Missouri Fishing

Missouri Fishing with Mid-America Hunting Association. Magazine article writers and state conservation departments have been wrestling over what to call the thousands of privately owned farm ponds found throughout the Kansas and Missouri states. Not finding a good answer a compromise solutions was found and they are now commonly referred to as “small privately held impoundments”. These impoundments cover every water body other than a state or a federal managed reservoir. This classification is part of an effort at how to gain general public access to these privately owned water bodies to maximize fishing use by others rather than just the landowner. Sort of a public access program similar to systems offered by many states that allow hunters access to privately owned land for hunting. However, in this case the state agencies are attempting to get more year round use for their dollars spent on private land access programs and more reasons for residents and non-residents to spend more money in their state. What the state agencies are attempting to initiate, Mid-America Hunting Association has been practicing since 1965.

We, that is Mid-America Hunting Association, are far more definitive at how we classify these privately held small impoundments. Just as in our recommendations of where to hunt, where we recommend to fish is based on our first hand knowledge with that water body. The reason we are more definitive in our classification is that unlike the magazine article writer we at MAHA must live with our recommendations to our membership and as such are held accountable for that water’s performance.

Additionally, we do manage our waters and fishing members. We have selectively stocked water bodies that our past experience has demonstrated will allow the fish to prosper. We also encourage with much success the practice of CPR, or, Catch, Photograph and Release.

These two aspects, being held accountable for our fishing recommendations and allocating memberships to those that believe in CPR, exist within privately operated hunting and fishing organizations such as Mid-America Hunting (and Fishing) Association. This makes for far better fishing quality than can ever be achieved on unregulated government access programs that allow indiscriminate fishing. Simply stocking a small body of water and allowing unregulated access will never be enough to make for a good day’s fishing.

Now back to the basis of what makes good “small impoundment” fishing, i.e., how we at MAHA classify privately owned bodies of water.

The Watershed Lake is the largest type of “privately held small impoundment” we currently have under lease for Missouri fishing. The largest is 25-35 acres, however the typical size is generally under 10 water surface acres.

The watershed lake characteristics include a high dam that allows this government built, but privately owned, water body to act as a flood control reservoir. It has the capacity to retain large amounts of flood waters while maintaining a constant outflow. The outflow through the dam is by way of a set sized pipe at the desired water level. As rainfall enters the watershed it is free flowing through this limiter of a set sized outflow pipe. Should rainfall amounts exceed that of the outflow pipe discharge capacity the high dam retains the excess water in the reservoir rather than allow it to continue flooding downstream. Eventually, the rain ceases and this system allows for a gradual reduction of the reservoir as the pipe allows for outflow.

The benefits to the fisherman with this body of water are a consistent water level, has a circulation of in/out flowing water and relative to the other types of impoundments a larger water volume.

Disadvantages largely center over the lack of subsurface structure. When these reservoirs were built, it was with the nearly single-minded intention of flood control. Their bottoms were scraped clean as a lot of dirt was required to first build the high dams and second to allow for expansion of the reservoir during times of flood.

A second disadvantage is these lakes were placed based on watershed locations and who had influence to get them built. As such the normal water area covered by the reservoir frequently transcends property lines. This allows for neighbors to our leased land and water access to the same water as our membership and the “exclusivity” of our lease is sustained only to that part of the shoreline within that owned by the landowner that contracted access with us.

Another body of water that has been build for the purposes of field irrigation transcends the gap between a watershed lake and the farm pond. These water bodies are of a great variety in size and fishing value. They are typically smaller than watershed lakes and generally are larger than farm ponds.

The irrigation lakes characteristics are fairly obvious. They are on or near crop fields and they have a pump facility on it, typically a diesel powered pump with a large fuel tank. These lakes typically have a randomness to their dam structure and have irregular shorelines.

As their purpose is agriculture they are more likely to have a build up of farm chemicals making the more valued fishing irrigation lakes being the ones with a consistent, or near consistent year round in/out flow.

