Looking for an outdoor vacation getaway that the whole family can enjoy? Then you surely will want to hit some of these locations this summer.
Summer is just about to begin in Missouri, and it’s time to have some fun in the sun. The kids are out of school and the anticipation of what kind of exciting adventures the summer will bring is at a fever pitch.
If you’re like me and my family, we are always counting our pennies and watching our budget, a staycation in Missouri always seemed to make the most sense for us. And a family fishing vacation was always right up our alley.
Here are several great places to take the gang on a family fishing getaway that won’t break the bank, but will be bursting at the seams with so much fishing fun and other family entertainment.
AUGUST A. BUSCH MEMORIAL CONSERVATION AREA
If you’re looking for a lot of fishing opportunities but aren’t particularly fond of getting on a huge lake and dodging boat traffic, then the Busch Conservation Area located in St. Charles County would be a nice place to take the family fishing.
This expansive area includes 28 fishing lakes that offer just about every species of fish you might like to pursue. One of the smaller lakes is one of the best to take the kiddos fishing. Lake No. 12 is designated as a “kids only” fishing lake and you must be age 15 or under to fish there. Mom and dad might have to be the official guides at this lake. But it’s a great start to the fishing day, where the kids are almost sure to catch fish. It is chock-full of bluegills and hybrid sunfish, and also is stocked with largemouth bass and catfish.
The great thing about the Busch Conservation Area is that there are 27 other lakes the entire family can try their fishing skills on. If you are looking for big bass then you should try Lake No. 33, where 25 percent of the bass are larger than 18 inches! Lake No. 7 is your best bet for channel catfish where there is an abundance of 1-pound whiskered wonders just waiting to be caught. (Note: There are special area regulations on fish length and creel limits if you are planning on keeping any of the fish to eat.)
There is a picnic area, a pavilion and several designated hiking and biking trails on-site. There is no camping at the area, but the Sundermeier RV Park is located very nearby in St. Charles.
For more information about the Busch Conservation Area, contact their area office at 636-441-4554. For more info about the Sundermeier RV Park, call 636-940-0111.
Along the Way: Once your arms get tired of reeling in fish, or the kids get bored with fishing, you can take the entire family to the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center. This unique attraction is a historic designation. You can learn all about Lewis and Clark’s historic trip to the Pacific Ocean, which started right here in Missouri. This center even has exact full-sized replicas of the boats that were used on that famous expedition. Admission is only $5 for adults and $2 for kids under age 17. For more information, call 636-947-3199.
This 208-acre lake is located in northwest Missouri’s DeKalb County near the city of Cameron. You may never have heard about this body of water before, but it offers some great fishing opportunities. If catfishing is your thing, then this is a good place to try with an abundance of channel catfish in the 15- to 23-inch range. That’s just the right size for a good fight and great eating. Channel cats can be caught there in just about any water condition. But Grindstone Reservoir is known to get turbid after heavy rains that can cloud up the water. That doesn’t hurt the catfish bite, but if you are wanting to catch crappie there you are better off fishing when the water is clear. There are good numbers of crappie in the 7- to 9-inch range, but some reach lengths of 11 to 15 inches! There is a good population of largemouth bass, with plenty of these fish in the 12- to 20-inch range, while some may reach lengths of up to 22 inches.
Watch The Video Gallery Above To Help you Improve Your Family Fishing Fun!
There is a fishing dock and a concrete boat ramp at Grindstone Reservoir, along with a wheelchair accessible restroom. There is no camping at the lake. For more information about Grindstone, call 816-271-3100.
Along the Way: Vacationers can find a nice campground at Wallace State Park near Cameron. This beautiful area’s campground is family friendly and peaceful. There are basic, electric and walk-in campsites available. Some even come complete with showers, water, electricity, and Wi-Fi. Reservations are recommended, otherwise campsite availability is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about camping at Wallace State Park call 877-422-6766.
An interesting place to visit while you are in the Kansas City area is the Harley Davidson Factory where you and your family can take the Steel Toe Tour. Admission is $38 and includes a commemorative pin, group photo, safety vest and a $5 coupon good at the gift shop. For more information on tour times call 877-833-1450.
Hunnewell Lake is a 208-acre body of water located in Shelby County. This lake offers great fishing opportunities for panfish, which is just what the doctor ordered for family fun. Anglers can expect to find plenty of redear sunfish over 10 inches long, and crappie that exceed 9 inches. There is also an abundance of largemouth bass in the lake. There are so many bass in the water that anglers are encouraged to take their limit of six largemouths under 12 inches daily. Both channel and blue catfish are plentiful in the lake, and there usually are 30-pound blue cats caught there every year.
