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Upper Meramec River

Shortbend Access on the upper Meramec River

Introduction to the River


The Meramec River is a fine smallmouth stream. Flowing through the beautiful foothills of the Ozarks, this stream has much to offer to the serious and casual smallmouth fisherman. This is one of the most popular, if not the most popular smallmouth stream in Missouri, and there is also quite a bit of recreational floating traffic. Still, the Meramec has an excellent fishery and the fishing is good enough that these difficulties can seem unimportant.


Where Smallmouth Can be Found in the Meramec River


The Meramec has smallmouth bass from it's headwaters all the way downstream to it's mouth at the Mississippi River, a distance of nearly 200 miles. With that said, it's not all that difficult to find an area that is best suited to you. Also, serious smallmouth fisherman can pretty much rule out the lower 60 mile of the river. This part of the river does hold smallmouth, but they are heavily outnumbered by other bass species. If you are a Meramec smallmouth fisherman can pick pretty much any type of smallmouth fishing you please. If you want to fish a small stream, the water above Maramec Spring is best. If you want to mix some trout in with your smallmouth, he would be well served with the water between Maramec Spring and Scotts Ford. If you're looking for bigger water and large bass, the water from Scotts Ford all the way downstream to Pacific is a good choice. In other words, the Meramec is like three rivers in one;that is part of the reason it is one of the best in the country.


Upstream of Maramec Spring


The water upstream from Maramec Spring is an idyllic small stream. It flows gently from shallow riffle to deep pool, with an occasional fast, deep run. There is lots of cover in this section of the stream in the form of fallen trees and boulders, and spawning habitat is generally very good. For having a relatively low water flow, this part of the Meramec provides excellent smallmouth fishing, and it is the only portion of the river that usually does not get crowded during the summer. The only downside to this water is that it is often to shallow to float during the summer. That's not so bad though, because when it is too shallow to float, it's almost always good for wade fishing. The good fishing begins roughly at the Short Bend access (although an adventurous angler can certainly find bass upstream from that point), and continues for 26 miles to Maramec Spring.


Maramec Springs to Scotts Ford


Maramec Spring changes the nature of the river. It instantly makes it cooler, and just a little bit faster as well. The smallmouth habitat declines for the next eight miles to Scotts Ford. This is a Red Ribbon trout area, and cold water temperatures and competition from trout conspire to lower the smallmouth population in this stretch. Still, some lunkers are caught in this section every year. Fairly often, a trout angler will catch a nice smallmouth right at the junction of the river an the spring branch. Take note that from the Highway 8 bridge to Scotts Ford, Red Ribbon Trout regulations are in effect, and live bait, scented bait, and soft plastics are not allowed.


Below Scotts Ford- Special Management Unit


Below Scotts Ford, the river comes under special smallmouth regulations, and the fishing quickly improves. The river again becomes classic smallmouth habitat, with weedbeds, rocks, and timber to conceal smallmouth. Also, water temperatures are warm enough below Scotts Ford to allow a steady smallmouth spawn. This special regulation stretch, from Scotts Ford downstream for about 15 miles to the Birds Nest Campground is the favorite of many smallmouth anglers across the state. This is prolific smallmouth water, and many bass in the 15" to 18" range are caught here each year.


Meramec Smallmouth Fishing Below Special Management Unit


Below the special regulation section, good smallmouth fishing continues. The river continues to flow through the Ozarks, and the river remains relatively quick and cool. Although it sounds to good to be true, this really is an area where there are good sized smallmouth in nearly every pool and riffle, and the fish numbers are excellent too. The good fishing continues all the way downstream to Pacific, in the outskirts of suburban St. Louis. There, the river drops out of the Ozarks and enters a flatter, more urban environment. Fair numbers of smallmouth persist all the way downstream to Eureka, where the Big River comes in. However, much of the middle and lower Meramec is under siege by the Spotted Bass. This non-native species has found it's way into the Meramec (no one is really sure how), and is reaking havoc with the Meramec's rich smallmouth fishery. Areas that once held large smallmouth now often hold only small spotted bass. TO help control this problem, the Missouri Department of Conservation has doubled the Spotted bass limit from 6 to 12 in the Meramec basin. We encourage you to keep your limit of spots to help fix this problem.


There are many successful ways to catch smallmouth on the Meramec. Deep diving crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and in-line spinners are all very popular when fish are actively feeding. When the fish are feeding less actively, they respond better to tubes, plastic worms, jigs, and live bait bounced along the bottom. On summer evenings there is often an excellent topwater bite, and on cloudy or rainy days, this can last all day. Poppers, small Jitterbugs, and Zara Spooks work very well at these times. But the absolute must have lure anywhere on the Meramec is a deep diving Rebel Crawdad Crankbait. When smallmouth ignore all other offerings, they'll often slam this.


Lures for the Meramec


Rebel Crawdad, deep diving

Spinnerbaits, 3/8 ounce to 1/8 ounce

Marabou Jigs (olive, White, and Black), 1/32 ounce to 1/8 ounce

3 inch green tube baits, texas rigged*

Rooster Tail Spinner 1/24 ounce through 1/8 ounce (also works for trout)

Rebel Pop-r

Small Jitterbugs

5" Zoom Curly Tail Worms (Green Pumpkin), Texas Rigged*


Minnows and Crayfish* (they work well, but you'll have to catch them yourself using a minnow trap)


Floating on the Meramec River
Smallmouth Bass
Missouri smallmouth fishing
Meramec River Stream Flow - Steelville
Meramec River stream flow at Steelville
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