The farm pond is a body of water typically under an acre in surface area. Contained within the property boundaries of the landowner under contract on a small watershed frequently also under the control of the landowner.

The farm pond frequently serves, or did serve, as an irrigation or stock water source. They generally have a more irregular waterline conforming to existing drainages or creek draws and as such have more subsurface structure as well as incidental structure brought in by beaver or by way of downed limbs and naturally felled trees.

The benefits of such a farm pond on fallow land is the clarity and cleanliness of the water. The actual inflow may be based entirely on rainfall or an intermittent stream. Frequently this inflow is over CRP or otherwise buffered drainages without the influence of farm chemicals or animal waste.

The stock pond is a glorified puddle. It is shallow and small in size to the point it does not support any fish. Its purpose is a water source for cattle or other stock and it is not recommended for fishing. They may hold small numbers of ducks, but typically are not consistent enough in their duck attracting characteristics to spend much hunting effort.

Missouri Fishing Waters

We offer a variety of water types without drunks or personal watercraft.

This is the end result we are after. Getting our members to the right kind of water to fish.

Missouri watershed lake

A Missouri watershed lake typically with a clean bottom and edge.

missouri farm lake

A farmer built irrigation lake where the dam was built without consideration of the back water area. This wall of a bank is on the south side of the lake. The steep banks and overhanging cedar trees make for a great shadow effect over deep water where the surrounding water has better circulation and therefore temperature and oxygen content than would a deep hole in the center of the lake. This would be a must fish spot on this lake.

Farm ponds offer the most water and structure diversity, are rarely maintained like an irrigation lake leaving much edge brush and have variable bottoms unlike a watershed lake.

stock Pond

A stock pond for cattle watering and useless for fish production.

Missouri strip pit fishing

Strip pits a leftover water body from ground cleared by surface coal mining leaving a hole to collect water.

Stip Pits

Fishing StructureCommon knowledge is that fishing quality is greatly improved with sub surface structure. Getting that structure in place is the challenge. On the Association managed waters we install several pick up loads of trees each year. Even for those that install the structure finding it again months later while fishing is sometime challenging. 

crappieAfter planting structure fish are transferred from an over stocked under fished pond to the farm lake with the newly planted structure. This is a basket of 30+ small crappie. Every one of these crappie caught from this one pond was small giving good proof the fish have over populated and run down their food source. Moving them to a new water body will allow them to grow into nice fish.

A crappie from a farm lake stocked three years earlier.Crappie

Our active fish stocking of leased farm lakes and ponds has been ongoing since 1981. With yearly monitoring by the members that provide feedback from fishing, our land mangers’ own fishing surveys, stocking and restocking many ponds and lakes each summer means a lot of fishing in a lot of places.

Try to find this level of dedication of fish management on public waters.

The strip pit for fishing in our Association is unique to southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas. They are holes dug for coal and then after abandonment filled with rain runoff. This body of water has shallow and deep areas with a lot of rock structure that has been augmented by submerged trees. They are large, rugged water bodies that the two photos below only capture segments of. A small boat that can be dragged to the water would make the fishing of these areas much better than trying to cover them from the bank.

The other types of water existing on land leased by MAHA include waterfowl wetlands, land with beaver dams, streams and rivers. While all of these waters have some degree of fishing, especially for catfish on the sloughs of the wetlands, streams and rivers, it is the farm pond that receives most of our attention. This is where we stock our hybrid bass and will most likely recommend people to fish. Just as we are held accountable by the membership for our hunting recommendations the same degree of accountability applies to our fishing recommendations. For those that want to enjoy the tranquility of a day’s fishing at anytime his schedule allows and to fish without the competition of others then we have the fishing he is after. 

At this point all there is to know about our fishing waters that can be expressed in pictures and text is on this page. The rest of this gallery contains insights about various aspects of fishing and picture proof the authors know of what they speak.

Missouri strip pits fishing
What it is about.

Even though the “ramp” can be difficult to navigate when launching your boat, at least you don’t have to wait in line or fight for a parking space.