BRANSON, Mo. – Due to COVID-19, this summer’s travel plans are tied to numbers. The number of new COVID cases, the number of recovering cases, and the percentage of increase are all figures vacationers look at as they plot their summer destinations.
Here are some numbers the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wants travelers planning a trip to the Branson area to look at:
While many aspects of summer travel have changed for 2020, these numbers are clear indicators that fishing is still fine in the Branson area.
“Fishing has been outstanding in Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo this year,” said Shane Bush, the fisheries management biologist who manages both reservoirs for MDC. “High water over the past few years has improved both the number and the sizes of fish in both lakes. Anglers can expect to catch good numbers of quality-size bass and bluegill in Table Rock right now, as well as very good numbers of large rainbow and brown trout in Taneycomo.”
The fishing appeal of Table Rock and Taneycomo is no secret – it made the Branson area a vacation destination long before music shows, magic acts, and other entertainment venues arrived on the Taney County scene. The angling attraction of these reservoirs still exists today and is more vital than ever to people who are seeking alternatives to the normal summer vacation treks to Branson.
Table Rock Lake
For those seeking rod and reel relaxation on Table Rock, this 43,100-acre U.S Army Corps of Engineers lake provides opportunities for several species. MDC electrofishing surveys indicate good populations of largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, as well as crappie, walleye, bluegill, goggle-eye, channel catfish and several other sportfish species.
The six-year habitat project that was completed at Table Rock in 2013 has made a good fishing spot even better. This project, which was a cooperative effort of MDC. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bass Pro Shops, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission involved the placement of more than 1,400 fish habitat structures in the form of brush piles, stump fields and rock piles at select sites around the lake.
“The fish habitat project has improved angler catch rates in Table Rock Lake by congregating fish and making it easier for anglers to locate and catch them,” Bush said. “The structures also provide good habitat for young fish to escape predation, which further helps to improve the fish populations.”
An interactive fish habitat map of these structures is available on the MDC website at http://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing/where-fish. These structures can also be found using MDC's MO Fishing App, which is available to download for free on a smartphone.
Taneycomo’s trout story started in 1959 when the construction of Table Rock Dam created a large, deep, and winding lake east of the Table Rock reservoir. (Lake Taneycomo, which is owned by Liberty Utilities, flows along the course of what was once the White River.) The water in Lake Taneycomo stays cool even during summer, because of cold-water discharges from the bottom of Table Rock Dam during hydro-electric generation. In effect, Taneycomo is a super-sized trout stream.
In addition to sufficient habitat and good temperatures, Taneycomo offers trout an abundant food supply. Among the creatures that flourish on the rocky bottom of the lake are amphipods – more commonly known as freshwater shrimp. These small crustaceans are one of the lake’s most common organisms and a favorite food of rainbow trout and younger brown trout.
Bountiful food supplies lead to good growth rates, but Taneycomo’s big-fish stories have to do with chromosomes as well as crustaceans. MDC biologists have introduced triploid brown trout into Taneycomo. Triploid fish have three sets of chromosomes as a result of coming from eggs that are pressure shocked. (Trout in the wild have two sets of chromosomes and are diploid). The triploid process makes fish sterile and, as a result, they spend more of their energy on growth than on reproduction.
The 40-pound, 6-ounce state-record fish caught last September smashed the previous state record of 34-10, which was caught in February of 2019, also at Taneycomo. This fish caught in February broke the previous state record for brown trout by six pounds. That means, in a single year, Taneycomo fish had raised the state record weight for brown trout by a whopping 12 pounds – a clear sign trout are doing well in Taneycomo.
“Trout fishing on Taneycomo has been exemplary,” said Clint Hale, who manages MDC’s Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, which grows and stocks Taneycomo’s rainbow and brown trout. “Two state-record brown trout were caught last year and there are more records in the lake as we speak.”
People can get more information on fishing at Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake and elsewhere in the state at mdc.mo.gov/fishing.
COVID-19 Safety Precautions
When fishing or enjoying other outdoor pursuits, remember to follow all the current health guidelines. These include: