WEST PLAINS, Mo. – A kayak can give floaters great access to many fishing and nature viewing activities and fall is a great time to do some paddling. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wants to remind area paddlers that there are several sites in south-central Missouri where MDC fish management and MDC accesses can add enjoyment to a kayaking trip.
If you’re an angler, a kayak’s navigability makes paddling close to a root-wad or into a secluded area that’s not reachable from land an easy way to gain access to some great fishing opportunities. The same holds true for nature viewing – some areas of shallow marshes may not be accessible by foot or from a larger canoe, but a kayak might be able to slip into these areas with ease to allow for great views of herons, egrets or other types of wetland wildlife that use these areas as stop-overs on their autumn migratory journeys. Getting great views of fall leaf color adds another benefit for autumn kayaking.
South-central Missouri has an abundance of kayak-friendly streams and small lakes. Here are a few suggestions where combining a kayak with a fishing pole, a pair of binoculars and a camera may lead to a memorable float:
Bryant Creek, Sycamore Creek Access (MDC) to Warren Bridge Access (MDC): This 7.4-mile float features fishing and nature-viewing opportunities. Smallmouth bass and goggle-eye highlight the angling opportunities. Floaters can also check out the historic Aid-Hodgson Mill at Sycamore Access, which is fueled by Hodgson Mill Spring.
Eleven Point River, Greer Access (U.S. Forest Service) to Turner Mill Access (USFS): This five-mile float features fishing and scenery. Fishing opportunities abound on this stretch of stream, which lies within MDC’s Blue Trout Management Area, MDC’s Smallmouth Bass Management Area and MDC’s Goggle-eye Management Area. People can learn more about the regulations of these management areas at https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing. A little over three miles into the float, kayakers will paddle past Mary Decker Shoals, a white-water area that both beginners and experts can navigate through.
Current River, Pulltite Access (National Park Service) to Upper Round Spring Access (NPS): In addition to good fishing opportunities for smallmouth and goggle-eye, this 7.8 mile float features several springs, including Pulltite Spring.
Lower Jack’s Fork, Alley Spring Access (MDC) to Eminence Access (MDC/City of Eminence): This 6.5-mile float has good fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass and goggle-eye. It also features an abundance of beautiful natural scenery including Alley Spring.
North Fork of the White River, Blair Bridge Access (MDC) to Patrick Bridge Access (MDC): This 2.7-mile float lies within an MDC Blue Ribbon Trout Management Zone. This area’s rainbow trout is sustained through natural reproduction and the area also receives occasional stockings of brown trout. The North Fork’s self-sustaining rainbow trout population was negatively impacted by the flood of 2017 so trout anglers should expect a challenge when fishing for that species.
Small lakes: In addition to streams, a kayak’s navigability makes it a great vessel for exploring sloughs and other backwater areas of lakes. In south-central Missouri, two MDC-managed lakes paddlers might want to check out are Sims Valley Lake (41 acres in Howell County) and Austin Community Lake (22 acres in Texas County). Both feature fishing and nature-viewing opportunities. Paddlers should note that Sims Valley Lake has an abundance of submerged stumps in the lake, which can make for good fishing sites, but paddlers need to be watchful for them.
“Kayaking during this time of year is a wonderful way to see the fall colors and enjoy the outdoors,” said MDC Recreational Use Specialist Bridget Jackson. “The weather is still nice and the rivers are usually less crowder. Grab your binocs and fishing gear and enjoy a relaxing float under the gorgeous leaves.”
Information about what species of fish can be found at the areas listed above, and what type of fish that can be found at other areas, too; can be found in the MDC Fishing Prospects at https://fishing.mdc.mo.gov/.
Regardless of if they put in at a stream access or on a small lake, kayakers should remember to always wear a life jacket. It’s also best to kayak with others or, at the very least, let others know where you’ll be. Get information about other MDC areas to kayak at: