The Saga of Lake Taneycomo

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 8, 2010

In the last 42 years, many stories have appeared in magazines and newspapers about Lake Taneycomo, Missouri's largest trout fishery. Its transition from a warm-water lake containing bass and catfish to a cold-water lake full of big rainbow trout made big news. Later, as growth of the Branson area surrounded the lake with theaters and condominiums and brought more and more anglers, the press predicted Taneycomo's decline as an important fishery.

What a pleasant surprise then, to find that Taneycomo has met all those challenges and still is considered one of the nation's best fishing destinations. In fact, Taneycomo's trout are getting larger, not smaller, and a successful new management program is improving fishing for everyone.

Lake Taneycomo's story began in 1913. With the construction of Ozark Beach Dam at Powersite on the White River, Taneycomo became the first in a chain of four reservoirs that includes Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Beaver lakes.

For the first 38 years of Lake Taneycomo's existence, native sport fish of the White River basin sustained a popular fishery that helped create one of Missouri's first tourist areas on the shores of Rockaway Beach. A new chapter began in 1958, when Table Rock Dam was built immediately upstream.

Until then, Taneycomo was basically just a wide spot in the slow, meandering White River. After Table Rock Dam was built, Lake Taneycomo was fed by water that came from 160 feet below the surface of Table Rock Lake. The water was cold year-round and was unsuitable for most of the White River's warm-water fish. Their populations declined, as did the popular fishery they supported.

A rainbow often follows a storm, offering hope and promise for the future. In this case, hope came in the form of rainbow trout! Native to the streams of the West Coast, rainbow trout were well suited to the chilly waters that now filled Lake Taneycomo.

Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery was constructed to compensate for the loss of the native warm-water fishery that had existed before the dam was built. The hatchery provided a reliable supply of trout for stocking. Amphipods (known to anglers as freshwater shrimp) gathered from Ozark spring branches and stocked along with the trout, flourished in the cold waters. The result was fat, fast-growing trout to fuel a trophy rainbow fishery.

In the "glory years," light fishing pressure allowed many of the stocked trout to grow large. By 1969, stringers of 3- to 5-pound

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