Flowing through the heart of Branson, Lake Taneycomo is the most diverse fishing lake in the country, sporting world-class rainbow and brown trout as well as bass, crappie and blue gill angling. But it's most famous for its trout fishing.
Why is trout fishing so consistently good year round? The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks Lake Taneycomo with about 700,000 trout annually. Stockings occur on several days of each week and are dispersed by pontoon boat throughout the lake. In the summer months, when fishing pressure is the highest, as many as 96,000 rainbows averaging 11 inches or longer are placed in the lake, ensuring everyone at least a chance to catch their limit of four trout daily. Both rainbows and browns are reared locally at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, located just below Table Rock Dam.
Brown trout comprise a small percentage of stocked trout in Lake Taneycomo. MDC stocks about 15,000 once a year in the spring. Browns are considered a "trophy trout" in Taneycomo and, thus, a special lake-wide regulation mandates that a brown must be 20 inches or longer to keep, and only one may be kept per day. Four total keeper trout are allowed per day with a two-day possession limit of eight trout total.
Lake Taneycomo is a part of the White River Chain of Lakes. Our lower dam, Powersite, was built in 1908 and actually is the oldest hydro-electric dam built west of the Mississippi River. When Table Rock Dam was constructed in 1958, water from the bottom of the 200-foot dam was cold, thus supporting coldwater species of fish. As a federal project, the government appropriated Neosho Federal Hatchery to provide rainbow trout to the once warm water fishery. In 1957, construction of the state hatchery, Shepherd of the Hills, was started at the base of Table Rock Dam. Shepherd provides the balance of trout stocked in Taneycomo, as well as providing trout for the rest of the state's trout program.
Table Rock Dam is managed by the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers. The Southwest Power Administration tells the Corps when and how much water to flow through the facility. Flow is dictated by flood control and power demand. As much as 20,000 cubic feet per second can be released through its turbines, but even more can be moved over the top of the dam through its 10 flood gates. As much as 68,000 cubic feet per second was released in the flood of 2011, a record release that will hopefully never be broken when Table Rock, with the raising of the floodgates, topped at 935.47 feet.
Water flow dictates fishing conditions and techniques. When the water is off, there is little to no current, and Taneycomo acts like a lake. But when water is released, depending on how much water is released, the current increases and water level rises -- and Taneycomo shows her river heritage.
Fishing License and Trout Permits
License and Permits: Missouri residents ages 16 up until the age of 65 are required to have a Missouri fishing license. All non-residents of Missouri 16 years old and older are required to purchase a license. A trout permit is also required for ALL who fish above the U.S. 65 Highway bridge, (even children) regardless of what fish is targeted. To possess trout below the U.S. 65 highway bridge, you must have a trout permit. Note: To KILL a trout, whether intentional or unintentional, is considered possession, so be careful. It might be safer just to buy the trout permit.
- Missouri Resident Annual License is $12.
- Non-resident annual license is $42.
- Trout permits are only sold annually, and they are $7 for adults and $3.50 for kids under 16 years of age.
- All Missouri licenses and permits expire on March 1.
- Daily permits are $7 per day. If you're going to fish more than five days total in Missouri, it's cost-effective to buy an annual license.
Helpful trout fishing articles
Lake Taneycomo Water Generation Schedules
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the dam facility. It throws the switches. The Southwest Power Administration coordinates and brokers the power generated by a grid of dams and coal burning plants in several Midwestern states. These agencies together consider three priorities when managing water:
1. Flood Control
2. Power Demand
3. Recreation (boating and fishing)
When are “they” going to run water? No one knows for sure, but many times you can give it a good guess. Look at the pattern. Look at the lake levels for Table Rock Lake and Beaver Lake. If the lakes are high (above power pool levels) and we’re in a rainy season with rain in the forecast, you can bet they will run water. If it’s real hot or real cold, there’s a good chance they will run water. Other considerations—how have they been running water? Trends can be relied upon to make that good guess. If they are running a little water in the afternoons from 3-6 pm and there’s no major weather changes, you can bet they will continue this trend until the weekend. There’s less power demand on weekends so chances are trends will change—less water may run Saturdays and Sundays unless it’s extremely hot or cold and they need to continue generation because of power demand. The same is true for high water conditions.
