The 10 Best Crappie Fishing Spots in Missouri: Lakes and Rivers

Missouri is a crappie angler’s paradise with an abundance of lakes and rivers full of these delicious and fun-to-catch fish. From large and open reservoirs to tranquil backwaters and creeks, …

Missouri is a crappie angler’s paradise with an abundance of lakes and rivers full of these delicious and fun-to-catch fish. From large and open reservoirs to tranquil backwaters and creeks, Missouri’s waterways provide the perfect backdrop for great crappie fishing experiences.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the top ten crappie fishing spots scattered across the state, each offering its own unique charm and promising some memorable moments on the water for your next crappie fishing trip. You’ll be able to find two crappie species here, including white crappie and black crappie.

The Best Missouri Crapping Fishing Locations

With a wide range of crappie fishing lakes, rivers, and reservoirs for crappie fishing in Missouri, the state offers a wealth of crappie-filled waters. The lakeside settings and hidden river gems are prime spots that promise not only great crappie fishing but also the chance to immerse yourself in the beauty of the state’s natural landscapes.

Lake of the Ozarks

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Lake of the Ozarks

Nestled in central Missouri, this sprawling reservoir spans 54,000 acres and is probably one of the busiest lakes in the state for anglers, boaters, and swimmers. Access is a breeze, with numerous boat ramps, marinas, and resorts lining the shores on almost all sides.

While shore fishing opportunities are somewhat limited, even though there are 1,200 miles of shoreline at Lake of the Ozarks, I once had a memorable crappie fishing experience from the dock of a lakeside cabin in the Rocky Mount area. Expect good-sized Missouri crappie species, often reaching 12-15 inches, but be willing to toss back anything 10 inches or smaller.

In the spring, I’ve had success vertically jigging bright-colored jigs around submerged brush piles. For a relaxing day at Lake of the Ozarks, trolling or spider rigging deeper waters with live minnows often yields great results. Some of my best catches in the warmer months came on chartreuse jigs with a twister tail or live minnows. Experiment with various jig colors to find what works best for you or the season.

Mark Twain Lake

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Mark Twain Lake

Located in northeast Missouri, Mark Twain Lake covers 18,600 acres. You’ll find plenty of public access points, boat ramps, and campgrounds around the lake.

Quality-sized crappie abounds at this lake, with most exceeding 10 inches. Though I didn’t catch crappie trophies, my favorite memory was catching crappie from the shore in the Indian Creek campground at dusk.

Spider rigging or tight-lining around submerged structures and drop-offs can be incredibly effective, especially during the crappie spawn. My go-to has always been tube jigs and live minnows. Their versatility allows you to adapt to changing conditions and also gives you a chance to catch other fish species if crappie aren’t biting.

Stockton Lake

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Stockton Lake

Nestled in southwest Missouri, Stockton Lake covers nearly 25,000 acres. It has very easy access through numerous boat ramps, campgrounds, and public beaches, giving you options for shore fishing or boat launching.

Quality-sized crappie are common, often reaching 10-13 inches. I’ve had some success casting from the shore near marinas, especially in the early morning of mid-March to early May.

My most memorable catch was trolling along submerged trees with a small crankbait during the golden hour at sunrise. Crappie jigs with a feathered tail or small swimbaits in shad patterns have been my favorites here.

Table Rock Lake

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Table Rock Lake

Located in southwest Missouri, Table Rock Lake stretches across just over 42,000 acres. Multiple boat ramps, resorts, parks, campgrounds, and marinas make accessing the lake hassle-free.

You can find good-sized white crappie and black crappie in this lake, and I once landed a hefty 14-incher. I’ve had some of my best luck fishing off docks and marinas on the east side of the lake.

Trolling with a crankbait or casting jigs near submerged cover can be a very good option. My personal favorite is casting jigs near rocky points during the fall when crappie are chasing baitfish. My most productive days involved using marabou jigs in white or chartreuse. There’s something about the way they flutter in the water that crappie can’t resist.

Truman Lake

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Truman Lake

Situated in west-central Missouri, Truman Lake is Missouri’s largest reservoir, covering 55,600 acres. Abundant boat ramps, campgrounds, and access points all around the lake provide loads of convenience.

Quality-sized black crappie and white crappie are the norm here, often reaching 10-13 inches easily. I’ve had some luck near docks at Thibaut Campground and one memorable evening of fishing from a fishing platform with friends near the southern part of the lake where the dam for flood control is located.

Spider rigging or longlining near submerged brush piles can lead to several quick catches. My best catch came while slow-trolling with minnows around standing timber in early spring. I’ve had great success with bright-colored jigs and live minnows too, but don’t forget to tip your jigs with a small plastic trailer for added attraction.

Bull Shoals Lake

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Bull Shoals Lake

Found in south-central Missouri and extending into Arkansas, Bull Shoals Lake covers 45,000 acres. Numerous boat ramps, resorts, and marinas make it easy to launch your boat or find a cozy shore fishing spot to set up.

