Missouri's Brown Trout Fishery
established in 1973. Anglers in these zones were allowed to keep three browns per day, with a minimum length limit of 16 inches. By 1977, anglers and conservation agents requested similar regulations for brown trout in the Current River and the North Fork of the White River. In 1978, the MDC Fisheries Division effected a 15-inch minimum length limit for all three special management areas.
Missouri's trout management areas now are located on sections of the Current River, Meramec River, Roaring River, Bennett Spring and the Niangua River, North Fork of the White River, Roubidoux Creek and Capps Creek (Newton County.) The Eleven Point River may eventually be stocked.
"The growing interest in Missouri brown trout prompted fishery biologists to find ways of producing more and better fish," Vitello said. Brown trout don't reproduce in the wild in Missouri, so fisheries biologists began searching for the best strain of brown trout to raise in the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery. They primarily experimented with the "Plymouth Rock" and "Sheep Creek" strains of brown trout.
"The Plymouth Rock strain is a semi-domesticated brown trout used extensively in the east and in California in put-and-take fisheries where harvest is of primary importance," Civiello said. "The Sheep Creek brown trout strain originated from a wild migratory stock spawning in Sheep Creek, a tributary of Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Northern Utah."
The Sheep Creek strain soon won out over the Plymouth Rock strain because it adapted better to Missouri streams and hatchery settings. It also exhibited better post stocking survival. The Plymouth Rock strain was simply too domesticated, or not as tough. The Sheep Creek version also converts fish food to fish flesh quicker, making it more economical.
Anglers occasionally complain that Missouri's brown trout are difficult to catch. Department personnel considers this a positive comment because the Sheep Creek strain has maintained its wild integrity, even if it is somewhat challenging to raise.
By 1981, the Department began stocking the Sheep Creek strain in Lake Taneycomo at a rate of 50,000, 10-inch browns annually. Brood stock was difficult to hold in the hatchery setting because of their genetically wild disposition. After several years of stocking the Sheep Creek strain in Taneycomo, MDC personal were able to capture enough fish from the lake for eggs and milt, allowing them to phase out a standing population of brood fish in the hatchery.
The Sheep Creek