The Rainbows of Crane Creek
tough battle on a light line. When it comes to flies and lures, they are often not particularly choosy. Getting close enough to present a fly or lure while going undetected is often the problem, as the fish will move into cover in a tangle of logs or sulk on the bottom of a deep pool if disturbed.
The wild trout in Crane Creek spawn when there is a sharp drop in the temperature of the water, from the 50-degree range into the 40-degree range. Females generally scoop a pocket out of the gravel, often in the shallow tail of a pool. Side-by-side, a male fertilizes the eggs as the female extrudes them into the nest or "redd." The female then uses her tail to stir up enough gravel to lightly cover the eggs. Walk along the edge of a wild trout stream in December or January and you can sometimes see round, clean spots in gravel shallows that mark the nests.
Wild trout fingerlings in Missouri hatch when water temperatures are low. They grow well at first, showing growth rates that compare favorably with fish in states where trout are native. But even water that comes out of springs at 55 degrees can easily go over 70 degrees during blazing Missouri summers.
That warm water makes life hard on a fish designed for colder climes, and the fish are lucky to maintain their body weight, much less glean enough food to continue growing to a larger size. The falling water levels caused by extended summer dry spells can force wild trout into diminishing pools of water, making them more susceptible to predators.
Chris Vitello is a fisheries regional supervisor with the Conservation Department. "A portion of Crane Creek is a losing stream," he says. A losing stream is one where the flow of water actually disappears underground. "I've seen trout crowded into a pool near this section of Crane Creek, but I've not seen that problem on other sections of the stream."
Vitello fishes the stream a half-dozen times a year and knows first-hand how spooky these bright little fish can be. He says the last known stocking of Crane Creek was in the late teens to 1920, and the fish have subsisted largely on their own since then.
Access to Crane Creek is generally good. The Conservation Department's Wire Road Conservation Area includes two portions of the stream, and part of it runs through