Missouri Trout Fishing

Missouri Trout Fishing: A Treasure Hidden In Plain Sight

Most people don’t realize that the Missouri trout fishing program has been around since the late 1800s. In the early days, the U.S. Fish Commission delivered trout from California’s McCloud River Station to Missouri streams adjacent to the Frisco Railroad with a special rail car equipped for trout and salmon. Fishery science was in it’s infancy, and salmonids were stocked in a trial and error fashion with Pacific salmon, Atlantic salmon, brook trout, brown trout, and grayling being stocked across the state. Missouri trout fishing was born in these circumstances and began to evolve into the robust program that it is today.

The Neosho Federal Hatchery was built in 1888, and became the heart of Missouri’s trout program. Starting with McCloud strain eggs, the Neosho hatchery began maintaining rainbow trout broodstock. The hatcheries at Roaring River and Bennet Spring began as private hatcheries and were built in the early 1900’s. They held broodstock from the Neosho Federal Hatchery before being acquired by the state in the 1920’s.

The state acquired Montauk State Park in 1928 before later building the hatchery there. About 20 years passed before the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery was built and began hatching trout. The Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery was built with the Table Rock Dam as part of an effort to lessen the severity of change to the Lake Taneycomo area which was originally a warm water environment. Twenty more years passed, and the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery was renovated into a state of the art cold water hatchery. Broodstock was discontinued from Roaring River and Montauk hatcheries by the early 80’s after having already been discontinued from the Neosho Federal Hatchery.

The Legend of Crane Creek

Rewind back to 1890 when Crane Creek, a small spring-fed stream near Galena, was first stocked with McCloud strain rainbows. Natural reproduction was observed¬†By 1893. The population has continued to reproduce since then, having not been stocked since the 1960’s when only 400 fingerlings were produced.¬†These were used to restore and establish wild populations in areas like the Eleven Point River which runs from South Central Missouri into North Central Arkansas.¬†

Since then, Missouri hatcheries have used sperm collected from Crane Creek males to fertilize Missouri Strain females. This practice combines the genes from both strains for better adaptation to the wild, while retaining some of the traits that make the fish easier to raise.

Several other Spring spawning strains were experimented with in Missouri Hatcheries over the years. Most notably the Donaldson strain which was developed by Dr. Lauren Donaldson in the 1950’s. Dr. Donaldson crossed rainbow trout from Packwood Lake on Mt. Ranier with steelhead. These produced a fast growing strain that spawned large eggs. Due to their size, these fish got off to a good start, but they were also susceptible¬†to disease. In the early 1980’s Donaldson strain trout were crossed with the Missouri strain which resulted in a more robust, fast growing strain called the Missouri Arlee strain. This is the strain that is presently being maintained at the Shepherd of the Hills and Roaring River hatcheries. The Missouri Arlee strain accounts for the vast majority of trout in the Missouri trout fishing system today.

Next time you’re out on any of Missouri’s trout fishing waters, think about the history behind what you’re doing. Take a moment to appreciate all the effort that has been put into the development of our trout program over the last 130 years, and purchase your trout permit with pride! 

Be sure to check out¬†OzarkAnglers.com for the latest fishing reports and stories from all our local bodies of water, and if you ever need a place to stay on Lake Taneycomo, give us a call. We’d love to have you!

Missouri Brown Trout Records:

Bill Babler Record Brown Trout

Bill Babler - 40.4lbs. - 41.25" Long

Ozark lakes fishing guide Bill Babler caught the standing brown trout record for Missouri on September 4, 2019. Read More . . .

Frank The Tank

Paul Crews - 34.6lbs. - 38" Long

Neosho resident Paul Crews caught “Frank the Tank” during a Lilleys’ Landing trout tournament on February 23, 2019. Needless to say, he won the tournament. Read More . . .

Scott Sandusky brown trout record

Scott Sandusky - 28.8lbs. - 37" Long

Scott Sandusky was drifting powerbait  when he hooked the fish of a lifetime on November 20, 2009 Read More . . .

Raymond Gorka rainbow trout

Trophy Catch and Release Program

Since the late 1990s, Lilleys’ Landing has been handing out catch-and-release pins and certificates to anglers who successfully release a 20-inch or longer rainbow or brown trout on Lake Taneycomo.  This program has encouraged fishermen of all ages to release thousands of trophy trout for others to enjoy. Click Here to view the latest lunkers!