Fishing Small Lakes in Missouri – Lake Girardeau

By Marc Rogers

Bass Fishing Lake Girardeau

Located in beautiful rural areas all across Missouri there are many small lakes and ponds that are often overlooked by anglers. Many small lakes are owned by the State of Missouri and maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation. They are commonly referred to as Conservation Lakes but many are simply small ponds. Often times the lakes and ponds have large tracts of land around them for public use. While the most common uses for the areas are fishing related and observing wildlife some offer special hunts when necessary to control the wildlife populations.

My first experience with fishing at one of these lakes was many years ago while attending school at Southeast Missouri State University. The lake is known as Lake Girardeau and is located about 25 miles west of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. This lake is located in a rural setting with many acres of woodland surrounding the water. The lake consists of approximately 160 acres of surface water and is approximately 20 feet deep near the dam. It has several shallow coves and a creek channel meandering through it. There is still plenty of standing timber as well as planted brush creating cover for the fish.

Lake Girardeau has a concrete boat ramp for anglers to use free of charge. There is a dock specially outfitted for disabled anglers as well. There was a limit of ten horsepower for outboard motors as well. However, many anglers used boats equipped with larger motors but only ran the electric trolling motor. Later the horsepower limit was changed to allow idle only for boats with motors larger than ten horsepower. During the late 1980’s there were rental boats available and every year when heading off to school I never forgot to take along an electric motor and battery for use on these boats. Rental boats are no longer available.

The lake is very well maintained with healthy populations of Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Bluegill and Catfish. Lake Girardeau has produced some bass in the range of 8-10 pounds and 4-pound fish were not uncommon. The lake provided me with several meals of Bluegill filets during the spring months while they were spawning. They were eager to bite small jigs and live bait and many of the big males were 7-8 inches long. Crappie fishing at the lake was not something I did but many anglers reported the Crappie population was plentiful and many 10-12 inch fish were taken.

In the spring this lake and surrounding area came alive with activity. The natural beauty of the area with trees and flowers in full bloom was a site to see. As the water began to warm the fish would move shallow to spawn and became easy targets for anglers. Lake Girardeau has two coves off the main lake with an abundance of shallow water and cover. The upper end of the lake offered shallow areas as well due to some silt deposits and design characteristics. The water was generally clear except during heavy rain periods.

I found the best lure presentations for bass in the spring were plastic worms and lizards fished near the spawning areas. After the spawning ritual was completed shallow running crankbaits and spinnerbaits were effective along the creek channel among the flooded timber.

During the fall season the area again was a site to behold with all of the fall colors evident. Fishing Lake Girardeau was worth the trip for the scenery alone but the catch was generally good. Early fall offered great opportunities for all species as they prepared for the winter months ahead. Bass were eager to chase down most any lure and would explode on a top-water lure. An abundance of baitfish including shad produced a great food source for the game fish. I never got the opportunity to fish Lake Girardeau in the summer months but was told the bass moved off to deeper water along the creek channel and concentrations could be found easily.

My school schedule allowed me to fish Lake Girardeau primarily during the weekdays but even on weekends there were few anglers to be found on the lake. The fishing pressure was always light which created good fishing for a small public lake.

Lake Girardeau is located a short distance from Jackson, Missouri. Take highway 34 seven miles west of Jackson and then south on highway U for 6 miles and watch for the signs. For anglers living in Southeast Missouri, Lake Girardeau provides a wonderful opportunity for a morning or afternoon of fishing close to home. For others it is well worth the trip to give the lake a try. More information can be found on the Missouri Department of Conservation website.  Missouri Department of Conservation

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