The 5 Best Fish to Catch in Missouri This Summer

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: September 15, 2022
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Missouri is well-known for being a great place where people can take in scenic views and go hiking. However, it’s also a haven for anglers. Although the state is landlocked, Missouri does have some incredible lakes and rivers, including portions of the two largest rivers in the United States, the Mississippi River and the Missouri River. Let’s take a closer look at the five best fish to catch in Missouri. Discover where to find them and what baits you should use to get them to bite!

What Are the Best Fish to Catch in Missouri?

Missouri may not be home to many very large species of fish, but that doesn’t mean fishermen don’t love to catch the many fish that live in the state. Our list of the best fish to catch in Missouri was created to provide a little bit of something for everyone. You’ll find large game fish, fish that are simple to catch, and a few that are better left in the hands of experts. So, let’s see some of these fish!

1. Muskellunge (Muskie)

While the muskie is not native to Missouri, they have been added to lakes.

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Most people know the muskellunge by its nickname, the muskie. These fish are not native to the area, but they have been stocked in various lakes. However, they are not stocked in the famous Lake of the Ozarks. Instead, you’ll find them in Fellows Lake, Pomme de Terre Lake, Lake 35, and Hazel Creek Lake.

That means they’re spread across several parts of the state, so you’re never too far from them. These fish are typically 2-3 feet in length, and they can weigh anywhere between 15 and 30 pounds on average.

For the most part, these fish are hard to catch. They’re called the “fish of 10,000 casts” for a reason. However, you can go to lakes where you know they’re stocked and cut down on some of the guesswork. These fish hang out around drop-offs in water, and they like to lurk in the weeds. Make sure you’re trolling very slowly to entice these fish.

You should also learn how to perform a good figure-8 as you’re bringing in your lure. Speaking of lures, you can use bucktail, crankbait, and soft plastic muskie baits along with many others to increase your chances of catching a fish.

2. White Crappie

A caught white crappie
White crappies are popular fish, because they don’t require special equipment to catch.

Jennifer White Maxwell/

The white crappie is commonly found in Missouri except in the central Ozarks. They live in freshwater ponds, lakes, and the backwaters of rivers. They prefer slow-moving water and places that have submerged vegetation or fallen trees for cover. Although they can be found throughout the day, they’re most common in the evening.

White crappies are 8-10 inches long, and they only weigh about 2 pounds. Sometimes, they can get a bit longer, but they don’t grow over 5 pounds in weight very often. Crappies are a very popular fish. After all, they don’t require a lot of special equipment to catch, and they’re still somewhat sizable. Also, you can catch them from shore or in a boat.

You can use a lot of different types of bait to catch them. Small minnows are one of the preferred baits for this fish. Just watch out when you cast into areas with lots of debris or vegetation. You may snag your hook!

3. Largemouth Bass

smallmouth vs largemouth bass
Largemouth bass love to eat, and are particularly aggressive.

The largemouth bass is a mainstay on lists of the best fish to catch in Missouri this summer. They’re found throughout the state, especially in the large, famous lakes in the state. You’ll find them in Table Rock Lake, Lake of the Ozarks, Stockton Lake, and many others.

These fish love to eat, and they’re rather aggressive. That works in your favor since they will attack just about anything you put in the water for bait. Top water lures, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, or even shrimp are some of the lures people use when largemouth bass are in shallow waters.

Like crappies, they enjoy hanging out in shallow waters in cover during the early part of the day, but they move into deeper waters as the day wears on. You can catch them from the shore and from a boat. You should check along the edges of weed banks and around floating vegetation. They can’t resist the chance to eat something good!

4. Channel Catfish

Channel catfish
Channel catfish reach sizes of 2 feet or longer, and can weigh up to 20 pounds.

Aleron Val/

They may not be as large as blue catfish, but channel catfish are still favored in this state. Their availability makes them one of the best fish to catch in Missouri. Another factor is that channel catfish get rather big, often measuring 2 feet long or more and weighing 10-20 pounds or larger!

As their name suggests, you can find them in streams and rivers throughout the state, especially in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

You may have to sink your bait a little more during the summer months since they prefer cool water. However, when you drop minnows, shad, worms, or shrimp into the water, they readily bite.  

5. Longnose Gar

Longnose Gar, one of the oldest fish of our planet

Galina Savina/

The longnose gar is a great fish to catch in Missouri. Just remember not to try holding them up by the mouth to get a picture because they have a lot of sharp teeth. They’re easy to differentiate from the other three species because of their excessively long snouts.

These fish are mostly found in the large streams and reservoirs in the Ozarks and surrounding regions. The longnose gar can reach lengths of 3 feet and weigh 5-10 pounds. However, they can get even larger, measuring up to 60 inches long and weighing 30 pounds at their upper limits.

Many people use live or fresh bait to catch these fish, including crayfish, carp, frogs, and freshwater shrimp. These fish are perfect targets for expert anglers. They put up a great fight! Also, some people choose to go after these fish with bows, too.

Now that we’ve covered the best fish to catch in Missouri this summer, you can decide which ones you want to pursue. You may want to go for something small and easy like the crappie or try to sink a hook into a gar and test your skill! Just make sure you always follow the state’s laws for when and where you can fish along with what gear you can use!

Up Next…

Musky or Muskellunge
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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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