Regulations vary (see below).
A trout stamp is now required to fish on Lake Taneycomo upstream from the Highway
65 bridge, regardless of your trout harvest practices.
When people come to Branson, they almost always plan to see a
show. Lake Taneycomo puts on a show, as well. It is Missouri's
version of a "Football Freak Show" trout steam. Many
premier trout fishing states have similar destinations that
are well-known for producing big fat football-shaped fish, and
Taneycomo can give them all a run for their money. Why is that?
Because, the river is very similar to the other football rivers
in two very important ways. First, it is a tailwater, meaning the source comes from the bottom of a deep lake through the turbines of a dam. Second, it
has incredible scud and sowbug populations as the trout's primary
Those of you who have fished the Frying Pan River in Colorado,
one of the more famous football trout streams in the country,
may not have noticed that it is also a tailwater fishery with
an impressive scud population. Those two ingredients are a
simple but rare recipe for giant fish -- stable temperatures
and a stable food supply. In fact, thanks to a population
survey by the Missouri Department of Conservation, we know for
certain that there is a brown trout that weighs better than 36
pounds still swimming around in Taneycomo -- waiting for you,
In case you were confused by our reference to Lake Taneycomo
as a river, you heard correct. It is a river, as far as
fishermen are concerned. It's technically a lake, because there
is the powersite dam almost 23 miles downstream. That makes it
an impoundment, if you adhere to the strictest of definitions.
However, the waters of Lake Taneycomo flow freely past the
powersite dam, which allows the lake to have a notable current
at all times. A lake with a constant downhill current is a
river, wouldn't you say? Regardless of your opinion, the lake
vs. river debate is a fun argument to engage in.
There are two types of trout water present on Lake Taneycomo,
but neither of them fall into the new Red, White & Blue Ribbon
categories established by the MDC in 2006. So, perhaps we
should continue calling it a Special Trout Management
Area? At any rate, the upper three miles of Taneycomo
are ideal for wading fishermen. The regulations there are
strict and somewhat complicated, but the outcomes are worth
it. The remaining 20-ish miles of the river are more suited
to those fishing from a boat, from the bank, or from one of
the many commercial trout docks along the shore. The regulations
loosen along this stretch.
From the closed
zone 760 feet below Table Rock Dam to the mouth of Fall Creek, and
the tributaries entering Lake Taneycomo within that area. Artificial
flies and lures only (soft plastics specifically prohibited).
Fishermen may keep 4 trout daily, of which only 1 may be a brown
trout. Rainbow trout must be less than 12" or greater than 20" to
harvest. Brown trout must be greater than 20" to harvest.
This area of the river is growing in popularity every year with
the potential for catching truly huge trout luring more and more
fishermen to the Branson area. If you're already in Branson, then
just grab one of the mass-produced maps available on every counter-
top to find your way from your hotel down to the Shepherd of the
Hills Fish Hatchery. Of course, try to take back roads and alternate
routes as much as you can, otherwise you could take all day getting
there in the bumper-to-bumper traffic. If you're coming to Branson
just to fish, the easiest way to get to the water is to bypass
Branson altogether. From highway 65, South of Branson, take highway
165 West. That will take you straight to and over Table Rock Dam.
You can turn right just before the dam to find river access, or
you can cross the dam and turn right to get to the hatchery area.
Once you get to the water, you'll find the upper three miles of
the river are easily accessible to wading fishermen. Don't get
sucked into fishing the first 1/4-mile exclusively. While the
fishing there is great, you'll also be in the most crowded area.
By investing some time in working your way downstream, you'll
find some great spots and more elbowroom.
Once you wade into the water, you'll probably find yourself
surrounded by fish. Getting them to the net is a different story,
however. You'll generally find a lot of fly fishermen here, but
one thing you'll notice is that 10% of the fly fishermen are
catching 90% of the fish. The reason for this disparity is
that this is not a trout park. These fish are not stocked
nightly -- rainbows are stocked monthly, and browns are
stocked just once per year -- so you will be casting to
resident fish that have mostly learned to survive by eating
natural food in a highly pressured environment. In other
words, you'll have to be on top of your game.
Some popular fly patterns include small scud and sowbug
patterns (of course) in size 16 & smaller. Copper-bodied
flies also tend to work well, if you go small enough, i.e.
brassies, copper johns, and ultra-wire
midge nymphs. Soft-hackle wets are also productive in
sizes 16 and down. Partridge and orange is a good example,
but bring a variety of colors. Occasionally glo-bugs and
glu-bugs work well, and some fly fishermen swear by san
juan worms and chamois worms. If the fish are feeding on
the surface, try dark-colored midge dries and emergers, and
teeny tiny Adams and Blue-wing Olives (#20 & smaller).
October is when the lunker hunters begin visiting Taneycomo.
As the days grow shorter, the browns begin moving upstream
to spawn. The biggest browns of the year are generally
caught during the October pre-spawn period by fishermen using
big flies and lures. Various styles of marabou streamers in
a variety of colors are productive -- black and yellows,
white with glitter bodies, black or olive Woolly Buggers, etc.
Spin fishermen can have good luck with the old standbys --
in-line spinners and crankbaits -- but don't overlook
little spoons. Sometimes, they knock 'em dead. For a change,
try night fishing, as mature brownies are very successful nighttime
hunters. Many night fishermen will use glow-in-dark strike
indicators with the normal daytime wet patterns, but if you're
adventurous, try using big black flies and lures with meaty
bodies, and keep them closer to the surface than you would
normally during the day. This will present a great silhouette
for the fish to see against the night sky, and the hits can
be absolutely jarring.
