Watkins Mill is a 100-acre lake near Excelsior Springs, owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, with the fishing managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. In 2020, the lake received a large amount of fishing pressure as people enjoyed the outdoors more during Covid-19 restrictions. Largemouth bass provide some of the best bass fishing in the region. Fish over 18 inches are common. Spinnerbaits and topwater lures work well when water temperatures are around 70 degrees. Slower fished baits like crankbaits and plastics work better in colder or warmer water. During the summer months, the bass will be in the brush piles, standing timber and along edges of vegetation. Bass move shallow to spawn in the spring and to feed in the fall. Channel catfish grow fast in Watkins Mill Lake and are in excellent condition. Typical catfish baits fished off points and in the shallows will yield some very healthy fish. The catfish will concentrate on the face of the dam the first week of June to spawn but the resulting hatch is quickly devoured by bass. They can be caught using live bait along the face of the dam when spawning. The population is maintained through stocking. Redear sunfish provide a chance to catch a Master Angler-sized fish, even if that is just 10 inches long. Redear sunfish are a relative of the bluegill with smaller mouths requiring a smaller hook. A piece of worm or a fly rod with a small nymph will produce some of the best sunfish fishing around. Their spawning activity will often produce a muddy circle of water along the shoreline. The crappie population has historically been comprised of stunted crappie averaging about 8 inches, but the number of fish over 10 inches in length are steadily increasing as is the average size. Some of the best crappie to come out of the lake were caught in 2020. Increased fishing pressure was a good thing for the crappie population but overpopulation can occur quickly in smaller lakes so continued harvest of crappie is needed to keep improving the population. The best fishing is during the spawn off points, around shallow, woody cover and rocky banks. Jigs or minnows work equally well during the spawn. There is no length limit on crappie at this lake and anglers are encouraged to take their limit of 30 fish per day. To help anglers target crappie year-round, brush piles have been added to the lake. Brush pile locations can be found online in our interactive map and in our free MO Fishing app. Bluegill do not get as large in the lake as redear sunfish, but can provide some good fishing. Concentrate around stumps and in the back of coves during May using the same methods as you would for redear sunfish.
Hyprid striped bass are a relatively new addition to the lake. These fish are growing quickly and the early stocking are now legal length. Look for schooling bass chasing shad and cast crankbaits, large crappie jigs or jigging spoons to the surfacing fish. Trolling shad-colored crankbaits can help locate hybrids when they aren't schooling. Windy points, mouths of coves and dropoffs are good places to troll when looking for schools.
Watkin's Mill is currently "zebra mussel free" and we need your help to keep it that way. Please be sure your boat has been cleaned, drained and dried before launching.