Only Missouri Department of Conservation owned boats are permitted on the lake. Boats come with oars at no charge to the public. Anglers can bring their own electric trolling motors, but outboard motors are prohibited. There is a fishing dock and a fishing jetty on the lake. And there are two handicapped-accessible restrooms located on the area.
There are 20 individual primitive campsites available in one campground. For more information about camping or fishing at Hunnewell Lake, call 573-983-2201.
Along the Way: Hannibal is located about a 35-minute drive away from Hunnewell Lake. Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tours is something you might want to take the family to experience , as long as your kids aren’t too frightened by the supernatural. Your tour guide will take you around Hannibal and point out fascinating stories of reported ghost encounters. Many people say the highlight of the tour is at the graveyard. Admission for kids between the ages of 5 and 10 is $7.50; kids age 11 and up and adults are $15. Children under 5 are not permitted on the tour. For more information and tour schedules, call 573-248-1819.
This 157-acre lake is located near the border of Vernon and Barton counties. It is chock-full of bass that are 15 inches and smaller. Anglers cannot keep bass that are 12 to 15 inches long, but are encouraged to keep their daily limit of six bass under 12 inches. Families can expect tons of fun, catching big bluegills there too. Bluegills of 7 to 8 inches are common, as are redear sunfish of 9 to 10 inches. If that’s not enough, crappie are abundant and fishermen are encouraged to keep their daily limit of 30 fish. Plenty of channel catfish swim these waters too. The lake was stocked with additional 8- to 12-inch channels in the fall of 2017 as part of the catfish stocking program. The previous stocking of cats was in 2015 when 3,000 channels were put in the lake, which makes them perfect for harvesting this year. Fishing from jetties or the dam for Mr. Whiskers is a good bet.
There is a concrete boat ramp, three fishing jetties, and one fishing dock located at this area. There are also three wheelchair-accessible restrooms at this particular conservation area.
Primitive camping is available at two campsites, with a privy available. No other amenities are provided. No generators are allowed at the southwest camping area. For more information about camping and fishing at Bushwhacker Lake, call the MDC at 417-895-6880.
Along the Way: Located about an hour’s drive away from Bushwhacker Lake you will find a paintball park located in Joplin. Paintball Ridge is Missouri’s largest paintball park and was voted as one of Buzz Feeds Top 10 paintball fields in the world!
You can rent equipment and time on the field at reasonable prices. The park has full concessions, a pro shop and a variety of paintball game styles you can participate in. This is something so unique and exciting that you will be glad you incorporated it into your vacation. For more information about Paintball Ridge, call 417-781-7703.
THOMAS HILL RESERVOIR
If big water is what floats your boat, then Thomas Hill Reservoir might be your choice of family fishing vacations this year. This 4,950-acre lake is famous for its white crappie fishing. The crappie sampling in the fall of 2017 indicated that 40 percent of those fish sampled were 9 inches or longer! Another, often sought-after fish species, is the hybrid striped bass, or wiper — a cross between a striper and a white bass. These fish often exceed the 20-inch minimum length limit and put up a voracious fight. Channel and flathead catfish are present here. Channel cats are overpopulated and anglers are encouraged to take home their daily limit of 10 fish. Anglers might get lucky and catch one of the big flatheads there too. Those fish can reach lengths greater than 3 feet.
There are three concrete boat ramps on the lake, two boat docks, one fishing dock and one fishing jetty. There are 12 different parking lots, two privies, and three restrooms. There is one camping area at the lake that includes 10 camping pads, covered shelters, a privy and picnic tables. Swimming, sailboarding, scuba diving, and water skiing are permitted in designated areas. For more information about fishing, camping and other activities at Thomas Hill Reservoir, call the MDC at 663-785-2420.
Along the Way: If native American history and lore are of interest to you, then you may want to visit the Museum of Anthropology in Columbia. Displays of Native American artifacts, pioneer history exhibits and a large archery collection are on hand to admire and learn about. The University of Missouri recently held the museum’s grand opening of its new location in October of 2017. For more information about the Museum of Anthropology, call 573-882-3573.
Missouri is home to many great fishing destinations, too numerous to mention in a single magazine article. And the fascinating and exciting extracurricular activities near these destinations are some that rival any vacation place in the nation.
We hope that you will use this guide to help you decide where you would like to spend a family fishing vacation in Missouri this year. But please take your time in planning your trip. Make sure that each area where you contemplate vacationing has the type of camping on site or nearby that you want to experience. You should also take the time to know the fishing rules and regulations on each body of water before you go. You can visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website for many details at mdc.mo.gov, or you can call their central office in Jefferson City at 573-751-4115 for more information.