Taneycomo trout seemingly dance into boat

Robbie Dodson, a fishing guide from Harrison, nets a rainbow trout for Melissa Nichols of Pineville, Mo., during a trip in February at Lake Taneycomo near Branson. Trout were eager to bite tiny flies that imitate scuds, sometimes called freshwater shrimp, that are the No. 1 food for trout at Taneycomo.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
Robbie Dodson, a fishing guide from Harrison, nets a rainbow trout for Melissa Nichols of Pineville, Mo., during a trip in February at Lake Taneycomo near Branson. Trout were eager to bite tiny flies that imitate scuds, sometimes called freshwater shrimp, that are the No. 1 food for trout at Taneycomo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)


Is it river or is it lake? That's not a major concern when drifting in the current and catching trout after trout at Lake Taneycomo.

The cold-water trout fishery flows through the heart of Branson, Mo., in Taney County, Mo., where Taneycomo gets its name.

"It's like a river because there's current, but it's like a lake because there's a dam on each end," said Robbie Dodson, a multispecies fishing guide from Harrison. Trout were the fish of the day for Dodson and his two guests on a sunny morning in February.

At the west end the river-lake is massive Table Rock Dam that towers 252 feet above Lake Taneycomo. Army Corps of Engineers finished the dam in 1958 that forms Table Rock Lake. Cold water released through the dam from the lake bottom flows for 23 miles past wooded shorelines and docks, through downtown Branson and on to Powersite Dam. Water flows over the top of Powersite Dam that's 70 feet tall. Trout thrive in the cold water.

Current is minimal when no electricity is being generated at Table Rock Dam. But when all four hydroelectric generators are cranking, Taneycomo flows fast and slick.

"I really like to fish when four generators are running. The current is so fast that the trout don't have time to react," Dodson said.

They just bite.

Two generators at the dam for this trip created a steady flow ideal for catching trout. Dodson steered his comfortable Ranger bass boat as far upstream as allowed and stopped in the shadow of Table Rock Dam. A current of 3 mph carried his boat downstream. Motoring can be tricky in the three miles of shallow water immediately below Table Rock Dam, but Dodson could run it blindfolded.

Trout started biting soon as hooks hit the water. Dodson had spinning rods rigged with small fishing flies that imitate tiny freshwater crustaceans called scuds. Freshwater shrimp, lots of anglers call them.


"They're the No. 1 food for trout here at Taneycomo," Dodson coached.

Before he finished his sentence, Melissa Nichols of Pineville, Mo., had her first trout on the line. A conga line of rainbow trout followed, dancing from water to boat guided there by Nichols and into Dodson's landing net.

The fast fishing proved scuds are like bacon to Taneycomo's trout. Dodson fished a little, but spent most of the morning netting and unhooking fish for Nichols.

"Here's our guide Robbie Dodson showing us how it's done," Nichols piped, shooting phone video while Dodson cranked in another 13-inch rainbow. "And we're only a few minutes into the trip folks and, oh! Now I've got one," she laughed.

That was the first of many doubles that day, with Nichols and Dodson catching trout at the same time.

By the end of the trip at noon, Nichols had caught most of the trout on a 25-fish morning. Most were released, but Nichols took some home to eat, expertly cleaned by Dodson.

There's more than one way to rig a scud fishing fly on a spin-cast rod and reel. Dodson basically ties the fly on a drop-shot rig. There's a one-eighth ounce weight at the end of the line and the scud is tied on a dropper line 20 inches above the weight. The rig is fished under a bobber so the weight ticks the bottom and the scud is about four feet deep. It's a proven trout catcher all year at Taneycomo, Dodson testified.

Anglers need a Missouri fishing license and annual Missouri trout permit to fish all but the lower end of Lake Taneycomo. The daily limit is four trout, and a limit may contain only one brown trout that's at least 20 inches long.

A slot limit applies from Table Rock Dam for three miles downstream to Fall Creek. All rainbow trout between 12 and 20 inches long must be released. Downstream of Fall Creek, any size rainbow trout up to four may be kept.

Trout aren't native to Lake Taneycomo or any Ozark stream or lake. Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery below Table Rock Dam supplies the trout stocked in the lake. The hatchery and visitor center are closed to guests until 2025 for remodeling, but fish production continues. Taneycomo is stocked annually with some 750,000 rainbow and brown trout 10 to 12 inches long. Much larger fish are caught, especially upstream of Fall Creek.

Fishing from a canoe or kayak is a fine way to catch a mess of trout. A popular Taneycomo float trip is to launch at the boat ramp just downstream from the fish hatchery for a 5-mile trip to Cooper's Creek boat ramp.

Whether it's a river or a lake is in the eyes of the fishing-rod holder.

  photo  Scud fishing flies imitate tiny bottom-dwelling crustaceans that some anglers call freshwater shrimp. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
 
 
  photo  Melissa Nichols with one of several trout she caught in February at Lake Taneycomo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
 
 
  photo  Melissa Nichols with one of several trout she caught in February while fishing with guide Robbie Dodson (right) at Lake Taneycomo. (Courtesy photo)
 
 
  photo  Robbie Dodson catches a Lake Taneycomo rainbow trout. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
 
 
  photo  Rainbow trout readily bit scud fishing flies in February at Lake Taneycomo. The flies imitate tiny crustaceans that are a main forage for trout in the waterway. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
 
 


Fish Lake Taneycomo

A Missouri fishing license and annual trout permit are required for anglers age 16 and above.

The daily limit is four trout. One brown trout at least 20 inches long may be kept in a four-trout limit. All rainbow trout between 12 and 20 inches long must be released between Table Rock Dam and Fall Creek. Rainbow trout of any size may be kept downstream from Fall Creek.

Source: Missouri Department of Conservation

 



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