Lake Taneycomo is primarily a trout fishery. Angler use and catch rates of trout in upper Lake Taneycomo rank among the highest known for special regulation trout fisheries in the nation. Approximately 90 percent of the fish that anglers catch are rainbow trout, with brown trout comprising another 6-7 percent of the catch. A limited fishery for other species is present within the lower part of the lake, primarily below Rockaway Beach. Rainbow and brown trout populations in Lake Taneycomo are maintained through releases of hatchery-reared trout. Approximately 700,000 rainbow trout and 15,000 brown trout are stocked annually into Lake Taneycomo. Planned monthly adjustments provide heavier stockings during periods of heavy angling use. Natural spawning success for both trout species is very limited. The first 1 1/2 miles of Lake Taneycomo is heavily influenced by hydropower releases. During heavy generation periods, this reach contains deep, swift-moving water. Safe fishing is restricted to shoreline areas and drifting in boats at these times. During non-generation periods, the entire area becomes a series of shallow, slow-moving pools interspersed with a few short, shallow riffles. Boating is difficult and hazardous under these conditions and nearly all anglers either wade or fish from the bank. Boulder clusters were placed for fish habitat in the upper mile of the lake during the fall of 2011 and boaters should be cautious of obstacles when boating above the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery boat ramp. Deeper water limits further downstream wade fishing and boat fishing becomes progressively more popular downstream. Cooper Creek Access, Rockaway Beach Access, and Empire Electric Park each have covered public fishing docks that are accessible to disabled users. Several fishing docks are also available to the public in the Branson Lakeside RV Park and along the lakefront at the Branson Landing. Numerous privately owned docks and resorts offer additional fishing access.
Table Rock Dam to Fall Creek: Due to bait restrictions and a 12-20 inch protected slot limit, this area consistently maintains a higher fish density than the portions of the lake below Fall Creek. Here, anglers are required to immediately release all rainbow trout between 12 inches and 20 inches. When surveyed in August 2015, the percentage of rainbow trout greater than 13 inches and 16 inches in this reach was 66 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Only artificial lures and flies may be used in the upper 3 miles from Table Rock Dam to the mouth of Fall Creek. Soft plastics and natural and scented baits are prohibited in this area. No trout are stocked within this reach; however, densities remain high due to low harvest and fish immigration. Fly fishing has become the most popular form of angling in this area. Scuds, sow bugs, and soft hackles are popular fly patterns.
Below Fall Creek: Due to increased harvest and shorter retention time, the size structure of rainbow trout within this area reflects a put-and-take fishery. The percentage of rainbow trout greater than 13 inches usually fluctuates from 20-40 percent annually. Routine stockings keep fish densities adequate throughout this area and the absence of a length limit for rainbow trout in this area improves the likelihood of keeping a limit of trout. Fishing with natural and scented baits is popular in this area in addition to artificial lures and flies.
The brown trout population is in excellent condition. Lakewide, 60 percent of the brown trout were greater than 13 inches in 2015, and 23 percent were greater than 16 inches. Four percent of brown trout sampled in 2015 were greater than the minimum length limit of 20 inches.
All three species of black bass are present in Lake Taneycomo, however largemouth bass comprise the majority of the black bass population. Electrofishing surveys conducted in the spring of 2014 indicate that a quality population of largemouth bass exists. In the 2014 surveys, the percentage of largemouth bass 12 inches or more was 79 percent, and the percentage of largemouth bass 15 inches or more was 39 percent. Most of the bass fishing takes place in the warmer water of the lower lake, mainly below Rockaway Beach. Bluegill fishing opportunities exist in the lower lake as well. Approximately 30 percent of bluegill sampled in 2014 were greater than 6 inches. A fair population of black crappie in the 7-12 inch range are present in the lake and can provide good fishing in the winter and spring. If the flows from Table Rock Dam are high in the spring, walleye, smallmouth bass, and white bass can be caught below the dam.
Predominant benthic invertebrates include three primary taxa: Amphipoda (scuds), Isopoda (sowbugs), and Chironomidae (midge larvae). Sculpins and crayfish are also important food items for larger trout. Most large brown trout are caught during the fall as they move upstream attempting to spawn. Fishing at night with stickbaits and large flies are effective lures for these brown trout below the dam. Due to low dissolved oxygen conditions present in Lake Taneycomo in the fall, anglers should attempt to minimize the time that they fight and handle fish caught below the dam to ensure the health of the fish. All anglers fishing in Lake Taneycomo upstream from the Highway 65 bridge near Branson are required to have a trout permit and a trout permit is required for all anglers lakewide in order to possess trout. The daily limit of trout is four (4) with a possession limit of eight (8). Of these, only one (1) fish in the daily limit and two (2) fish in the possession limit may be brown trout, and the minimum length limit for brown trout throughout the lake is 20 inches. Fishing for fish other than trout is subject to statewide regulations for impoundments. See the Wildlife Code of Missouri (http://mdc.mo.gov/node/9216) for details.