Fishing KC

By Todd Gemeinhardt and Pam Lanigan | June 2, 2007
From Missouri Conservationist: Jun 2007

How far would you travel for good fishing? Fifty miles? One hundred fifty miles?

Although many people drive long distances to catch fish, Kansas City anglers can find great fishing of all types within the four-county area of Cass, Clay, Jackson and Platte counties.

In fact, there are so many types of local fishing opportunities, including shore fishing, boat fishing, lake fishing, pond fishing and river fishing, that Kansas City anglers may have a hard time deciding where to go, what species to target or what type of gear to use.

One thing is sure, though. They don’t have to travel far to find quality fishing and collect a nice mess of fish for dinner.

River Opportunities

Boat and bank anglers alike can find plenty of access to the Missouri River. Although the river contains a wide variety of fish species, catfish are probably the most popular. Pole-and-line anglers, as well as those who prefer to use set lines, trot lines and jug lines, catch lots of channel, blue and flathead catfish—including some that weigh more than 50 pounds—while fishing within view of the Kansas City skyline.

Boaters on the Missouri River have to be careful that they don’t literally run into silver and bighead carp. These large fish propel themselves out of the water without warning. They sometimes land in boats and can present a hazard to people and equipment. Kansas City anglers also have plenty of opportunities to wet a line in nearby smaller rivers and streams. The Blue River (Jackson County), Fishing River (Clay County), Platte River (Platte County), and South Grand River (Cass County) all have good numbers of fish and a variety of fish species, and there are plenty more within an hour’s drive of Kansas City.

These smaller streams usually contain lots of channel catfish, but anglers also catch largemouth bass, bluegill, green sunfish, carp and crappie from them.

Almost all area streams have at least one public fishing access. Anglers who want to fish from the bank above or below these access areas should first obtain landowner permission.

Small Lakes and Ponds

Most conservation areas and state, city and county parks in the Kansas City area have lakes or ponds. The Conservation Department works with local government to manage the fisheries in many of these waters and make them inviting and accessible to anglers.

On many managed waters, special regulations concerning daily limits, horsepower limits and fishing methods apply. These are posted at accesses and on area bulletin boards.

A good place to catch large bluegill is Tobacco Hills Lake in the Guy B. Park Conservation Area in Platte County. An 8-inch minimum length limit keeps plenty of bluegill around long enough to grow big. Several longer than 10 inches are caught every summer.

The picturesque 17-acre lake has a boat ramp, but you can effectively fish the lake from shore. Bass are also numerous here, but you’ll find few fish longer than the 15-inch minimum length limit.

Watkins Mill State Park in Clay County has a 100-acre lake with both shore and boat fishing access. A 3.75-mile asphalt trail encircles the lake, providing anglers easy access to almost all of the shoreline. The lake has good numbers of largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish and redear sunfish.

Anglers often take large redear sunfish in the spring when the fish are spawning in shallow coves and in the shallows near shore. You can sometimes see the fish in the water. These hard-fighting sunfish are vulnerable to small jigs or worms. They make great table fare.

South of the Missouri River, the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area provides lots of good fishing. This 2,603-acre area has 11 fishable lakes and ponds that add up to 252 acres of water. Only children under the age of 16 can fish in Honker Pond.

Anglers catch largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, redear sunfish and hybrid striped bass from area waters. Numerous fishing jetties, docks and trails make the lakes extremely accessible for bank anglers. Rental boats are available on some of the lakes during the summer months.

Visitors to the Reed Area willing to brave cold weather may face action that rivals any of southern Missouri’s trout parks. From November through March, the Conservation Department periodically stocks skillet-size rainbow and brown trout in Coot and Plover lakes, as well as in Honker Pond.

A 55-acre lake on Amarugia Conservation Area and the City of Harrisonville’s 34-acre North Lake both provide bank and boat fishing opportunities in Cass County. Both of these lakes have been stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and channel catfish.

Many small ponds in the area are open for bank fishing only and have good fish populations. From April through October, the Conservation Department stocks eight Kansas City Parks and Recreation ponds with channel catfish. Most of the stocked channel catfish average a pound apiece.

Stocked ponds include Blue Valley, Chaumiere, Englewood, Lake of the Woods, Lakewood, North Terrace, Penn Valley and Troost. In addition, the Department stocks trout in Chaumiere Lake from November through March.

