It was the first week of February and – true to Missouri winters – I can attest firsthand it was bitter cold, especially early in the morning. About 20 Midwest outdoor radio and television personalities and outdoor writers assembled at Lillys' Landing Resort for the third annual Conservation Federation of Missouri's Media Camp.
If you have ever visited Branson, you most likely have been to Lake Taneycomo. Providing a scenic backdrop for old downtown Branson and its recently developed upscale hotel, shopping and restaurant area known as "The Landing," you may have thought it was just a river or maybe a part of Bull Shoals or Table Rock Lake. In some ways maybe it is, as they are all part of the White River system.
Lake Taneycomo is unique in Missouri as it is a cold water fishery, hosting record rainbow and brown trout, fish not native to our state. Cold water constantly flowing from 200 feet deep at Table Rock Dam creates this amazing fishery and with the help of the Missouri Department of Conservation's Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery and their release of about 600,000 trout per year, Lake Taneycomo is a trout fisherman's dream.
Local fishing guides donated their expertise to the Media Camp as they guided the anglers through the best and most productive areas of the upper end, the trophy trout area. With names like The Narrows, Lookout Island, The Flats, Trophy Run, Rocking Chair and Rebar, each held schools of hungry fish. The trophy portion is from Fall Creek upstream to Table Rock Dam and is a lure-only regulated area. I think every boat caught at least 50 fish per day with some counting more than 100, emphasizing the importance of catch and release to the health and size of the local trout population.
Power generation and flood control are the primary functions of Table Rock Dam, so the level of power generation dictates the water level, amount of current and – most important for our purposes – what lures you might want to throw. There are many ways to catch a trout on this lake.
Freshwater shrimp, crawfish, shad and bugs are the primary food source for trout, so we used lures that would imitate their favorite meals. Early on the colder mornings there was a higher need for electricity so multiple generators were flowing allowing us to catch bigger fish on jerkbaits, gold with a black back or in a brown trout pattern. When demand decreased and current slowed the 1/8-ounce marabou jig in colors white (shad), sculpin (shrimp or crawfish), and even pink always catch fish. Clear water fish love pink, so later in the day when the flow was slowed significantly we switched to a pink trout magnet plastic worm fished on a tiny 1/100-ounce jig head underneath a "strike indicator" (fancy trout fisherman's name for a bobber).
With bald eagles flying overhead and rookeries of great blue herons along the lakeshore, I don't know how life can get any better, unless you add in great hospitality and catching trout like there is no tomorrow.