Missouri's Great Lakes: Stockton Lake

You can whip a dart anywhere at a map of Missouri to find good fishing, but if you want to catch walleye, you better aim a little bit above and to the left of Springfield.

Stockton Lake isn't the only place to catch walleyes in Missouri, but it's the best one! Anglers catch more walleyes and more walleyes per hour of fishing here than in any other lake in the state. The Conservation Department's Walleye Initiative is working to establish walleyes in more waters in Missouri, but a pilgrimage to Stockton remains the dream of most of the state's walleye fanatics.

Stockton offers much more than walleye fishing, however. Fisheries Management Biologist Tim Banek, who oversees the Stockton fishery, said Stockton Lake also provides anglers with good opportunities to catch crappie, black bass, white bass, bluegill, channel catfish and bluegills. It's the kind of lake that you can visit and let whatever species is biting best be your target for the day.

The Stockton area has escaped commercialization to the point that you may have to drive many miles to find fast food. On the other hand, the lake is well supplied with more than a dozen recreation areas offering top-notch accesses. Most of them are maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Campgrounds are plentiful, including the one at Stockton State Park, which sits on the point where the Little Sac and Big Sac arms of the reservoir converge.

Stockton has some of the clearest water in the state, making it great for diving and swimming, as well as fishing. The wide expanse of water in the lower part of the lake attracts many sailboaters. The same wind-swept area can sometimes be hazardous for travel in small boats.Many anglers are tickled to hear that Stockton is stocked, but Banek said the Conservation Department only adds walleye to the lake every other year. The other fish populations are self-sustaining.

Gizzard shad are the primary forage in the lake. Various minnows, brook silversides, crayfish, aquatic insects and the young of other fish species are also important parts of the food chain.

Most of the main part of lake was cleared before Stockton began to fill up in 1969. Standing timber left in the upper ends is still visible.

Fifty-five brush structures (crappie beds) have been installed to provide habitat that concentrates fish for anglers. The structures are marked with green reflective