12 Top-Rated Trout Fishing Lakes & Rivers in Missouri
Missouri can easily lay claim to some of the best trout fishing in the United States. That is quite remarkable given that trout are not native to the state. Intense conservation efforts like creating trout parks, special restriction and permit areas, statewide fish hatcheries, and robust stocking programs have made Missouri a top destination for anglers looking for year-round trout fishing opportunities.
With a vast range of rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, and tributaries, anglers can target rainbow and brown trout in high numbers and even head into the water searching for a lunker (a trout longer than 18 inches). Many waterways are stocked with rainbow and brown trout throughout the year, and some locations are even stocked daily from March through October.
Trout parks have impressive fish hatcheries and some of the best trout fishing in Missouri. There are usually special regulations and zones within these parks, with specifications on flies, baits, and lures that can be used, and catch limits. The trout parks throughout the state have pamphlets available. Some trout parks like Bennett, Montauk State Park, and Maramec Spring Park also have specific trout fishing seasons. While winters can be bitter in Missouri, hard-core anglers can enjoy the winter trout fishing options throughout the state in major cities like Kansas City and St. Louis, where rainbow trout are stocked in designated lakes.
There are many streams and lakes in the state, designated as Red, White, and Blue-Ribbon Trout Areas, making it easy for anglers to identify what they can target and what to expect when heading to the water. Red means the water is stocked mostly with brown trout, and special regulations apply for use of artificial lures and catch-and-release, but these areas provide excellent habitats for trout, which increase your chances for catching a good size. Blue Ribbon Areas have excellent waters, with habitats that support trout reproduction and growth. And, White Ribbon Areas are coldwater streams that support trout populations, and areas that get periodic stocking of rainbow and some brown trout.
Trout fishing requires a special trout permit, and some trout parks also require daily trout tags. For more information and to obtain a fishing license, the Missouri Department of Conservation is your best resource. Find out more about the state's best waterways with our list of the top trout fishing lakes and rivers in Missouri.
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1. Bennett Spring State Park
The waterways at Bennett Spring State Park in southwest Missouri, including the Niangua River and Bennett Spring, provide excellent fishing opportunities for rainbow and brown trout. The stream is stocked, the water is clear, and the conditions are generally shallow. You must have a fishing permit and a daily trout tag to fish these waters and be aware of the three fishing zones, which each have specific regulations. There is daily rainbow trout stocking from March through October, and anglers generally see high numbers of catches. It is catch-and-release only fishing from November through February, with seasonal regulations for bait (only flies can be used) and trout are stocked throughout the winter. The best accessibility to fishing waters at Bennett Spring State Park is from Highway 65 from I-44 to the park entrance.
Address: 26250 MO-64A, Lebanon, Missouri
2. Lake Taneycomo
With 40 miles of shoreline, Lake Taneycomo in southern Missouri is renowned for being one of the best trout fishing lakes in all of the United States. The reason is simple: it is stocked annually with 600,000 rainbow trout and 10,000 brown trout, making for great year-round fishing. The lake has specific fishing regulations that are important to know in order to have the best experience. Trout permits are required to fish upstream of the Highway 65 bridge, permits are required to possess any trout at the lake, and there is no fishing below Table Rock Dam for 760 feet. Anglers who go just beyond that restricted area by the dam find excellent opportunities for rainbow trout because the dam creates an ideal environment, with bottom waters averaging around 48 degrees. While anglers can wade in the water, fishing by boat is advised in the deeper downstream water. The easiest access to the lake is from the trails near the hatchery, which are also used for hiking.
3. Roubidoux Creek
The Roubidoux Creek is an excellent trout stream located along Highway 17 outside of Waynesville, which flows through Central Missouri. While this Red Ribbon Trout Area has seen smaller brown trout in recent years, the occasional trophy brown trout does come out of these waters. Rainbow trout in this section are healthy in numbers and are regularly in excess of the 15-inch-length limit. This is a special regulation area (artificial lures only) for 2.2 miles, flowing downstream of the business bridge on I-44 in Waynesville to its connection with the Gasconade River. The White Ribbon Trout Area along Roubidoux Creek is upstream about a half mile below the I-44 business bridge in Waynesville and runs for nearly a mile. The best rainbow trout fishing in the White Ribbon section is after a trout stocking, which generally happens once a month.