Here's a tip we received from Todd DeCarlis regarding an experience
he had in October '04.
My brother and I had
mostly been fishing the nights after work for a couple of
hours til just after dark last October. The first few tries,
we used some soft hackles, some tiny dries, and even some
leech patterns but had sparing success. It finally hit us
as we noticed ourselves swatting away countless mosquitos
and midges. The subtle sips on top of the water left little
doubt what they were hitting. So, before our next trip we
tied like crazy as many midges as we could in several colors
and patterns, all about 18-20 in size. To make a long story
short, my brother and I, at least that night, were the two
guys on the river catching all the fish...we could hear the
whispers over the water, “what are they using?” We caught
29 fish between us, 17 of which were brown, and even better,
14 of them were 22 inches or better. All in two hours before
sunset, and on flies no bigger than size 18. All this to say,
adding to what you already said, that even when fishing for
the lunkers during the spawn, don’t forget to pack a few midge
patterns. I will be there this next October with a box full of
Todd went on to clarify that they were using midge pupa patterns
just underneath the surface, spitting on the flies to keep them
in the surface film, and giving them a slight twitch when landing
them on the surface to get them under.
In this part of the river, be mindful of rising water. Once or
twice each day, Table Rock Dam opens the gates in order to
generate electricity from the increased flow. They will blow
a siren a few minutes before opening a gate. If they blow more
than one siren, they are opening more than one gate. As soon
as you hear the first siren, head to the shore immediately.
Staying for that one last cast could truly cost you your life --
it's happened more than once.
Those that just can't bring themselves to leave when the water
is up tend to crowd around the feeder streams coming from the
hatchery outlets. Yes, you can catch fish, but does this really
look like fun to you? Leave and go see the sights for a few hours
and come back later. You were probably ready for a break, anyhow!
From the mouth of
Fall Creek to Powersite Dam, including all tributaries entering Lake
Taneycomo within the zone. Daily limit is 4 trout, only one of which
may be a brown trout. Brown trout must be greater than 20" to harvest.
No bait restrictions, and no size restrictions on rainbow trout.
There are amazing fish populations in the parts of Taneycomo
downstream from Fall Creek. However, wading fishermen and bank
fishermen are largely out of luck. To reach the vast majority of
the best water, you simply need a boat. If you don't own a boat,
there are several dock operators who will gladly rent you a boat,
and there are a few highly regarded guides who will take you fishing
for a fee. It may seem like a lot of money for a day of fishing,
but these guys routinely get their clients into 30 fish a day with
lunkers not uncommon. Be sure to book ahead, because they are busy.
Lower Taneycomo can be confusing to traditional trout fishermen, because
the water seems to have less character and structure. This is true,
in one sense, because the water is deeper and smoother without riffles
or pocket water. However, there is plenty of submerged structure that
concentrates the fish in certain areas. Yes, downed trees count, but
we're really talking about changes in the channel, shoals, holes, eddies,
If you have experience tracking bass in lakes on submerged cover,
then you'll probably do fine. However, you cannot roll your boat
over the top of the cover to read it on your depth-finder, otherwise
you'll just spook off the fish. You either need to have some skills
at guessing what the bottom looks like based on what the bank looks
like, or you need to have enough experience on the lake to know where
you're going. This is why a guide comes in so handy for newcomers.
You might consider it an investment in your future fishing. Next
time, you'll only have to pay for a boat rental!
Common fishing methods you'll observe among boaters include casting
spoons, crankbaits, spinners, marabou jigs, rubber shad, mister
twisters, and little trout worms. Some will anchor their boats and
engage in the sit-and-wait bait method using dough baits, salmon
eggs, nightcrawlers, etc. Some swear by nightcrawlers injected
with just a bit of air -- it keeps them floating just off the bottom
and wriggling just right.
Fish Swim in Taneycomo
The most productive fishermen, however, tend to drift their boats,
allowing their baits to drift along with them. These drift-fishermen
may be using wet flies or nymphs, marabou jigs, or natural or prepared
bait. It doesn't really seem to matter. The trick is to find the right
depth at which to drift the bait so the fish have to actually move
out of the way to avoid eating it. Then, drift it past as many fish
as possible. This method routinely works well from Fall Creek all
the way down to Powersite Dam -- depending, of course, on the concentration
of fish present. When they're generating and the water is up, drift
fishermen will commonly boat all the way up through the trophy area,
which is usually far too shallow otherwise.
In 1992, a 64-year old man named Howard Collins caught the world record
German brown trout (the record has since been broken). It was taken
from the Little Red River in Arkansas, another outstanding Ozarks
tailwater fishery. Mr. Collins was using an ultra-light spinning rod,
4-pound test line, and a little olive marabou jig. He hooked the fish on
his third cast, and he landed it in five minutes. It weighed 40 pounds
4 ounces. Many believe that Taneycomo will break that record.
Call (417) 895-6880 for more
You can download three maps of public access areas on Lake Taneycomo
from our Maps Page, and you can
check the USGS water level changes from our Water Levels Page. For our most recent Lake
Taneycomo fishing reports, click HERE.
After you fish Taneycomo, we hope you'll come back to
tell us how you did.
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