Table Rock Dam was authorized for construction in 1941 by Congress to control flooding and create a hydroelectric dam. Approximately 1.23 million cubic yards of concrete and 3.32 million cubic yards of earth embankment were assembled to create a dam, eventually releasing chilling water into the White River, creating Lake Taneycomo.
Water released from 140-foot depths maintain an annual 45-degree water temperature that is ideal for rainbow and brown trout. About 600,000 rainbow and 10,000 brown trout are stocked annually in this unique lake.
Thousands of trout enthusiasts visit Taneycomo to catch and dine on the tasty rainbow trout. The majority are caught on Powerbait, worms, jigs and other types of baits. A few survive and become trophy-sized rainbows or browns making Lake Taneycomo a world-class trout destination. Guides and veteran anglers in this unique area encourage catch and release of bigger trout to make this fishery legendary.
Scott Sandusky caught the current lake record brown trout in 2009, which weighed 28 pounds, 12 ounces. Mark Clemishire caught and released the unofficial lake record rainbow trout in 2013. It had a 31-inch length and 23-inch girth, estimated at over 20 pounds. Jason Jasper has the current recorded state record, a fish weighing over 18 pounds caught from Roaring River State Trout Park in 2004.
A world record brown trout was found floating dead in Taneycomo Lake several years ago. The fish measured 41.75 inches, which easily surpassed the 40.25-inch length of the current world-record brown trout. Estimates claimed the trout could have weighed more than the 40.25-pound brown trout recognized as the all-tackle world record by the International Game Fish Association.
“There may still be a world record here,” said Phil Lilley, veteran Taneycomo trout guide and owner of Lilleys’ Landing. “But being in the lake and being caught are two different things and these fish survive a lot of fishing pressure. We have seen both rainbow and brown trout that could beat the current state record in Taneycomo.”
Experts claim there are several brown trout in the lake more than 30 pounds and possibly heavier. But not all trophy fish are records and the beauty of Taneycomo is you might catch a decent brown or rainbow at any time. Scott Heminger, an outdoor communicator attending the Conservation Federation of Missouri Media Camp, learned anything is possible when you fish Lake Taneycomo.
“I never had tried fly fishing,” Heminger said. “Our guide, Brett Rader, tied on a San Juan Worm with an orange ball. This was my first time using a fly rod.”
Sometime that afternoon, Heminger’s flies disappeared off the surface. The trout combined with water currents being released from three turbines at Table Rock Dam doubled the fly rod. The 23-inch rainbow trout, estimated at 6 pounds was photographed, measured and quickly released. A trout this size would be big news in some areas, but not on Lake Taneycomo.
“One of the biggest browns I personally caught here was a 17-¾-pounder, on a jig while browns were busting shad.” Duane Doty, top Taneycomo guide said. “We were catching several browns in the 7 to 9-pound range on jerkbaits and crankbaits. I fished down there during my spare time when not guiding and over the year I caught 15 to 20 trout over 20 inches. I decided to start targeting bigger fish and now catch and release between 150 to 200 trophy fish over 20 inches per year.”
Doty recently had a client say he had fished Taneycomo 20 years and never caught a big trout. The man went out with Doty for a couple of hours and hooked a brown in the 7 to 9-pound range that tail walked across the surface. The fish threw his hook and the man almost laid down in the boat and cried, thinking he missed his chance. About 20 minutes later, he landed a 23-inch brown trout and stopped his 30-year jinx.
“I recommend anglers try a lure that suspends for big Taneycomo trout,” Doty said. “You have all different types of water conditions here, from zero generation to four units of flow. Find lures that suspend in the 7 to 9-foot range for heavy water and a lure that suspends three to four feet for shallow areas. Be aggressive and keep the lures moving to trigger predatory instincts that signal eat it now or lose it.”
Doty makes his own suspending lures with colors more common in Taneycomo forage. He started by creating a juvenile rainbow trout and sculpin colors. Each lure takes three hours to build by air brushing. Dots are placed by the air brush and three or four different colors are blended in his 22-step process.
When you catch a trophy fish, only keep it out of the water long as you can hold your breath. Keep the fish in your net with its head under the water, lift it for a picture and then back in the water until release so that trophy trout can fight again.
“Lake Taneycomo is one of the best tail-water lakes in the United States,” Doty said. “There are quality trout in this lake and you are not going to catch them all of the time. I see the new state record brown trout from here in the 30 pound plus range over the next two years. You may even see a world record from Lake Taneycomo.”
FISHING TANEYCOMO: Lilley’s Landing offers clean rooms, rental boats, guided fishing, dock access for fishing and a well-stocked fly/tackle shop. For more information, visit lilleyslanding.com or call 417-334-6380. Want to fish with Doty, check his web site at Ozarktroutrunners.com or call 417-294-8672.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.