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Phil Lilley
Phil Lilley

Lake of the Ozarks Overview

Lake of the Ozarks is known mostly as “Lake Oz” or the “Magic Dragon,” due to its shape.  It was impounded in 1931 with the damming of the Osage River by Bagnell Dam.  The dam, built by Union Electric Co. out of St. Louis, is currently owned by Ameren Electric.  This 92-mile stretch of the mighty Osage River impounds 56,000 acres of water.  It rarely rises or falls more than five feet from its standard pool level of 660 feet.  It is the largest lake in the world that  has never been a flood-control basin.

Lake of the Ozarks Lake Levels

Lake of the Ozarks’ diverse population is the basis of its wide appeal.  It can be called "Little Miami" for its thunderous 70-foot jet boats and multi-million dollar retreats in the Lake Ozark, Osage Beach, Sunrise Beach areas of the lake contrasted with the extremely modest cabins and small lake front homes on the Osage Arm of the lake, from Camdenton to Warsaw.

Lake of the Ozarks’ real calling card, however, is the fishing. Without a doubt, Lake Oz harbors one of the most diverse fisheries in the entire Midwest. Fishing season really jumpstarts on March 15 with paddle fish or spoonbill snagging season; these prehistoric residents of the Osage are mined from the river above the 60-mile mark to Truman Dam.  Sixty- to 80-pound fish are caught every year.

Lake Oz is also known for fantastic crappie fishing as most of its 25,000 private docks have been surrounded by brush that the dock owners have planted to entice these tasty white fish. Are there largemouth bass in Lake Oz? You bet. Lake Oz is one of Missouri's biggest stops for the play-for-pay boys. FLW, Bassmaster Elite, Stren, Everstart and loads of regional and local fishing tournaments -- along with about everyone with a rear winder -- wants to pitch a bait on this big bass factory. Lake Oz also has extremely high populations of blue cat, white bass, hybrids, sunfish and rough fish, making it, unquestionably,  one of Missouri's top fishing destinations.

With abundant accommodations, on its 1,500 miles of shoreline and water ranging from murky on the Osage to clear on the Niangua and Gravois Creek arms, there is something for everyone on Mid-Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks.


Fishing Regulations

Bass, black (largemouth), smallmouth and spotted bass (kentuckies)- 15-inch length limit, 6 daily, 12 possession.

White bass, striper, hybrid bass- 15 total daily (only 4- 18 inches or longer can be kept in a daily limit), 30 possession.

Rock bass (goggleye) - no length limit, 15 daily, 30 possession.

Crappie, white or black - 9-inch length limit, 15 daily, 30 possession.

Bluegill - no limit

Catfish - no length limit, 10 daily (only 5 can be flatheads in a daily limit), 20 possession

Walleye - 18 inch minimum length, 4 daily, 8 possession.

Spoonbill - 2 daily between March 15 and April 30. Length - 34 inches between the eye to the fork of the tail minimum.

Non-Game fish - Snagging, snaring and grabbing are allowed from 3/15 - 4/30 only.

Fishing Licenses -


  • Missouri Resident Annual License is $12
  • Non-resident annual license is $49
  • Trout permits are only sold annually, and they are $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 16 years of age
  • All Missouri licenses and permits expire on March 1
  • Non-resident One Day - $8
  • Non-resident Three Day - $24
  • Missouri Residents over age 65 only need a trout permit $10

Buy Missouri Fishing Licenses Online!

Missouri Wildlife Code

Report Violations - Poachers

In cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Operation Game Theft works to stop the illegal taking of fish and wildlife that includes trophy animals and rare and endangered species.

Interesting information about water level and flood gates at Bagnell Dam -

One or two times in an average year the floodgates at Bagnell Dam are opened wide to accomodate high water on the Osage River. If you're one of the relatively few people who have seen the show in person, I'm sure you'll agree with me that it is an awesome sight to behold.

For those of you who have never seen it, take a look at these fantastic photos shot by area resident Kevin Dreps. Kevin was on hand January 10, 2005, to capture this amazing display of power as 1,212,000 gallons per second roared through the floodgates.

MDC Structure Habitat Map

Buy Missouri Fishing Licenses Online!

Compiled by Bill Babler

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