4. Maramec Spring Park
The Maramec Spring Park fishery is a phenomenal trout park for year-round fishing. It is unique because it is the only trout park in Missouri that is not a state park. Rainbow trout are stocked throughout the spring and daily from March through October. Anglers especially enjoy this park during the fall spawn when they can target large rainbow trout and brown trout that have migrated up from the Maramec River. If you are lucky enough to land a lunker, you can get involved in Missouri's "I Released a Lunker" program. Earn a Grand Slam patch if you catch and release a lunker in all four trout parks in the state. To hedge your bet, hit the Maramec Spring Park waters immediately after the spring stock because there are always a few lunkers deliberately included in the batch. Anglers need a fishing permit and daily trout tag. Be aware that there are seasonal regulations, like catch-and-release only from November through February.
Address: 2180 Maramec Spring Drive, St. James Township, Missouri
5. Current River
The Current River in southeastern Missouri has some of the most productive waters for trout fishing in the state, especially in the Ozark region. This is an excellent river system with varying conditions, making for enjoyable trout fishing mostly because it is a conservation region. Brown trout are stocked every spring, and your chances of landing trophy-sized fish are high. Some brown trout in conservation samples ranged upwards of six pounds.
There is a Blue Ribbon Trout Area along a nine-mile stretch of the river from Montauk State Park to Cedar Grove Bridge where large brown trout are often spotted. The area has special regulations (only flies and artificial lures are allowed) with size and daily limits. Anglers targeting rainbow trout should head to a two-mile stretch between Montauk State Park and Baptist Access. Trout are not stocked in the conservation area but they do migrate downstream out of the trout park, where they can easily reach trophy size. The other area to target is the 7.7-mile White Ribbon Trout Area just downstream from the Cedar Grove Bridge crossing. This area has fewer anglers than the trout park, and the stream section is easily navigated by wading or floating. This section is stocked with rainbow and brown trout, which thrive in coldwater streams.
6. Montauk State Park
Anglers enjoy the year-round fishing at Montauk State Park at the Montauk Spring branch located near Salem off Highway 119 in southeast Missouri. The waters have healthy populations of brown and rainbow trout and excellent winter fishing with catch-and-release from November through February. This park is divided into three different zones, which anglers need to know before tossing a line into the water. One zone is catch-and-release and includes Montauk Lake and the section of stream below the lake to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) spillway. The second zone is a flies-only area that includes the stream from Montauk Springs to the CCC Mill Dam on the main channel. The third zone is the section below the CCC Spillway and the main channel below the CCC Mill Dam to the boundary of the lower park, which is a natural and artificial bait area. Fishing in Montauk State Park requires a permit and daily trout tag.
Location: 9025, 345 County Road 6670, Salem, Missouri
7. Little Piney Creek
Anglers flock to the Ozark region for prime trout fishing, but since the options are so vast, it is helpful to know about places like Little Piney Creek where healthy populations of wild and stocked rainbow trout thrive. The wild trout are smaller in size, but rainbows over 20 inches do exist in the water. There are several special regulation areas along Little Piney Creek. There is a 9.9-mile Blue Ribbon Trout Area in several sections from Phelps County line to Milldam Hollow Access and another Blue Ribbon Trout Area from County Road A-D to Sinking Creek for 3.2 miles. The coldwater White Ribbon Trout area runs downstream from Milldam Hollow Access for 3.7 miles. Access to the creek is easiest from the Lane Springs Recreation Area, with a campground and ample parking, or just above the Highway 63 bridge.