Lake Taneycomo Boating
When operating a boat on this lake when the water is running, you must give the current proper respect. When drifting, be aware of obstacles next to shore such as over-hanging and fallen trees and flooded islands with trees. Do not tie up to anything in fast, moving water or use an anchor in moving water at all! Every year, boats are pulled under while dragging anchors in current to keep their boats straight. An anchor hangs up on the bottom, pulling the boat under the surface of the water at the point where the anchor rope is attached. The boat fills with water so fast that often the operator doesn't have time to cut the anchor rope. Don't use anchors in moving water!
Shallow gravel bars can make Lake Taneycomo rough on motor propellers. When the water is off, when no water is passing though the generators, the lake stabilizes at its normal level. If this level seems low, it is. Upstream from Branson there are several bad spots. Gravel bars just below Cooper Creek, at Short Creek and Fall Creek to mention a few. Above Fall Creek, it just gets shallow!! The closer to the dam you travel, the shallower it gets. When boating, you must be aware of these places or you will hit bottom and damage your motor. Stop and get a good lake map at one of the resorts or marinas on the lake. Of course, Lilleys’ Landing has one of the best maps around - and they’re free.
Courtesy and safe boating – The rules of thumb are, be nice, don’t get in a hurry, use common sense. Look behind you and observe the wake you’re throwing. Even if you’re traveling slowly you could be throwing the biggest wake. Wakes can injure people by throwing them into the water or within the boat. Wakes can swamp a small boat, capsizing it and sending people into the icy water. Don't sit or anchor in narrow channels. If you fish these channels, expect lots of traffic moving up and down the lake.
Missouri Boating License Info
Beginning January 1, 2005, every person born after January 1, 1984, who operates a vessel on Missouri lakes shall possess, on the vessel, a boating safety identification card issued by the Missouri State Water Patrol (along with a valid photo ID). If you fall into the required age range and are a resident of Missouri, you will need to obtain a Missouri certification card. If you are a resident of Missouri but do not fall into the age range, you are not required to have the Missouri card. Remember, a vessel is every motorboat and motorized watercraft including a personal watercraft. See www.boat-ed.com/mo for testing information.
Did you know?
- The name Lake Taneycomo was derived from its location in Taney, County, MO, hence Taney-co-mo
- Lake Taneycomo looks like a river, but dams at both ends impound the water, making it a lake.
- Lake Taneycomo is one of four lakes in the chain of the White River system. Beaver, located in northwest Arkansas, is at the top of the chain, followed by Table Rock, then Taneycomo and lastly Bull Shoals.
- Lake Taneycomo's lower dam, Powersite, brought into service in 1913, is the oldest hydroelectric dam west of the Mississippi.
- Table Rock Dam was constructed in 1958. The dam's height made the water released from Table Rock cold year round, turning Taneycomo into a prime place to stock trout.
- The Missouri Department of Conservation's Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery stocks Taneycomo with approximately 500,000 rainbows and 15,000 browns annually. In addition, 200,000 rainbows are trucked in from the Neosho Federal Hatchery located in Neosho, Missouri.
- The number of rainbows stocked correlates with the fluctuating fishing pressure Taneycomo receives. In another words, 90,000 rainbows are stocked in each summer month when fishing pressure is high but only about 30,000 rainbows in each winter month, give or take a few hundred.
- There are four turbines located at Table Rock Dam. Two warning horns are located below the dam to warn anglers of impending water release. Water levels can rise as much as 12 feet below the dam, and the currents can be swift. Be wise and be safe.
- The current brown trout Missouri state record was caught on Lake Taneycomo on November 20, 2009, by Scott Sandusky of Arnold, MO. His brown trout weighed 28 pounds, 8 ounces. It was 37 inches long with a girth of 24.75 inches.
- Some years back, the dock manager at Lilleys' Landing Resort & Marina retrieved a dead brown trout floating above the dock. After measuring and weighing the dead fish, it was determined that it would have been a world record, measuring 44 inches long. The story made the Paul Harvey radio show.
State Record fish caught on Lake Taneycomo:
- White Sucker - Four pounds, eight ounces caught Nov. 19, 1990, by James E. Baker Jr. of Reeds Spring, MO
- Brown Trout - 28 pounds, 8 ounces caught Nov. 20, 2009, by Scott Sandusky of Arnold, MO.