trout fishing in missouri

Trout fishing in Missouri (Everything you need to know)

Here’s literally everything you need to know about trout fishing in Missouri! 

Whether you’re a resident, just passing through or you’ve specifically planned a trip to the bountiful lakes and rivers of Missouri, there’s plenty of trout fishing for everyone. 

You’ll find both rainbow and brown trout in abundance. There are some trophy-sized fish to be on the look-out for too! 

Thanks to careful conservation efforts, monitored fishing restrictions, stocking programs, trout parks, and hatcheries, you’ll be impressed by the ready supply of trout in Missouri, all year round. 

Missouri Fishing License

Before you head out to fly fish Missouri, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got your Missouri fishing license and all the necessary paperwork. To fish for trout in Missouri, you’ll need a trout permit as well as a general fishing permit. 

If you’re just visiting, you should buy the Missouri out of state fishing license, and there’s a permit for residents too. If you fish in trout parks, you’ll need a daily trout fishing tag. 

For fishing at upstream from Highway 65 at Lake Taneycomo, you’ll need a trout permit all year round, and during the winter fishing season at trout parks. You can find out more in-depth information and buy your permits directly from the Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri Fishing Regulations

As well as requiring trout permits, there are some Missouri fishing regulations to be aware of, too. The lakes, rivers, and streams of Missouri have been designated as White Ribbon Areas, Blue Ribbon Areas, and Red Ribbon Areas. 

Here’s a brief overview of what that means for you, but make sure you double-check the regulations for the specific streams you plan to fish: 

White Ribbon Trout Areas

You can fish with any bait in White Ribbon designated areas, and you’re limited each day to four trout. This can include brown trout of 15″ or more, and rainbow trout of any size. The White Ribbon areas are managed to provide fish of a suitable size for the dinner table, and there should be plenty to go round as they are restocked every few weeks. 

Do note that at Stone Mill Spring Branch and Hickory Creek, it’s Catch-and-Release only between November to February. In most other White Ribbon rivers and lakes in Missouri, you can catch trout all year round. 

Red Ribbon Trout Areas

On the Red Ribbon areas, you’re limited to two trout per day, provided they are 15″ or more. You can only use flies or lures, and no soft plastics are allowed at all. The reason behind this is to ensure there are large trout and to encourage responsible harvesting. 

Red Ribbon Areas include the Meramec River, Roubidoux Creek and the North Fork of the White River. 

Blue Ribbon Trout Areas

The Blue Ribbon Trout Fishing Areas are your best bet if you’re on the hunt for a lunker! Your daily limit is one trout, minimum 18″ long. Only flies and lures are allowed, with no soft plastics at all. These areas are carefully managed so as to produce the biggest trout specimens and encourage trout reproduction in the wild.

Blue Ribbon Trout Areas include Barren Fort Creek, Blue Springs Creek, Crane Creek, Current River, Eleven Point River and several more. 

Lake Taneycomo

Lake Taneycomo is the main exemption from the Ribbon system, with its own rules and regulations. Fishing is completely prohibited for 760 ft from Table Rock Dam. From that area down to Fall Creek, flies and lures only are allowed and any trout of between 12-20 inches must be released.

You also need a trout stamp to fish any of Lake Taneycomo’s waterways, whether you intend to harvest or not. Your daily limit is four trout, including one brown trout of more than 20″. 

Missouri Fishing Report

The MDC (Department of Conservation) carries out an annual Missouri Fishing Report survey of the fish populations in 138 bodies of water across the state.

On their website, you can search by fish, by region or body of water to find fishing spots near you, plus the best bets for what you’ll catch in each location. 

Best Trout Flies

Every angler will have his or her own preference towards a certain type of lure or fly. A good idea is to have a few different varieties and to vary it a bit, to see what gives you the best results on any one day.

Your success may depend on variables like the lure size and colour, as well as the water depth and clarity. Once the fish start biting, you know it’s working! Most experienced fly fishers like to have their fly box stocked with a few dry flies, wet flies, and a couple of nymphs too.

We recommend the Elk Hair Caddis dry fly, the Stonefly nymph sizes 8 to 16, and the Soft Hackle wet flies, size 12-18. For more recommendations, we have documented the best flies for spring in this article. These will work for you throughout the state of Missouri.

fly fishing missouri

Best Trout Fishing Lakes and Rives in Missouri

So we’ve gone over all boring essentials like permits, rules, and regulations, now it’s onto the fun part: where to fish! You’ll be spoilt for choice as there are so many excellent spots to go fly fishing for trout in Missouri. If you’ve been thinking, “That sounds great, but where are the places to fish near me?”, we’ve got your answers. Here are a few of the amazing lakes and rivers in Missouri where you’ll be bound to snag a trout or two: 

Maramec Spring Park

The only trout park of the Missouri parks that isn’t also a state park, Maramec Spring Park is definitely worth a visit. Here you’ll find an area of approximately 0.7km for trout fishing, and with rainbow trout stocked every day between March and October, your chances of catching a fish or two are pretty high, even if you’re new at this.

You can expect to have a great trout fishing experience all year round, although you’ll have to catch and release between November and February. Make sure you’ve got your daily trout tag too. If you can time your visit for the fall spawn, you might catch one of the larger rainbow and brown trouts that make the migration up from the Meramec River every year. 

