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How to Fish Lake Taneycomo - Missouri

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How to Fish Lake Taneycomo - Missouri How to Fish Lake Taneycomo - Missouri

Lake Taneycomo has many characteristics. She was created a river, but men made her a lake, building a dam at her head -- Table Rock -- and a dam at her bottom -- Powersite. Both dams use water to power big generators, creating electricity. Thus Taney can still flow like a river with strong current cutting channels and piling up gravel bars in her upper end. But she also can sit still like a lake with a little current felt at the headwater.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the dam facility. It throws the switches. The Southwest Power Administration coordinates and brokers the power generated by a grid of dams and coal burning plants in several midwestern states. These agencies together consider three major priorities when managing water:

1. Flood Control
2. Power Demand
3. Recreation (boating and fishing)

And in that order are they ranked.

Schedules? When are “they” going to run water? No one knows for sure, but many times you can give it a good guess. Look at the pattern. Look at the lake levels- Table Rock and Beaver. If the lakes are high (above power pool levels) and we’re in a rainy season with rain in the forecast, you can bet they will run water. If it’s real hot or real cold, there’s a good chance they will run water. But. . . . there’s more electricity used during weekdays than on weekends, so there may be less generation during the weekends than weekdays, sometimes. Monday and Fridays carry the hardest flows, as a rule.


When operating a boat on this lake when the Corps is running water, you must give the current proper respect. When drifting, be aware of obstacles next to shore such as over-hanging and fallen trees and flooded islands with trees. Do not tie up to anything in fast, moving water or use an anchor in moving water at all! Every year, boats are pulled under while dragging anchors in current to keep their boats straight. An anchor hangs up on the bottom, pulling the boat under the surface of the water at the point where the anchor rope is attached. The boat fills with water so fast that often the operator doesn't have time to cut the anchor rope. Don't use anchors in moving water!

Shallow gravel bars can make Lake Taneycomo rough on motor propellers. When the water is off, when no water is passing though the generators, the lake stabilizes at a normal level. If this level seems low, it is. Upstream from Branson there are several bad spots. Gravel bars just below Cooper Creek, at Short Creek and Fall Creek to mention a few. Above Fall Creek, it just gets shallow!! The closer to the dam you travel, the shallower it gets. When boating, you must be aware of these places or you will hit bottom and damage your motor.

Stop and get a good lake map at one of the resorts or marinas on the lake. Of course, Lilleys’ Landing has one of the best maps around -- and they’re free.

Basic Trout Fishing

Four main ingredients are needed for a successful trout fishing trip:

1. Two- to four-pound line is a must when using almost any kind of trout bait or lures. There are a few exceptions. Bigger crank baits like Rapalas and Rogues and larger spoons and spinners require heavier line such as six- or eight-pound test. The line should be green or clear, not incandescent or blue. Monofilament is good. Fluorocarbon is ok. Braided line, I wouldn’t recommend.

2. A good ultra-light rod and reel are the best. The rod should be five- to seven-foot long with medium to light action. The reel needs to be one that holds plenty of line with a good drag system.

3. Small weights, hooks or lures are important because hook size is critical. Trout, especially rainbows, have small, soft mouths. Numbers 6, 8 and 10 are average sizes for any type of bait used. Short, bronze hooks are recommended. Weights should only be heavy enough for successful casting. You won't be able to feel the trout bite if there's too much weight.

4. Patience and a light hand complete the presentation. Trout typically don’t strike hard. They tend to pick at their food like a little kid eating spinach. I’ve witnessed rainbows taking a piece of worm in their mouths only to blow them out. Or they will take the tip of the worm and shake their head violently, tearing it off the hook. Are they smart? It seems so. But don’t give them too much credit. Generally they are easy to catch.

Bait Fishing with no Water Running

There are several techniques to catch trout. One of the most popular and easiest is bait fishing. When the water is not moving, sit in one spot, whether on the bank, on a dock or in a boat. Throw your bait out, let it sink to the bottom, and leave it there, drawing in slack line after the bait hits the bottom. Either hold the rod or set it down until the line moves or the rod tip jerks. Set the hook sharply, then reel. Don't get into a hurry -- enjoy the fight. That's what it's all about. It's a good idea to have a net handy. Trout mouths are soft, and the hook will tear out right at the edge of your reach. When fishing from a boat, the technique is basically the same. Anchor in a good spot, throw out your line and let the bait settle to the bottom. Wait for the strike and set the hook.

Bait Fishing During Generation (moving water)

From the dock or bank, throw upstream using a little more weight. Let the bait sink and bump along the gravel bottom. Trout stay close to the bottom, looking for food drifting by. The strike will feel different than the bumping, like a pull and bump. Set the hook sharply --harder than still fishing because there will be more slack in your line from the current. One thing to remember: The harder the water is running, the more weight you will need to get to the bottom, but too much weight will cause you to hang up more often. When drifting, position your boat sideways in the current. This allows everyone in the boat to fish directly behind the boat and causes fewer tangles. A drift rig is a pre-made rig with about 36 inches of four-pound line. A hook is tied to one end and a weight tied to the other. A loop is then tied towards the sinker side of the middle. This is where the line from your rod and reel is attached. We recommend using a snap swivel. Drag the bait along the bottom

