Trout Fishing On
"The Story of Lake
Taneycomo & Trout"
Lake Taneycomo's story began in 1913. With the construction of Ozark Beach
Dam at Powersite on the White River, Taneycomo became the first in a chain
of four reservoirs that includes Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Beaver lakes.
For the first 38 years of Lake Taneycomo's existence, native sport fish of
the White River basin sustained a popular fishery that helped create one of
Missouri's first tourist areas on the shores of Rockaway Beach. A new
chapter began in 1958, when Table Rock Dam was built immediately upstream.
Until then, Taneycomo was basically just a wide spot in the slow, meandering
White River. After Table Rock Dam was built, Lake Taneycomo was fed by water
that came from 160 feet below the surface of Table Rock Lake. The water was
cold year-round and was unsuitable for most of the White River's warm-water
fish. Their populations declined, as did the popular fishery they supported.
A rainbow often follows a storm, offering hope and promise for the future.
In this case, hope came in the form of rainbow trout! Native to the streams
of the West Coast, rainbow trout were well suited to the chilly waters that
now filled Lake Taneycomo.
Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery was constructed to compensate for the loss of
the native warm-water fishery that had existed before the dam was built. The
hatchery provided a reliable supply of trout for stocking. Amphipods (known
to anglers as freshwater shrimp) gathered from Ozark spring branches and
stocked along with the trout, flourished in the cold waters. The result was
fat, fast-growing trout to fuel a trophy rainbow fishery.
In the "glory years," light fishing pressure allowed many of the stocked
trout to grow large. By 1969, stringers of 3- to 5-pound trout were not
unusual. Outdoor writers called Lake Taneycomo the best trophy rainbow trout
lake in North America.
As Taneycomo's fame grew, so did the number of anglers pursuing its big
rainbows. A voluntary length limit encouraged anglers to limit their harvest
to protect the big fish. It seemed to work for awhile, but eventually there
were just too many anglers. Fishing pressure quadrupled from 1970 to 1990,
requiring a steady increase in the number of trout stocked.
By then, the Branson boom had begun. Development claimed more and more of
the landscape, and sediment entered the lake during rainstorms. In addition,
white suckers suddenly became common in the lake and outnumbered trout in
some surveys. In addition, the cold water from Table Rock Lake contained low
levels of dissolved oxygen in the fall, stressing both fish and their food
sources. Two things were certain: the big rainbow trout were gone, and
freshwater shrimp were not as numerous as before.
By the early 1990s, the once-great Taneycomo trout fishery had fallen on
relatively hard times. Anglers who wanted something more than stocker-size
rainbow trout demanded that something be done to bring back the big
rainbows. Their demands were partially met by a new brown trout fishery that
produced enormous, even world-record size, brown trout. However, brown trout
are harder to catch, and a few behemoth browns didn't satisfy anglers who
remembered the glory years when rainbows were measured in pounds, not
The Missouri Department of Conservation developed several research studies
to determine what caused the decline of the big rainbows. Some of the
studies suggested there simply wasn't enough food in Lake Taneycomo to grow
large rainbow trout. Clearly, the lake's freshwater shrimp population had
declined. Other studies showed that Taneycomo was still capable of growing
rainbows, but few fish lived longer than a month before being caught and
Gradually, a picture emerged of a fishery that could still produce large
fish, but not without some changes. First, because there was less trout
food, fewer trout could be stocked. Reduced stocking levels helped the
freshwater shrimp population recover slightly. Still, rainbow trout harvest
remained high, and while trout now had more to eat, most were harvested
before they could grow large.
It became obvious that the rainbows needed protection from immediate
harvest. So, beginning in March 1997, the Conservation Department
established new fishing regulations in the upper part of the lake. These
regulations were designed to protect some of the rainbows and allow them to
grow larger. Fishing pressure is heavy in upper Lake Taneycomo, and the
trout there needed more protection.
Studies show a trout is about five times more likely to die if caught and
released on natural or prepared baits than one caught on artificial lures or
flies. Because the new rules require anglers to release most of the trout
they catch, it was necessary to limit fishing tackle in the upper lake to
artificial lures and flies only. The new rules protected many of the
rainbows from harvest and minimized losses of released fish to hooking
The new fishing regulations created an almost immediate improvement in the
fishery. Before the rule change, fewer than 10 percent of the rainbow trout
in the upper part of the lake exceeded 13 inches. Only five months after the
regulation change, the percentage jumped to 30 percent.
In a little more than two years, there was also a ten-fold increase in the
number of rainbows in the upper lake. More than half were longer than 13
inches, and 10 percent exceeded 16 inches. Bigger rainbows are back, and
with one- to three-pound fish being caught daily, anglers are recalling
memories of the glory days
Taneycomo still has some problems. Branson continues to grow, white suckers
are still abundant, and water from Table Rock Lake still has low oxygen
levels during late summer and fall. The Conservation Department is working
with other agencies to protect the lake and its fishing, and to determine if
it's possible to make changes in the operation of Table Rock Dam that would
help the fishery.
