Fort Leonard Wood is home to many different species of fish and aquatic wildlife, and boasts a diverse self-sustaining ecosystem, making it an opportune place for anglers of all ages.
According to John Brant, Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch fisheries biologist, 76 species of fish live on the installation.
“Some fish that occur on Fort Leonard Wood are as small as 2 inches (long), but others have potential to weigh over 100 pounds,” he said. “The Ozark region is one of the most aquatically diverse areas within the United States.”
Brant commented on the importance of fish to human beings, and said the local economy is quite dependent on them. Indeed, the Missouri Department of Conservation reports that more than 200 species of fish can be found in the state, which claims fishing as a $400 million industry.
Among the most popular species to target on post are Large and Smallmouth Bass, which Brant said are present in the Big Piney River and nearly every one of the 18 ponds and lakes inside the gates. Crappie are also common, he said, and make for tasty meals.
But only a small fraction of the 76 total species present on the fort are ones that anglers actively fish for, and one species is incredibly unique to the area.
“I’d say only seven or eight species of those do people actually target,” Brant said. “The one that’s petitioned to be protected federally is called the Bluestripe Darter. The only place they occur in the world is here in Missouri.”
Speaking of protection, Brant said his office has placed woody debris in some of the post’s lakes and ponds to improve the quality of fish habitation. He reminded all who use the creeks, streams, ponds and lakes around Fort Leonard Wood to take good care of the environment.
“Something that people can do to help protect our fisheries and streams is to not release live bait – minnows, worms, crayfish, etc.,” he said. “Help to leave no trace. In other words, pick up your trash and help if you see more around to help keep Fort Leonard Wood and the outdoors pristine.”
Creating safe environments for fish takes care of the ecosystem as a whole, Brant said, as species such as freshwater mussels automatically clean water and rely on certain fish to complete their life cycle.
“Freshwater streams are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world,” he said. “(Mussels) are common in most rivers and streams of Missouri … and they constantly filter the water. So therefore, they will easily absorb any chemicals or any other pollutants that are in the water.”
According to MDC, nearly half of Missouri’s mussel species are of conservation concern, and they provide food sources for land animals like muskrats, raccoons, river otters and even birds.
Fishing on Fort Leonard Wood
At Fort Leonard Wood’s impoundments, users must have no more than three poles at one time, and they all must be attended.
There are very specific requirements for catching black bass, which include Smallmouth, Largemouth, Spotted Bass and all hybrids. Anglers can take home no more than four per day, and black bass between 12 to 15 inches in total length must be released back into the water after being caught.
State permits are required to fish on the Big Piney River except when noted otherwise, and all who fish on the installation’s lakes and ponds must obtain an additional $15 permit.
The permit – and more information about fishing on Fort Leonard Wood – can be obtained online from the iSportsman website at https://ftleonardwood.isportsman.net/.
Brant urged all local anglers to use iSportsman, not only to follow post regulations, but to help the Natural Resources Branch know where to prioritize their management efforts.
A full map of available fishing areas on Fort Leonard Wood is also available at https://ftleonardwood.isportsman.net/Fishing%20Maps.aspx.