Expect quality black and white crappie fish, with some exceeding 12 inches. I’ve had fun casting from docks and cabins near Buck Creek Marina, even hooking into a feisty 15-inch crappie once.

Vertical jigging near submerged timber and rocky points has been highly effective. My personal favorite is trolling along bluff walls in early spring when crappie moves into shallow water. Bright-colored jigs and live minnows have consistently produced results for me. The key is finding the right depth where crappie tend to congregate.

Pomme de Terre Lake

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Pomme de terre lake

Situated in southwest Missouri, Pomme de Terre Lake spans 7,820 acres. Several boat ramps and access points, along with campgrounds and parks, provide easy entry to the lake for Missouri crappie fishing.

Good-sized black and white crappie are common, often exceeding 10 inches. My favorite memory here was catching crappie near Nemo Landing Marina’s fishing dock during a warm spring evening.

Spider rigging or tight-lining around submerged brush piles are the go-to methods. My best day came while slow-trolling a spread of jigs and minnows near a submerged hump north of Hickory Ridge Marina. Brightly colored jigs in pink and chartreuse and live minnows are my preferred choices.

Lake Wappapello

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Lake Wappapello

Located in southeast Missouri, Lake Wappapello covers 8,400 acres. Multiple boat ramps and fishing piers, along with campgrounds and picnic areas, make it very easily accessible for all.

Expect quality-sized black crappie and white crappie, commonly reaching 11 inches. You can catch crappie near a fishing pier at sunrise to create a great memory for your whole family.

Casting or trolling jigs near submerged timber, weed beds, and points has yielded the best results for most anglers. Fishing shallow brush piles during the spawn can be incredibly productive, too. You’ll probably have great luck with jigs in bright colors like chartreuse and red, as well as live minnows. Experiment with different depths to locate schools of crappie.

Smithville Lake

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Smithville Lake

Found in northwest Missouri, Smithville Lake covers 7,200 acres, making it fall into the small lakes category for the state. Several boat ramps and fishing docks, along with parks and recreational areas, provide access to several areas around the 175-mile shoreline.

Crappie fish tend to be average size here, with some over 10 inches. Excellent shore fishing opportunities near docks, fishing piers, and parks offer a great experience. I once had a friendly competition with friends, and we all reeled in impressive catches near the Paradise Point Marina in the west, making this my favorite lake in the Show Me State.

Casting or vertical jigging around brush piles, docks, and rocky areas can be highly productive. My personal best came while casting a chartreuse jig under a floating dock. Natural-colored jigs, live minnows, and small crankbaits are my go-to choices here and might be the best lures to try.

Meramec River

MIssouri Crappie Fishing Meramec River

Meandering 229 miles through eastern Missouri and being one of the most popular rivers in the state, the Meramec River offers various access points in parks and conservation areas. Expect some great fishing of moderate-sized crappie fish, often around 9 to 11 inches.

The freedom to explore the riverbanks and fish from various fishing platforms along the river’s length allows for a diverse fishing experience. My fondest memory of this Missouri River was landing a surprise 14-inch crappie near a downed tree near the town of Eureka in late April.

Casting jigs or live bait under bobbers near fallen trees or a brush pile, rocky areas, and deeper pools has proven effective in finding crappie. Crappie tend to be hesitant here, but the river can yield hidden gems if you have patience. I’ve had success with small plastics, such as twister tails and live minnows. The river’s natural currents create an enticing presentation that crappie can’t resist.

Crappie Fishing Missouri: Bag Limit, Size Limit and Other Rules

When it comes to bag limits, the Missouri Department of Conservation generally allows anglers to keep up to 30 crappie per day per person, though 15 of those cannot be more than 9 inches in length.

However, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule for the Show Me State, as there are exceptions with some lakes and other locations. Specific crappie lakes and conservation areas might have their own bag limit regulations, so it’s crucial to research the rules for your chosen fishing spot.

While Missouri does allow smaller crappie to be harvested, responsible anglers are encouraged to release undersized or over-the-limit crappie to help maintain a healthy population for future generations to enjoy.

Crappie fishing is a year-round activity in Missouri, offering opportunities for other anglers in every season. Spring and fall are particularly popular due to the crappie fish spring spawning season and feeding behaviors, but you can do some ice fishing in some lakes as well.

When it comes to crappie fishing methods and gear at these lakes, you will have plenty of options for various water clarity from stained to clear water, including rod and reel to cane pole or trotline. However, for trotlines, jug lines, and limb lines, there are specific regulations regarding the number of hooks and baited lines allowed.

Special regulations might also apply to certain lakes and conservation areas. These regulations can include reduced bag limits, slot limits, or catch-and-release-only rules to protect and manage the local crappie populations. Be sure to familiarize yourself with any special regulations that apply to your chosen fishing spot.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.