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The Guide: Fishing in Columbia

Learn where to catch fantastic fish

Photo illustration by Tova Diamond

Catfish are found in every state in the United States, except Alaska.

July 14, 2011 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Columbia boasts eight public hot spots for fishing enthusiasts or line-casting novices. Pack a lunch, grab a tackle box, resuscitate that well-worn fishing hat and spend a day finding out which fish are eager for a bite of bait. Daily fishing permits are $7 and can be purchased through the Missouri Department of Conservation. Vox rated the fish populations at each location using a bubble rating system. Three bubbles means there’s a high fish population, and two bubbles means there’s a medium fish population. These locations are fisheries that are maintened by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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American Legion Lake
Location: 602 S. Legion Lane
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Adam Wolf, the owner and primary operator of Tombstone Tackle, says this lake doesn’t get nearly as much attention as other fisheries in Columbia, but that’s because it isn’t as good as its competition. American Legion Park also has an archery practice range and a playground, so if fish are possibly avoiding the bobbing bait, the location still caters to a wide range of interests.
Two bubbles: Bass and bluegill

Antimi Lake
Location: Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area, 1615 Business Loop
70 W.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Antimi features two acres for fishing, picnic areas, two pavilions, soccer fields, baseball fields and a rollerblade park. Two hiking trails surround the lake. It’s also about 700 feet from another fishing spot, Nickell Lake.
Three bubbles: Bass, catfish
Two bubbles: Bluegill and crappie

Cosmo-Bethel Lake
Location: Cosmo-Bethel Park,
4500 Bethel St.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Nestled in a 40-acre park, this oasis has plenty of marine life in its waters. City regulations allow visitors to catch up to 60 fish a day, so bait doesn’t stand a chance once it breaks the water’s surface. Stretch your legs at the nearby shady trail.
Three bubbles: Bass, catfish and trout
Two bubbles: Bluegill, crappie and perch

Lake of the Woods
Location: Lake of the Woods Recreation Area, 6700 St. Charles Road
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Although there are three lakes at the recreation area, fishing is only allowed at the lake northwest side of the clubhouse. There’s a variety of fish that live in these calm waters, but there is only a medium population of each, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation website (
Two bubbles: Bass, bluegill, catfish,
crappie and perch

Nickell Lake
Location: L.A. Nickell Golf Course, 1800 Parkside Drive
Hours: Mon. through Fri., 7 a.m. to sundown; Sat. through Sun., 6:30 a.m. to sundown
Here, fishers can cast a line into water plenty of bluegill call home, Nickell Golf Course employee Jim Vaughn says. The pond is next to the parking lot, so anglers don’t have to bypass golfers to start casting their lines. Get there early because the course closes around sundown or when the last golfer leaves the greens.
Three bubbles: Bluegill

Philips Lake
Location: 5050 Bristol Lake Parkway
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Philips Lake is a great spot to fish for bass, Wolf says. The bass are relatively small because the lake is somewhat new, so it will take some time for them to grow. However, there are still plenty of 2 to 2.5-pound bass looking for a line to bite. It’s legal to catch up to 6 pounds a day.
Three bubbles: Bass and perch
Two bubbles: Catfish

Stephens Lake Park
Location: 2001 E. Broadway
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
This 11-acre lake is easily accessible and is great for kids with its spray park and walkways. Fishing is only allowed on the east side of the boardwalk. Non-motorized boats are allowed, and the lake boasts two spots constructed specifically for shoreline fishing, so a day with a pole in the water is sure to yield bountiful results.
Three bubbles: Crappie
Two bubbles: Bluegill, catfish, crappie and perch

Twin Lakes
Recreation Area

Location: 2500 Chapel Hill Road
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Wolf says this 18-acre lake is Columbia’s most overlooked fishery, so lines are sure never to bob for long. With large flathead catfish and plenty of big bass, poles attract fish like bees to honey. Non-motorized boats are also allowed.
Three bubbles: Bass and catfish
Two bubbles: Bluegill, crappie and perch

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