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Phil Lilley
Phil Lilley

James River

The James River, with its proximity to Springfield,  draws fishermen who may only have an afternoon to  wade or canoe the water, angling for smallmouth, rock fish and walleye. Its deep holes and shallow riffles offer plenty of hiding places for big fish -- bigger than most anglers think.

It's a slow moving, fairly straight river, not like its neighbors, the Gasconade and Niangua rivers.  Its watershed covers a vast area around Springfield, so it can move a great deal of water if necessary.  The James is one of four rivers that feed Table Rock Lake  along with the White, Kings and Long rivers.

In the spring, the James gets a great run of game fish heading up river to spawn.  White bass, walleye, spoonbill and other fish crowd the river with anglers in boats and on the banks targeting them.

There are outfitters that dot the river at major access points.  They can help with shuttles, canoe rental and camping all up and down the river.

James River Map Link


USGS River Levels

James River near Springfield, MO

James River near Boaz, MO

James River at Galena, MO

Fishing Regulations

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

**Exceptions - James River between Hootentown Bridge to Highway 13 Bridge, one small mouth, 15 inches or longer.

Statewide season on bass in rivers and streams is open from the 4th Saturday of May till the last day in February annually.

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 - 10-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 -

Residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older and 65 are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license. Those 65 and older do not need a fishing license.

Proof of residency - Valid Missouri Drivers License.

Non-residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license.

For Missouri & Arkansas residents only - a special border permit can be purchased to allow fishing in both Missouri and Arkansas without purchasing an out-of-state license.

Costs (Missouri) -

Resident - $12 annual (March 1 thru last day of February)
Border Permit - $10
Non-Resident - $42 annual (March 1 thru last day of February)
Daily Permit - $7 (midnight to midnight)

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.

Access to the river starting at the upper end below Lake Springfield:

Henshaw Access
Tailwaters Access
141 Road Access
Blue Spring Road Access
Nelson Bridge Access
Delaware Twon Access
Highway 14 Access
Frazier Bridge Access
Shelvin Rock Access
Hootentown Access
McCall Brdige Access
H.L. Herr Access
Ralph Cox Access (Galena)
Blunks Access (Boat Ramp)
McCord Bend Access (Boat Ramp)
Flat Creek Access (Boat Ramp)
Bridgeport Access (Boat Ramp)

The Missouri Canoe Floaters Association is a non-profit organization of paddle sports outfitters who are dedicated to the preservation of our natural resources.

Established in 2003, James River Outfitters of Galena offers a wide range of services including outfitting for canoeing, fishing, tent camping, floating, swimming, nature photography, bird watching or just relaxing and enjoying the scenery.

 Y - Bridge Canoe Rental,  located in Galena, is nestled right alongside the beautiful James River, offering  unforgettable experiences on the water.

Hootontown Canoe Rental and Campground.  Open May though September 7 days a week.  Call ahead for reservations.  Canoeing • Rafting • Tubing • Fishing • Swimming • Camping  Shuttle Service available as well as winter reservations.  Family owned and operated by  Steve, Diana, Leah and Steven Newman

(William Carver Hooton was a pioneeer settler of Hootontown, Missouri; the spelling has since changed to Hootentown.)

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