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The Rainbows of Crane Creek

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 4, 2010

a city park. Much of the stream, especially in the conservation area, is bordered by a lot of trees and grasses. These provide shade and cover for the fish, and the shade helps keep the water cool.

With all of the bank side vegetation it can be difficult to present a fly to a trout, but a wooded stream corridor with a narrow, shaded channel is what most healthy streams once looked like. "The Conservation Department has done a lot of tree planting along Crane Creek in the Wire Road Conservation Area," Vitello says, "and it has been quite successful. They have established a good corridor of trees along the stream." He adds that the Federation of Fly Fishers chapter from Springfield has conducted an annual litter and trash pick-up along the stream in the spring. "We have helped by providing bags. They pile it in one location and we haul it away."

Vitello says he is no expert angler, but he says the McCloud rainbows at Crane Creek are some of the spookiest fish he has angled for. "I always tell people it's a pretty area, and if you catch a fish it is a treat because they are so colorful, that you have a chance at a big fish and it's truly a wild fish... but they are difficult to catch. Conditions are tough. The creek is small, and casting is difficult."

Fishing is especially difficult when the water is low and gem clear. Anglers who regularly fish for Missouri's wild trout have learned to watch for weather conditions that put rain into the streams. Water levels for many Missouri streams are even available on the Internet, and a sudden rise in stream level can tip you it's time to go fishing. Try the Missouri Flyfishing..

"I think the fish tend to be a little less cautious when the water is up, is dingy or has some color to it," Vitello says. Wild trout that ordinarily hang under a root wad that is all but impenetrable to anglers may move out into more open water in search of food when the stream is up and running strong. Anglers stand a better chance of tackling a 15- or 18-inch fish under those conditions.

Vitello recalls meeting another fly angler on Crane Creek who traveled a lot-usually packing a fly rod-and fished widely. "He said he always wanted to fish Crane Creek. I explained to him how tight to cover those Crane Creek fish stick-big root wads, overhanging banks, that kind of thing-and he likened them, from my description and his fishing experience there, to brown trout more than rainbows. They don't hold at the bottom of the riffle and pick up critters. Instead they tend to be more cover oriented. They like to hide under things."

As fisheries supervisor for the region, Vitello and other fisheries specialists sometime sample the Crane Creek rainbows to see how the population is faring. He usually checks on the fish by snorkeling and counting them visually. He often snorkels in the fall, when the water is still quite clear and before it gets too cold. Vitello has heard of trout as large as six or eight pounds being caught in Crane Creek, but the largest he has handled himself was a 20-incher.

Crane Creek is one of seven streams the Conservation Department has designated as wild trout management areas. The others include Barren Fork, Blue Springs Creek, Mill Creek, Spring Creek and portions of the North Fork and Eleven Point rivers. These streams are a unique resource in a state that does not have naturally occurring trout.

If you want to try fishing for wild trout in Crane Creek, consider fishing upstream rather than downstream, forgo wading and try casting from the bank. And walk softly... these fish are as spooky as wild turkey gobblers. For a map of Crane Creek and Missouri's other wild trout streams and fishing regulations, write to Trout Map, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City MO 65102-0180.

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