Are you looking for a fishing location with little fishing pressure and yet presenting the challenge of any other more well-known body of water?

In addition to being somewhat remote, most watershed lakes also present the challenge of fluctuating water levels.

Watershed lakes are flood control and soil conservation impoundments that are scattered across rural areas.  The idea is that if the land cannot absorb the rainfall, it will usually drain into creeks or ditches.  As it runs off, the water carries with it a goodly amount of soil.  If it runs off too quickly, the water can cause flooding problems downstream.  As the topsoil deposits, it builds up in the channels and aggravates the flooding problem.

In order to alleviate the problems man builds small to medium size dams across flood prone creeks.  They consist of earth and rock yielding a life span of about 100 years.  The area upstream of a dam fills in with sediment.  When it is no longer useful, officials destroy it and another built elsewhere.

Most watershed lakes contain fish.  The damming traps some while local conservation agencies or private parties release fish in them.  Many of these lakes are on private land and require the landowner’s permission for fishing.  However, many are public water and provide some excellent recreational fishing.

In exploring a watershed lake for the first time, one should remember that fish are generally not too far from a food source such as insects, shellfish, crayfish and other edibles like minnows.

The second consideration is structure.  Blow downs, abandoned docks and other such things in the water are home to fish.  Fish are cold-blooded and have to regulate their body temperature by moving in and out of the sunlight and different temperatures of water.

Anglers do well if they drop their bait into pools and structure.  With watershed lakes, small baits seem to be best as they the residents are accustomed to taking small creatures for lunch.  Live bait is the most productive but the fish in watershed lakes also take artificial offerings.

Small plastic baits and small spinner-like lures in 1/32nd and 1/64-ounce jigs with plastic grub bodies are another recommendation.  If one wishes, try small crankbaits it is a good idea remove the front hooks making them less likely to snag.

During the warm weather months anglers can use big-lake tactics on small watershed lakes with excellent results.  Fishing these lakes can be basic training for tournament fishing.  Topwater lures work along the shore and around structure/vegetation during early morning and late afternoon.  Work the deeper water during the middle of the day.  Submerged creek channels and drop-offs are a good for a plastic worm and deep-diving crankbait techniques.

On a day off from work try spending some quality time fishing watershed lakes.  You can fish one lake in the morning, have lunch and fish another in the afternoon.

Watershed lakes are close to us all.  We often overlook tem in favor of more well-known lakes.  Next time you have some time available, think about watershed lakes as a place to spend some quality time fishing.


Scott Pauley on Columbia, Missouri watershed lake.

Scott Pauley on Columbia, Missouri watershed lake.


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