Fishing Lake Taneycomo


Winter trout fishing on Lake Taneycomo is a great way to beat cabin fever

Just below Table Rock Dam on Lake Taneycomo, the current pulls our drifting, sideways boat slowly downstream. My guide instructs me to cast upstream, to slowly bottom bounce a small, white, Rebel stickbait. Carefully working the lure, suddenly I feel a slight tug on my fishing line and the fight is on.

I’m fishing with longtime friend and pro fishing guide, Billy Babler of Whiteriver Outfitters. Billy is an excellent guide and one of my longtime radio show fishing report guys. Also joining us on this beautiful winter morning is Amanda Masters, fishing marketing specialist with Bass Pro Shops.

Reeling my first wintertime trout to the boat, my guide smiles from ear to ear as he grabs a dip net and scoops my beautiful rainbow from the cold water. Billy’s first choice is bottom-bouncing the white stick bait. Later in the morning, we switch and fish a little pink floater worm. We quickly catch and release lots of trout, both rainbows and browns. All fish fight hard and the action continues all morning.

Making outdoor enjoyment their mission

We are part of the Conservation Federation of Missouri’s (CFM) third annual outdoor media camp in Branson at Lilleys’ Landing Resort on Lake Taneycomo. The Conservation Federation of Missouri is the voice for Missouri outdoors. Approximately 25 outdoor communicators and CFM staff gather for food, fellowship and to experience Taneycomo’s incredible winter trout fishing. We also learn about CFM programs and important legislative issues.

Lake Taneycomo is legendary for its well-stocked rainbow trout population. It also has browns. The water level in Taneycomo, as in all tailwaters, depends on how much water the dam lets through. The water right below Table Rock Dam is usually shallow enough to wade, and attracts fly anglers. The daily trout limit per angler is four. Only one may be a brown and it must be at least 20 inches long.

Trout-taking tactics

Figuring out what the trout are feeding on helps you catch more fish. A grasshopper or other insects probably won’t be on a trout’s menu during the winter. Better choices would be minnows, insect nymphs, larvae, worms and fish eggs. Statistics show 90 percent of the trout that anglers catch are rainbows. Around 700,000 rainbows and 15,000 brown trout are stocked into the lake each year. Natural spawning success for both species is very limited.

Trout also strike spinners that mimic smaller fish, but you must slow down your retrieve. The temperature of a spring creek or a tailwater below a dam can remain stable compared to impounded water. Trout with a slower metabolism will more likely stay in pools or slower currents. You’ll want a smaller lure or bait.

Consistently cold water from the bottom of Table Rock Lake keeps Taneycomo water chilled enough for trout survival, even during the heat of summer. A complex dam with water chutes periodically releases this chilling water. Veteran trout anglers know that winter is usually the best time to catch big trout. The catch rate of trout in Taneycomo’s upper section ranks among the highest for special regulation trout fisheries in the nation.

Billy Babler explains that cold-blooded trout feed less when water temperature drops. Because the water temperature is in the ideal range and plenty of oxygen is in the water during the winter, the trout are active. Add current when the dam generates electricity and the trout often go on the feed.

The fishing heats up

With air temperatures in the 60s and 70s, our group takes advantage of some of the best winter fishing in the country during this year’s CFM Media Camp. We are fortunate to have warm weather. If it’s cold, winter trout fishing requires some preparation. Wearing the correct clothing is an important factor. Wear loose layers of moisture-wicking clothing. Pack breathable, waterproof outerwear, a change of dry clothes and fingerless gloves. It is especially vital to know the symptoms of hypothermia and realize when your body is at risk.

Lake Taneycomo, essentially, is a river that flows 22 miles until it reaches Powersite Dam. Taneycomo is enclosed at both ends so it is called a lake, but it’s actually one of the best trout rivers in the country. Down the lake, the water is deep and slow and allows trout to grow to massive sizes. Many believe the next world-record brown trout will come from Taneycomo. Fishermen also look forward to the brown trout migration, when the river’s largest trout head to the dam to spawn.

Part of the lake is a trophy area where anglers must release rainbows between 12 and 20 inches. Only artificial lures and flies may be used there. As long as the anglers release the trout they catch, they may hook as many fish as they can. To fish anywhere between Table Rock Dam and the Highway 65 bridge, you must have trout permit, as well as a fishing license

Beating winter blues

Wintertime fishing for trout in February is a great way to avoid cabin fever until spring arrives. Trout fishing on lake Taneycomo is good year-round, but winter is one of the best times to catch big ones. Taneycomo offers unsurpassed winter trout fishing that the whole family can enjoy. This February, begin your open-water fishing season adventures early with a trip to Branson Missouri and Lake Taneycomo to enjoy some of the best trout fishing in the world.

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Looking for a slightly more northerly destination? Lake Mille Lacs is where it’s at. 

Author notes:

Ray Eye is a hunting Field Editor for MidWest Outdoors. He was raised in the turkey-rich hills of the Missouri Ozark Mountains and is considered the dean of America’s professional turkey hunters. It’s less widely known that he is an expert at hunting many other animals. Eye has produced an online course, “Calling is Everything,” which teaches you how to call and hunt turkeys during any season. Find it at

Further info on lake and licensing:

Lake Taneycomo is a man-made lake or reservoir on the White River in the Ozark Mountains. It was created in 1913 when the White River was captured by the newly constructed “Power Site” Dam, near Forsyth, Missouri. The completion of Table Rock Dam in 1958, 22 miles upstream, created a southern boundary for the lake, which now consists of over 2,080 surface acres. The reservoir is named for the county in which it is located: Taney County, Missouri. Along with rainbow and brown trout, the lake has some cutthroat trout, bluegills and largemouth and smallmouth bass.


License and trout permit

Missouri residents ages from 16 to 65 must have a Missouri fishing license. All non-residents of Missouri 16 years old and older also need a license. A trout permit is also required to 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.

  • 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.


For more information…

Bill Babler, fishing guide


Lilleys’ Landing Resort & Marina

367 River Ln, Branson, MO 65616