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Stockton Lake Might Be the Best Lake You’ve Never Fished

Brandon Butler recently fished with Tandem Fly Outfitters on Stockton Lake and put a limit of slab crappie in the boat like the one guide Kris Nelson is holding.

Brandon Butler recently fished with Tandem Fly Outfitters on Stockton Lake and put a limit of slab crappie in the boat like the one guide Kris Nelson is holding.

Missouri just might be the best freshwater fishing state in America. That’s a bold statement, I know. But really, look at what we have here. Our large rivers produce some of the biggest catfish in the country. Our Ozark rivers rival any out west in terms of beauty and fishability. Farm ponds filled with bass and brim dot our entire landscape, and our reservoirs are famous across the country. So much of a good thing allows for a few waters to remain under the radar. Fisheries that might be the very best water in any other state, are just one more on a long list of incredible Show-Me State fishing destinations. One of those waters is Stockton Lake.

Stockton is an Army Corp of Engineers reservoir, surrounded by 18,000 acres of undeveloped public land. The lake itself is 28,000 acres and it’s full of walleye, crappie, bass, white bass, and catfish. The serenity of the lake and the lack of residential development is a nice change compared to other large lakes in the Midwest.

Kris Nelson and his wife, Amanda, have recently taken Stockton by storm. Nelson is a longtime fishing guide who cut his teeth in Key West before settling down in Branson for a number of years. His guide service, Tandem Fly Outfitters, had long been known as a go to for any serious fly fisherman looking to land a lunker trout from Lake Taneycomo. But with a baby on the way, and a strong desire to live a much more relaxed lifestyle than found amongst the glitz and glamour of the Branson strip, the Nelson’s pulled the trigger on purchasing Stone Creek Lodge on the shores of little-known Stockton Lake. The decision has paid off handsomely.

Stockton’s mixed bag of fish is a large part of its appeal. Right now, walleye, crappie, bass, and white bass are beginning their migration to the backs of creeks to feed. They’ll be gorging themselves for the next few months to prepare for the winter. Kris and his guides at Tandem Fly will chase whatever their customers prefer to fish for, but smart clients will simply ask their guide to take them after whatever is biting best on that particular day.

Last weekend, I spent a morning in the boat with Kris. It took less than two hours to fill a limit of crappie with the average fish being about 13-inches. We targeted brush piles in water 20-feet deep. All we used was a 1/32 oz jighead tipped with a minnow. Once we found fish, it was hard to lower your offering all the way down without a fish taking it before it made it to the brush pile. It was hard to believe how dialed in Kris was on this fishery. He not only knew where the fish would be, he knew which size we’d catch off each brush pile. Here’s a tip, when you fish with him, make sure he takes you to the “big fish brush pile.”

Growing up, I was fortunate to spend weeks each summer traveling north to Minnesota to fish with my grandparents. Walleye was the prime target, but if we had our limit of “marble-eyes”, or if they weren’t biting, we’d switch to crappie. So, a walleye and crappie combination fishing trip is at the top of my list for catching a mixed bag, especially when trying to add fish to the freezer. What I’m so excited to have recently learned is, I don’t have to travel all the way to Minnesota to fill a cooler with these favorite eating fish. All I have to do is go to Stockton Lake, which is loaded with both walleye and crappie.

“Fishing is great all year round on Stockton Lake, but the winter crappie and walleye fishing is second to none. The highest concentration of fish are caught from December to March. The walleye spawn starts in mid-February and runs to the first of April. The crappie spawn starts in April and runs to the middle of May. The bass spawn starts in the first of May and runs until the first of June. Even in the dog days of summer, the crappie are abundant on main lake brush piles, and the walleye are on main lake flats with large schools of white bass nearby.  So, there is no bad time to come and fish with us,” Kris Nelson.

Stone Creek Lodge is a perfect fish camp. All of the rooms have two queen beds, a bathroom, kitchenette, satellite television and wifi. The lodge has a fully stocked bait and tackle shop that has everything you may need to fish on your own. The parking lot fits up to 30 boats with a boat ramp located conveniently right behind the lodge. For your next fishing adventure, consider visiting Stockton Lake.

See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler

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