The Lure of Missouri Trout

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Published on: May. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

self-sustaining, fishing regulations are strict, and you are required to release most, if not all, of the trout you catch. You'll also have to leave the soft plastic, natural and scented baits at home and stick to flies and artificial lures.

I remember the first time I fished a Wild Trout Management Area. It was pristine wild trout fishing at its finest, and in every fast pocket a brightly-colored rainbow would snatch the Royal Wulff fly from the surface. I remember playing those spirited wild trout in the little stream. In their zeal to escape, they would leap clear of the water, sometimes landing high and dry on a gravel bar! Those little streams are still gems, but now you can hook wild trout in stretches of large rivers specially managed for them, where they have plenty of room to run, jump and really put on a show.

Wild trout areas include portions of Barren Fork Creek, Blue Springs Creek, Crane Creek, Eleven Point River, Mill Creek, North Fork of the White River and Spring Creek.

You can also catch trout in a number of streams that are not actively managed by the Conservation Department. The trout come from a variety of sources-private stockings, escapement from hatcheries or even wild, self-sustaining populations. These are often small streams with only a few trout, and nearly all of them are on private land. Limit your harvest in such areas, and always make sure you have got the landowner's permission.

Missouri trout fishing isn't limited to remote streams in the wilds of the Ozarks. If you are a city-dweller, you can find plenty of winter trout fishing in ponds and lakes around St. Louis and Kansas City. Trout stocking begins in November and good fishing lasts until March or April. In most of these impoundments, there are no length limits, and any type of bait, lure or fly is permitted.

A few are managed as delayed harvest fisheries, where only catch-and releing with flies and artificial lures is allowed through the fall and winter and harvest is delayed until spring. The trout are recycled in these lakes and not removed as quickly after stocking so the fishing is more consistent. If you are an urbanite, trout fishing does not have to mean a long drive reserved for special weekends or family vacations. Give the winter trout lakes a try.

Although not in a city, Missouri's largest cold water fishery, Lake Taneycomo, skirts the edges of Branson, one of the busiest towns in the state. Through the years, Branson has changed from a sleepy little town on the banks of the White River to one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. Lake Taneycomo has seen its share of changes as well.

In 1958, cold water releases from Table Rock Dam transformed Taneycomo from a bass, crappie and catfish lake to a nationally-known trophy trout fishery. Stocked rainbows grew fast on a rich diet of freshwater shrimp, and stringers of 3- to 5-pound fish were common. But the big rainbows disappeared with increased fishing pressure and fewer freshwater shrimp. Brown trout then took center stage, and the lake has produced a steady string of new state records and is known to contain browns of world record proportions.

In 1997, the Conservation Department placed special fishing regulations on the upper 3 miles of Lake Taneycomo to protect rainbow trout from excessive harvest and allow them to grow larger. The upper lake is now a great place to catch and release nice rainbows. The lower 20 miles is still stocked heavily, all types of bait, lures and flies are legal, and you can keep the first five rainbow trout you catch, if you wish. Lake Taneycomo is now a good example of Missouri trout fishing-there is something for everyone.

Whether you are a novice or a seasoned pro, a gregarious trout park angler or solitary trout predator, Missouri's spring branches, cold rivers, lakes and ponds can provide you with a quality trout fishing trip. See you on the water!

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