I grew up in Alaska and spent much time on the western slope of Colorado. I have had the good fortune to take budget trips to some of the greatest trout waters in the East and West. So I will not try to make the case that someone with the means to make a trip to one of these great destinations should cancel their trip and instead fish Missouri. What I will do is get you excited about some truly terrific trout fishing that can be had in the Show-Me-State; at least by Midwestern standards.
One of the really cool things about fishing Missouri is the diversity of options. There are classic freestone rivers of the western style, small babbling streams with small but wild trout, and at least one great option for lake fishing if that’s your style. To top it off, Missouri hosts “trout parks” which as long as you do not mind a good measure of social interaction with fellow fishermen, you can stock up on stocked browns and/or rainbows with a limit every time. If you want to put some trout on the table, these parks are the way to go.
The purpose of this blog is to highlight some of the options available to the Missouri resident trout fisherman, or the fisherman making a visit. It is not a comprehensive list of all the waters with detailed descriptions of each. Next week, I will provide some tips on tactics for fishing these waters. For highly detailed descriptions of nearly all Missouri trout fishing options, along with basic and more advanced tactics, visit the Family Outdoors Missouri Trout Fishing Section.
Freestone Rivers of Missouri
Believe it or not, and you probably won’t if you have never fished any of these waters, Missouri has some outstanding and cold crystal clear waters that might make you forget for a moment that you are not in Colorado or some other Western state. The unique geography of Missouri has water erupting from massive springs after having spent long enough in the earth’s depths to arise crystal clear and cold (mid 50’s F). This water has allowed for many miles of Missouri’s rivers fitting this description to be stocked with rainbows and browns, and in some sections to sustain what are now wild or mostly wild populations. Some of my purist friends do turn their noses up at our trout as being “unnatural” since they are stocked, or at least were at one time. I find these fish to be game and in many cases, especially the wild fish, to be as beautiful as any I have observed.
The freestone stream on which we have spent the most time is the locally famous, at times infamous, Current River. This stream has a partially deserved reputation as a party destination. However, if one is at least moderately cognizant of the section of the river they will fish as well as the season, the Current can offer a terrific experience. It begins at Montauk State Park near Salem and Licking Missouri. There is a system of springs at Montauk that initiate the cold-water flow of the river, and is thus a great spot for a fish hatchery and one of Missouri’s trout parks.
We will return to the trout parks later, but for now, the fisherman should understand that the first few miles of the river is in the Montauk Trout Park and stocked heavily with rainbows as well as a lesser number of browns. It is also subject to the rules of the park in this section.
Below Montauk, the Current is a blue ribbon trout stream under Missouri Department of Conservation Regulations, which essentially means you are fishing catch-and-release, though you will occasionally pick up a fish, usually a brown that meets the 18 inch minimum. Most fishermen will photograph their trophies if lucky enough to catch one, and then release them only to be remembered by the photograph, or perhaps a replica mount.
Below Montauk in the blue ribbon section, there are a couple of popular accesses, those being Tan Vat and Baptist Camp. Tan Vat can be busy, and so can Baptist, but it seems like at Baptist fishermen do a better job spreading out along the river. In all of this water, there is a nice mix of riffles which tend to produce more but smaller fish with deeper holes which produce larger and fewer fish. Most of the nicer browns I have caught in this area were in these deep holes. Do not confuse the deep holes with the slow rather stagnant sections. The deep holes are downstream from riffles and often butt up against bluffs which plunge the water depth quickly to greater than ten feet.
Downstream from the blue ribbon section is a white ribbon section with more liberal rules with regard to methods ande the fish you can keep. These sections are stocked and I guess one can keep fish with a more clear conscience if that is his or her desire. This section is equally beautiful, and is best accessed by canoe or kayak.