The Department also manages the fish populations in five Jackson County park lakes that are open for public fishing. These include Alex George, Bergan, Bowlin Road, Scherer and Wyatt lakes.

Alex George Lake is stocked with channel catfish from April to October and with trout November to March. The other Jackson County lakes receive channel catfish every other year. Catfishing in these lakes can be exceptional at times.

Big Water Fishing

Anglers can find lots of reservoirs within a short drive of downtown Kansas City. Blue Springs, Jacomo, Longview, Prairie Lee (Jackson County) and Smithville lakes (Clay County) provide great fishing from shore or boat.

County boating permits are required for each of these lakes, and fishing by pole and line only is permitted at Blue Springs, Jacomo, Prairie Lee and Longview lakes. At Lake Jacomo you can also take carp and buffalo by gig, longbow or crossbow during statewide seasons. At Prairie Lee Lake, longbows and crossbows are not allowed for these species during statewide seasons, but you can use a gig.

Blue Springs Lake provides some of the fastest action for decent-sized carp. Anglers may find success off the dam, in the upper ends of coves and near the north boat ramp as carp congregate on shallow flats to spawn.

Carp in both Lake Jacomo and Prairie Lee Lake aren’t as numerous, but they are large. Fish nearly 3 feet long have been pulled into boats during sampling runs.

Channel catfish are abundant in all of these lakes. Blue catfish and flathead catfish can be found in Jacomo and Smithville lakes.

These lakes also contain plenty of largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill. In fact, bass fishing in Lake Jacomo could rival some of the best bass lakes in the state.

In addition to good bass fishing, Smithville Lake provides Kansas City-based anglers a solid walleye fishery. Longview and Jacomo also have walleye populations.

White bass are present in all of these lakes as well. Smithville and Jacomo both have excellent numbers of these hard fighters. Blue Springs Lake also contains hybrid striped bass. They are extremely fun to catch on topwater lures during summer months.

Novice or pro, local or visitor, if you’re looking for angling excitement, don’t miss fishing Kansas City.

River Fishing

County River Area Name Boat Access
Cass S. Grand Amarugia Highlands CA Yes
Clay Missouri Cooley Lake CA Yes
Clay/Jackson Missouri LaBenite Park/ Liberty Bend CA Yes
Jackson Missouri Fort Osage Yes
Missouri Riverfront Park Yes
Blue Brown Athletic Area Yes
Platte Platte Humphrey Access Yes
Platte Platte Falls CA Yes
Platte Kendzora CA No
Platte Marshall CA No
Platte Ringold Access  
Platte Schimmel City Access Yes
Platte Union Mill Access  

Lake and Pond Fishing

County Area Name Acres Boat Access (# of ramps)
Cass Amarugia Highlands CA 55 Yes
Harrisonville North Lake 34 Yes
Clay Chaumiere Lake 1 No
Englewood Lake 1 No
Lakewood Lake 1 No
Smithville Lake   Yes
Jackson Alex George Lake 8 No
Bergan Lake 3 No
Blue Springs Lake 720 Yes (2)
Blue Valley Lake 1 No
Bowlin Road Pond 4 No
James A. Reed Memorial WA 252  
Lake Jacomo 970 Yes (2)
Lake of the Woods 1 No
Lone Jack CA 35 Yes (1)
Longview Lake 930 Yes (2)
North Terrace Lake 1 No
Penn Valley Lake 1 No
Prairie Lee Lake 150 Yes (1)
Scherer Lake 15 No
Tarsney and Wood Lakes 17 & 8 Yes
Troost Lake 1 No
Wyatt Lake 3 No
Platte Guy B. Park CA 17 Yes


For More Information

The Conservation Department’s Kansas City Regional office at 3424 NW Duncan Road in Blue springs (816-655-6250) has brushpile maps for some of the lakes. The office can also provide you with the annual “Fishing Prospects” guide, recipes for dough baits and a list of fishing regulations for all Jackson County Parks lakes.

You can get more information about fishing at Smithville Lake by contacting the Liberty office at 816-792-8662.

For more conservation information about the area, visit the Kansas City region Web site.

Also In This Issue

Let’s keep invasive species from colonizing new waters.

This Issue's Staff

Editor in Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Arleasha Mays
Photographer- Noppadol Paothong
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Circulation - Laura Scheuler