Little Piney Creek

We’re letting you in on a little-known tip here: Little Piney Creek is a great spot for fly fishing for trout if you fancy snatching yourself a wild rainbow trout. You can fish and harvest trout here all year round with no bait restrictions in the White Ribbon area. Rainbow trout are also stocked year round, though the summer fishing can be slow when the water temperatures reach up to 70 degrees.

Do take note of the two Blue Ribbon sections between Milldam Hollow and Phelps County, and again between County Road A-D and the area of Sinking Creek. The easiest way to get to Little Piney Creek is on Highway 63 south from Rolla. 

Montauk State Park

Montauk State Park is often overlooked out of the Missouri parks in favour of the more popular Bennett State Park. But with over 2 miles of stream for white river fishing and fewer visitors even during the height of the busiest season, fishing in this State Park can be more enjoyable and you’ll have a greater chance of catching that trophy-size trout too! Located in southeast Missouri, the fishing is good all year round, though it’s catch-and-release between November to February.

To fish at Montauk State Park, you’ll need a general fishing permit – for non-residents, you can purchase Missouri out of state fishing license – plus a daily trout tag. You can get these at the park’s store, and fishing regulations are displayed too. 

Roubidoux Creek

If you’re wondering, “Where can I find red ribbon near me?”, Roubidoux Creek may be just what you’re after. Flowing through central Missouri near Waynesville, both large rainbow and brown trout can be found here.

While there is a White Ribbon section of the river for about 1 mile from Roubidoux Spring, the next 2.2 miles is Red Ribbon with special regulations. This area has real character and some great fishing spots. If you fish for river trout here, make sure you use only artificial lures. 

Lake Taneycomo

Lake Taneycomo is one of the most well-known trout fishing lakes in Missouri, but there are some special regulations you need to know before you cast your line here. It’s worth getting your head around them though, as Lake Taneycomo has an impressive trout population year-round thanks to the stable water temperature and the ample food supply of scuds and sowbugs.

No fishing is permitted for 760 from Table Rock Dam, and you’ll need a trout permit to fish upstream of Highway 65 Bridge or to possess trout at the lake. If you head just beyond the Table Rock Dam restriction area, you’ll find rainbow trout in abundance and at a decent size for the dinner table. 

Current River

Current River is a prime trout fishing spot in Missouri, with healthy rainbow and brown trout populations. The river is divided into a White Ribbon are and a Blue Ribbon area. You’ll be almost guaranteed to catch something, with daily rainbow trout stockings and the annual brown trout stocking in the Blue Ribbon section.

Although many anglers have a favourite spot to fish in, there are no secrets here – you’ll have great opportunities wherever you base yourself along the Current River. However, only certain areas of the river are wadable, such as Cedars Grove, Akers Ferry, and Welch Springs. You’ll be able to access more of Current River in a raft or canoe. 

Bennett Spring State Park

One of the most popular spots for trout fishing, Bennett State Park sees large numbers of visitors, including out-of-state visitors and residents. There’s good fishing to be had, especially first thing in the morning, but if you prefer to have a stretch of the river all to yourself Bennett Spring State Park definitely isn’t for you.

You’ll have to contend with the crowds here. There are three different zones with their own specific regulations, so check exactly where you’re headed first. With clear, shallow waters, this is a great location for beginner fly fishers to get the hang of trout fishing. With rainbow trout stocked daily from March to October and regular stockings even throughout the winter, your chance of a good catch is high. 

Roaring River – State Park

This trout park offers a fair chance of catching both brown and rainbow trout. It’s a great place to visit if you’re fly fishing with kids or if you’re a beginner yourself. Head to the visitor centre if you need any advice or hints on the best fishing spots, or to the trout hatchery – one of the earliest hatcheries founded in Missouri – to see the 40 raceways.

Otherwise, if you’re aiming for a lunker, get yourself to the White Ribbon area on the edge of the park where larger fish are often found. You’ll need daily trout tags as well as a general fishing permit at the Roaring River Park, and it’s catch-and-release throughout the winter season. 

North Fork Area of the White River

If you’re wondering, “Where are the best places to fish near me to snag a brown trout?”, consider heading to North Fork Area of the White River. When I want to fish red ribbon near me, this is where I go. Very few spots compared to the large population of wild trout at North Fork of the White River Missouri – most anglers are aiming for large brown trouts here.

In the Red Ribbon area, you can only fish with flies and artificial lures. The ideal spot to aim for is between Patrick Bridge and Althea Spring. The Blue Ribbon area stretches from Rainbow Springs 7 miles downstream to Patrick Bridge. You can find great rainbow trout fishing opportunities in the Blue Ribbon section. 

Taneycomo Trout Fishing
Image courtesy of local guide: http://fishingguidebranson.com

The Wrap Up

So there you have the answers to everything you could ever want to know about trout fishing in Missouri. If you plan to fly fish Missouri, you’re all set: 

  • Get the relevant permits you need.
  • Pick the spot that appeals most to you from our list of the best trout lakes and rivers in Missouri.
  • Double-check the regulations for your chosen area, so you know what to expect and how many trout you can harvest each day
  • Kit yourself out with the best trout flies
  • Grab your gear and head off - get stuck into some of that trout fishing action for yourself!

Don’t miss out on some of the most amazing trout fishing there is going. The trout are plentiful, there’s no limit to where to fish in Missouri, and you might just snag yourself a trophy-sized lunker! So get out there and catch yourself some of those Missouri river trout!