8. Eleven Point River
The clear, tranquil water in the Eleven Point River in southeastern Missouri, which flows through the Mark Twain National Forest, is a popular spot for trout anglers. Rainbow trout are stocked throughout the year. Anglers after larger rainbow trout should try the Blue Ribbon Trout Area that runs 5.5 miles from Greer Spring Branch junction to Turner Mill Access. There are both stocked and wild rainbow trout, with some spotted here in excess of 20 inches in length. The White Ribbon Trout Area is located downstream from Turner Mill Access for a 14.2-mile section of river that is stocked with rainbow trout. Eleven Point River has plenty of public access points. The best access is from Highway 19 from Winona to the north, Thayer to the south, and another six river access points on Highway 19. You can also access the river from Highway 160 from West Plain to the west and Doniphan to the east. Some access points were impacted by a major flood in 2017. Anglers can check with the U.S. Forest Service for access point status.
9. Barren Fork Creek
If you are looking for a picturesque environment for a quiet day of trout fishing, you cannot do better than the Barren Fork Creek in South Central Missouri. This is also the water to test your fishing skills as the trout here are known to be relatively challenging to catch. The fish are smaller in size, but the rewards come by proving your angling skills on this waterway. The best opportunity for bigger trout is in the section from Highway 63 north to Vida Slab. This is not a stocked waterway, and the natural environment places challenges of brush and narrow areas. There are several sections along a nearly 10-mile stretch from Phelps County line to Milldam Hollow Access that are Blue Ribbon Trout Areas as is the 3.2-mile section from County Road A-D to Sinking Creek. The White Ribbon Trout Area extends downstream from Milldam Hollow Access for 3.7 miles. There are several walk-in access points on Highway A and Highway 250-B, as well as where Barren Fork Creek converges with Sinking Creek.
10. Roaring River State Park
The Roaring River State Park is a trout park with excellent fishing opportunities for brown and rainbow trout. The park is divided into three zones, which each have specific regulations. This is an ideal trout fishing location for families, kids, and first-timers getting used to the Missouri waterways as there is a visitor center on-site with experts who can offer advice about fishing regulations, water conditions, and tips for landing a catch. Just beyond the state park is a White Ribbon Trout Area on the Roaring River for four miles to Table Rock Lake with rainbows and brown trout and superb opportunities to catch larger trout. Roaring River State Park requires a fishing permit and daily trout tags. The on-site fish hatchery is one of the oldest in the state, established in 1910. It is worth going to the head of the Roaring River near Roaring River Spring to see the large hatchery with 40 raceways to see the various stages of development.
Location: 12716 Farm Road 2239, Cassville, Missouri
11. Cane Creek
Flowing through southwest Missouri, Cane Creek is a terrific waterway for targeting wild rainbow trout. It was originally stocked in the late 1800s from the McCloud River in California, and the trout populations have sustained reproduction on their own ever since. There are high concentrations of trout ranging from 5-18 inches in the creek. Some trout reach over the minimum length of 18 inches. The Blue Ribbon Trout Area extends eight miles upstream from Quail Spur Crossing on Stone County Road 13-195. The Blue Ribbon section is excellent trout habitat, with many smaller streams that support wild trout reproduction. Part of the creek runs through the Wire Road Conservation Area, so anglers should heed the special regulations that are in place. There is public access at the Wire Road Conservation Area and the city park located at Crane Creek.
12. North Fork of the White River
While the North Fork of the White River produces quality brown trout, anglers tend to catch fewer than in previous years. Brown trout is the main target here as they are stocked, but rainbow trout populations also exist. The best bet for rainbow trout is in the Blue Ribbon Trout Area, which runs from Rainbow Spring to Patrick Bridge for 8.6 miles, where anglers can catch healthy trout greater than 18 inches. Anglers targeting brown trout should head to the Red Ribbon Trout Area from Patrick Bridge to Norfork Lake for seven miles, where there are stocked trout in the spring and fall. The best access points to this waterway are in Hebron, Blair Bridge, and Patrick Bridge in the Ozark region.