The James River in southwest Missouri features both scenic beauty and quality fishing. Anglers should remember that special regulations apply in the Black Bass Special Management Area on the 22 miles of river between Hooten Town bridge (the Loop Road at Route O) and the Highway 413/Highway 265 bridge at Galena. In this area, the minimum length limit on smallmouth bass and largemouth bass is 15", and the minimum length limit for spotted bass is 12". It is important for anglers to correctly identify the three species of black bass found in the James River. Identification aids, maps, fishing tips, and other information can be found at: mdc.mo.gov.
The 2012 fish survey indicated that the black bass population consisted of approximately 71 percent smallmouth bass, 26 percent spotted bass, and 3 percent largemouth bass. The 2012 survey also indicated that about 47 percent of the smallmouth bass population was greater than 12" and 7 percent was above 15". The largest smallmouth bass sampled in the 2012 survey was 18.5 inches. Anglers are likely to catch spotted bass between 11"-14" and largemouth bass between 12"-18". Plastic baits including tubes, grubs, and worms and crayfish-patterned crank baits are very productive when fished around boulders and woody debris. Density and size structure of goggle-eye looks fair for 2014 with 24 percent of the population greater-than 8" in 2012, but very few fish over 10". Anglers should fish small grubs and jigs around stumps and boulders. Longear sunfish are abundant, although most are within the 3"-5" range. Channel catfish are also very abundant within the middle and lower river and can be caught with live or prepared baits. Gigging for sucker species can be good throughout the season, but is influenced by water level and water clarity. Walleye were stocked in the James River in 2003-2005 and again in 2010 and 2013. The 2012 walleye survey found that the majority of walleye fall between 15"-22" with a few over 25". There have been several angler reports of walleye caught in the James River from Table Rock Lake upstream to the Delaware Town Access. If the James River rises enough, paddlefish will migrate upstream from Table Rock. The extent and duration of migrations are dependent upon river flows, but can extend for several miles upstream. White bass make a spawning run up the James River in March and April and can be caught in the James River through late summer. Public access points can be found at: http://go.usa.gov/NNv.