Thursday, January 28, 2010

Trout Species of the Ozarks, by David Mann

Trout Species

Rainbow trout are far and away the most common trout in the Ozarks. Every trout stream in the region holds at least a decent population of rainbows, and they?re the predominant species in most Ozark streams. The Missouri Department of Conservation and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stock literally millions of rainbows each year. Also, they reproduce well in most trout streams here. They readily take spinners, spoons, nymphs, and various dry flies. Some seem extremely gullible, and easy to catch, but there are plenty of well educated specimens that require perfect presentation, and a good deal of luck to bring to net.

Brown trout are the proverbial "bullies" of the Ozark streams. While they are usually fewer in number than rainbows, they often take up most of the prime water, relegating the inferior water to other trout species. The trophy sized browns tend to be aggressive, more likely to strike a Rapala or a big streamer than a dainty dry fly. Smaller browns generally respond to the same techniques that produce rainbows. Brown trout tend to be more wary than other trout species, and generally require good technique. All of the Ozark tailwaters are good bets for trophy browns. The freestone streams may not hold as large of browns, but they make up for it in numbers. As a general rule, many or most browns caught from a tailwater will be wild fish, while freestone browns are always stocked.

Image of a brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)Image via Wikipedia

  • Brook Trout
Brook trout are often overlooked in the Ozarks. Only found in the Arkansas tailwaters (besides a small remnant population in the Spring River and several other small streams), these are probably the prettiest trout to be found in the area. They also tend to be relatively easy to catch, responding well to dry flies and nymphs, as well as spinners and spoons. Brook trout run much larger in the Ozarks than they do elsewhere, averaging between 12" and 14". Some trophy sized brooks up to 20" can be found. While all of the Arkansas tailwaters hold good populations of Brook trout, the best numbers will always be found the first 10 mile below the dam. The entire Norfork tailwater is a great bet for big brookies. There has been some reported natural spawning of brook trout, but they must be stocked to maintain fishable numbers.

  • Cutthroat Trout

YELLOWSTONE(Snake River Fine-spot?) CUTTHROAT ...Image by Fool-On-The-Hill via Flickr

Like Brook trout, Cutthroats are for the most part found only found in the tailwaters of Arkansas, although there is also a good population found in the Spring River. They're not difficult to catch, but good populations are only found in the first 15 or 20 miles below the dams, and in the first 5 miles below Mammoth Spring on the Spring River. Nothing makes you feel like your out west more than hooking cutthroat after cutthroat on a big dry fly. And that's very possible on all of the tailwaters, as cutthroat tend to be very willing to rise to dries (even when there's not actually a hatch occurring), especially during low water. The Little Red below Greers Ferry Dam may be the best bet for those targeting cutthroat. The Norfork and Bull Shoals tailwaters are close behind. Cutthroat trout populations are maintained by stocking.

These are the most common species of trout found in the Ozarks. While other species can be found sporadically from occasional stockings (Golden trout and Lake Trout being examples), these four are the only ones your likely to catch. All of these trout have many similarities, but they are different in some very special ways.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Ozark Area Trout Fishing

If you think great trout fishing can only be found in the Rocky Mountain West or the East, think again. More specifically, some of the very best trout fishing in the United States has developed in the Ozark Mountain Region of the Midwest. Nestled in an area mostly contained in Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas, some outstanding fishing opportunities are out there for rainbow trout and brown trout, even a few spots where brook trout and cutthroat trout can be had.

Map showing the major rivers of Missouri. Desi...Image via Wikipedia

Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)Image via Wikipedia

Picture of White River near Flippin, AR, by Ja...Image via Wikipedia

Essentially, these regions can be subdivided into four categories. Thinking of the fishing opportunities in this way can help you zero in on the kind of fishing you are after. There really is, as you will see for yourself, a little bit for every kind of fisherman out there. As a bit of an aside, many of these streams and rivers also offer outstanding smallmouth bass fishing opportunities as well.

The first of these types of fisheries is the Missouri Trout Parks. There are four trout parks in Missouri, all in or bordering on the Ozark Mountain Region. These parks are managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation and are stocked for the most part with rainbow trout, but also have some brown trout as well. These parks are heavily stocked during the catch-and-keep season. During the catch-and-release season, the parks are less heavily stocked but there are still very nice populations, the fish are larger in general, and a fisherman has a bit of elbow room to him- or herself. If this is not your thing, perhaps one of the Ozark Region's tailwater fisheries might be more to your liking.

Perhaps the most famous of these is the White River below Bull Shoals Dam in Northern Arkansas. However, if maybe less famous, there are also awesome fishing opportunities on the Norfork Tailwater, the Greer Ferry Tailwater (Little Red River), as well as Lake Taneycomo. These fisheries are interspersed throughout the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks. Popualtions and size of fish are world class in these fisheries. Browns over 20 lbs are not unheard of and until recently, the World Record Brown Trout was from the Little Red.

There are a few freestone rivers that give trout and smallmouth fishermen some outstanding waters to both float and wade fish. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Current River. It can be a bit (okay a lot!) of a party river, but this is only in the warm weather months. Additionally, for more solitude, try the Eleven Point River, barely a stone's throw away from the Current and with a small fraction the traffic. World class smallmouth fishing and some very nice rainbow fishing can be found on this river as it winds through the Irish Wilderness and then meanders down to the Arkansas border. The Meramec River and especially the North Fork of the White River should also be considered.

Finally, tucked into the rolling region can be found some smaller fishing gems that can be classified as smaller streams. With a bit of research, these streams can yield a very nice experience to the fisherman looking for wild trout fishing opportunities as well as a place to himself. These streams are beautiful and so are the fish taken (an hopefully released).

To continue researching these areas and for more specifics, go to Ozark Trout Fishing.
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