Crappie are abundant but tend to be smaller (6-8"). Anglers are encouraged to keep all small crappie caught up to their daily limit of 30. Largemouth bass are not abundant but good catch rates for 11-17" fish may be found near submerged trees and brush piles. Anglers may find great fun by targeting common carp which are abundant at sizes from 10-20 pounds. Recently constructed angling amenities at the lake include a new fish-cleaning station located on the end of a newly re-surfaced and accessible fishing pier.


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