Not everyone who fishes Lake Taneycomo is interested in catching a trophy.
Many simply want to catch a few trout to eat, and the Conservation
Department has devoted considerable effort to helping anglers who choose not
to fish in the special regulations area of the upper lake.
Below the mouth of Fall Creek, for example, the Department heavily stocks
rainbow trout. Anglers may keep any trout they catch up to the daily limit
of five, regardless of size, and they may fish with any kind of bait, lure
or fly. In addition, the Department has built a new access facility at
Cooper Creek, and improved the access facilities in Forsyth and Rockaway
Beach. These areas bring the thrill of fighting a rainbow trout to more
anglers by increasing bank fishing opportunities, making boat access easier
and easing access for disabled anglers.
The story of Lake Taneycomo continues, providing plenty of grist for new
stories of how the fishing in this unusual cold-water lake promises to get
better and better.
No experience is necessary for
trout fishing! I have
coached hundreds of people both
young and old into there first
trout fishing trip on Taneycomo
Lake in Branson, Mo. We use
either spinning rods or fly
rods, and I can teach you to use
either in no time. Most people
automatically associate trout
fishing with fly rods and
automatically think they don’t
have the skills to fly fish. We
do a lot of our trout fishing on
Taneycomo Lake with spinning
rods, we use the same lures and
flies that we use on our fly
rods but a spinning rod is
easier to use for the
inexperienced trout fisher
over 20 years of fly fishing
experience, and fly fishing for
trout is what actually brought
me to Taneycomo lake for the
first time so many years ago!
If you are wanting to learn to
fly fish, or think you might
like to even try it for a few
casts, we can help you see if it
is for you. If it is not then
don’t worry we will catch them
on spinning rods. If you are a
seasoned fly fisherman I can
keep you on the trout all day!
Accessible from historic downtown
Branson, the Branson Landing and at
multiple points east including the
communities of Rockaway Beach,
Powersite and south of Hwy. 76 in
Hollister and the Fall Creek area,
Lake Taneycomo was formed with the
completion of Powersite Dam in 1913.
It was originally section of the
White River, and although Taneycomo
is now technically a lake, it
retains the look and feel of a
Folks come from
Branson, Missouri from all over the
world to fish for rainbow and german
brown trout here on lake taneycomo.
Thanks to the Missouri Department Of
Conservation and the Sheppard of the
Hills Fish Hatchery, for their
incredible management and stocking
of Lake Taneycomo. This lake is
truly an unparalleled trout fishing
experience. A special thanks goes
out to all of the local residents as
well as the visitors to Lake
Taneycomo who support this pristine
fishery by purchasing trout stamps.
The funding from trout stamps gives
us the lake and fishery that we all
like to visit and fish.
When the Table Rock Dam was
completed at Taneycomo's headwaters
in 1958, the nature of the lake
changed. Taneycomo's water now comes
from the bottom of Table Rock Lake,
making it a cold water lake.
Lake Taneycomo Facts
22 miles from Table Rock Dam to
Average water temperature 48º F year
750,000 trout stocked each year
Limit of four fish per day per trout
Average elevation 698 to 704 feet
Flood gates are capable of releasing
500,000 cubic feet per second. 2,080
Lake Taneycomo Fishing
The cold, clear water, stocked
annually with approximately 750,000
10-12" rainbow trout, makes
Taneycomo a world-class trout
fishing lake year round. The cold,
clear water combined with the
Shepherd of the hills trout hatchery
has made it the perfect spot for
rainbow and german brown trout.
What Does Branson’s Premier Guide
Service Offer At Lake Taneycomo?
“CATCH FISH GUARANTEED”
About 80% of the 1,200,000 trout
raised at the hatchery each year are released into Taneycomo.
end (restricted area) of the lake
offers superb spin fishing and fly
fishing for both quality and quanity
of trout while the rest of the lake
offers superb lure and baitfishing
for numbers of fish. There is an
artificial only regulation as well
as a slot limit in the restricted
area, but the rest of the lake has
no length or lure restrictions, but
is under state wide regulations.
What Does Branson’s Premier
At Lake Taneycomo?
“CATCH FISH GUARANTEED”
We at Branson Guided Fishing Trips
offer trips for all circumstances,
which include corporate trips,
family’s, handicapped or disabled
folks, etc. We also love to take
folks with children. Our
professional guides are coast guard
licensed and commercially insured ,
and our experience on Lake Taneycomo
will ensure you have one of your
best trips ever. Our guide service
loves to take and teach children,
and folks of all ages how to fish
and end the day with a positive and
We provide all
equipment including lures,
rods/reels, baits, snacks, and non