If you plan a visit to the Current, I suggest that you plan around the crowds of floaters. From the park down to Baptist Camp, you will not encounter many of them, but if you fish downstream from here on a weekend in the summer, prepare for lots of company. You are better off avoiding summer weekends if you can. Fall and spring are in fact great times to fish the Current, with many days in the winter also being enjoyable times to be on the water.
For more information on the Current River, visit Family Outdoors Current River Trout Fishing. You will find comprehensive answers to most of not all the questions you might have.
|Eleven Point River's Greer Branch|
The second river I will mention here is the Eleven Point. It runs through some absolutely wild country, and has a fair number of wild rainbows resident to its waters. If you wish to have more water all to yourself, this is a great option. A nice place to start is at Greer Crossing. There is very little in the way of access to the river except from on it, so this really is a canoe or kayaking river. There are some potentially challenging spots on this stream for the novice if running the stream by canoe. This sort of depends on river levels.
Without getting into too much detail, the Eleven Point differs from the Current in the respect that most of the fishing is streamer fishing and fairly deep. There are some times where dries are effective, but the Eleven Point really is not the river for the dry fly purist. For more detail, visit Eleven Point Trout Fishing.
Small Stream Missouri Trout Fishing
With the internet, there are few secrets regarding places to fish. Nevertheless, undoubtedly there are some who would rather there be no mention of these little trout fishing streams. Several of them host wild rainbow populations and rarely produce fish that are larger than ten inches. Unfortunately, despite almost all of these streams being confined to explicit fly only regulations, you will often find evidence of bait having been used leaving one to conclude that these fishermen were keeping the fish they caught. These streams simply will not stand up to catch-and-keep fishing.
Having said all of that, perhaps the best protection for these little streams such as the Little Piney and Blue Springs Creek is the presence of ethical anglers willing to report transgressions of the necessary regulations. This rationale, along with the simple reality that all of this information is in some form available anyway, will be my response to any who criticize me letting the cat out of the bag on these streams.
|Little Piney Creek|
Little Piney is in fact my favorite place to fly fish in Missouri. There is a blue ribbon and white ribbon section on the stream, with handy access right off of US 63 at Lane Springs just south of Rolla. The section at Lane is in the blue ribbon section. The white ribbon section is a bit more difficult to navigate to, but if you want the details on finding it, visit the Little Piney Creek Trout Fishing section of Family-Outdoors.
There are numerous other of these beautiful little streams spread from down in the Springfield area all the way across the southern half of Missouri.
|Maramec Springs Trout Park in the Winter|
Four trout parks are operated in Missouri by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Many Missouri trout anglers ritualize the start of the Missouri trout park season as the start of spring. On these first few days, the MDC releases some real lunkers, some topping ten pounds. These first few days are combat fishing at its peak, and thus not really an attractive option for me even though they do offer some real chances for big fish.
There are a variety of options of regulations at these parks. To the best of my knowledge, what they all have in common is a daily limit of four fish, and a great chance of filling that limit early in the day. The parks are usually segregated as to the methods allowed in various sections. Some sections allow bait fishing and some do not. All offer some handicapped accessible areas.
These parks can be a lot of fun if you are in the right frame of mind. They are also great introductions to the sport of trout fishing, whether you are a spin or fly fisherman. Find specifics on the trout parks beginning at Missouri Trout Parks.
Here is a lake that has held and might in the future hold again record sized brown trout. Fishing Taneycomo is a radical departure from the experience and methodology of trout fishing in the freestone streams, small streams, or even the trout parks of Missouri.
Taneycomo is stocked with over a half million rainbows every year, making the action up and down its twenty-two mile stretch pretty darn hot. There are however some interesting tactics and baits that are used which we will discuss next week, or you can read about now at Taneycomo Trout Fishing.
So, despite Missouri not being blessed with a Madison, Frying Pan, Kenai, or Ausable River, it does have some pretty nice options for the trout angler. Missouri is at the very least a great place to cut your teeth trout fishing, whether that be fly fishing or not. Next week, we will get into some specifics on tactics including baits, lures, and flies, but much more.