Live Bait Choices

Years ago, the old standby baits were salmon eggs, marshmallows and Velvetta cheese you rolled into balls. Now the premier choice is a patented, scented bait called Power Bait. The bait comes in several different forms and many bright, modeling-clay type colors. They're fished in different ways. Eggs are used when drifting or sitting dead in the water. Nuggets and dough-type bait are generally used when the water is off. Power Bait floats off the bottom, making it easier for the trout to see and take. Power Bait can be used with other baits, either as an attractant or to float the baits off the bottom. Salmon eggs are still a good bait but are just not used as much. There are basically two kinds of eggs, dry pack and oil pack. Dry-pack eggs aren't packed with anything but the egg itself. Dry eggs are used when still fishing. Oil-pack eggs are packed in oil, either scented or unscented. They are generally larger and softer, and used for drifting. Oil-pack eggs come in several colo

Minnows are other live bait used in the winter, spring and summer months. Small forage fish are a big part of a trout’s diet in Lake Taneycomo. In the winter and/or spring, thread-finned shad sometimes flow from Table Rock Lake into Taneycomo and are gulped up by waiting trout. Minnows are a good substitute for shad and usually catch a little nicer trout. Brown trout also tend to target minnows more than any other bait. Use a small hook, about an #8 or #10 and either a drift rig or just a hook and split shot. Hook the minnow in both lips or through the eyes. Let the minnow bump the bottom or use it under a float four- to five-feet deep. When the minnow is taken, give some line by dropping the rod tip toward the fish. Let the trout gulp the minnow well into its mouth before setting the hook. Remember, the hook is in the head of the minnow and the trout will take the minnow tail first.

Besides drifting, fishing minnows in eddies, areas where water forms a pocket behind trees or a point in the bank, can be fruitful. You need to tie off above the eddy and let the minnow dangle downstream in the slack water. It’s imperative to let the trout take it before setting the hook, or you'll lose the bait and miss the fish. When anchoring or tying off, ALWAYS tie off from the very front of the boat -- and even then, use caution. Don’t anchor in swift current at all. Try to anchor in the eddy where the water is slow. Anchoring in swift current can cause the boat to be pulled under in just a moment’s notice. Several people have drowned in Lake Taneycomo because an anchor was used unwisely, swamping the boat.

Artificial Lure Choices

Jigs used to intimidate me! To look at a jig and think you could really catch a fish with one was pretty unbelievable, or it was to me. The first time I used a marabou jig (a feather or doll jig) was the first summer we moved to Branson in 1983. A fellow from Georgia showed me how to work a small 1/32-ounce, brown jig off the bluff bank across the lake from our resort, and we caught lots of rainbows. It really was simple. Let the jig sink while paying close attention to the feel of the line, watching the line and rod tip. Lift the rod tip fairly sharply using your wrist, make a couple of turns on the reel and let the jig settle again. The deeper the water you’re fishing, the longer you let the jig sink. Here's the tricky part. A trout will take the jig on the drop 90 percent of the time. It will feel like a tap -- sometimes sharp, sometimes light -- or the line will go slack slightly before hitting the bottom. Sometimes when you begin to jig or lift the rod tip, the trout is right

When the water is running, go to a heavier jig -- 1/16, 3/32, 1/8, 1/4-ounce. Trout will usually hold near the bottom when there is current but will come all the way to the surface for food. For the best results, drop your bait to the bottom and keep it there as long as possible. Working a jig off the bottom can be harder in moving water than in still water because you are dealing with current and turbulence that turns and twists your line. That’s the reason for the heavier jig. You'll have a straighter line from the tip of your rod to the jig, thus a better feel for the strike with heavier jigs.

“Jig-and-float” is a fun way to catch trout. Using two- to four-pound line, run a carrot float up your line and fish the jig at four- to seven-feet deep, depending on the condition you’re fishing. Tie a small jig on the end. There are some pretty small jigs out there, such as the micro jigs, sold as low as 1/256 of an ounce. But the common weights are 1/80t and 1/100 ounce. Common colors are white, brown, olive, pink, ginger, sculpin (olive drab) and black, as will as combinations of colors -- black/yellow, orange/brown, gray/red, sculpin/ginger, red/white and sculpin with an orange head. You might have to pinch on a small split-shot just below the float if you’re having trouble casting. Place the shot up against the float to avoid tangling.

There aren't any bad areas on Lake Taneycomo to use this technique. The ideal area is from the Branson bridges to Table Rock Dam. Above Short Creek, look for the edge of the channel and fish the drop-off. This should be located close to the middle of the lake. If the jig drags the bottom, move the float down. Movement is important — it make the jigs appear alive. Wind creates a chop on the surface of the water, which in turn, bobs the float and moves the jig. If the water is smooth as glass, twitch the floats every 5 to 10 seconds. The strike can be subtle or obvious, but mostly subtle. It can be very hard to see when the water is choppy. That’s why you have to pay close attention to the float and watch for it to tip up or dive down. Set the hook hard and fast. Keep up with your line slack. You can’t set the hook when you have too much slack between your rod tip and the float.

With the water running this technique is also good. Depth of water increases with water flow, so the depth you fish the jig will change. Fish as deep as your equipment will allow. The longer the rod the deeper or more line you can throw; it takes a long rod to set the hook on this deeper rig.

Small spoons are another way to fool trout. Little Cleos, Kastmasters, Buoant Spoons, Super Dupers, Spin-A-Lures and Krocodile are just a few of the brand names used for trout. Spoons can be used either in still or moving water. When there is no generation, small spoons thrown over gravel bars and retrieved slowly lure many trout. Working a spoon slowly in deep water pools is another good technique. When the water is moving, let the spoon settle near the bottom and jerk it up, letting it flutter back towards the bottom. The trout will strike as it falls. I’ve even found that you can drift Kastmasters on the bottom during generation and surprisingly, they don’t hang up very much. Best area to do this is from the dam down to Fall Creek (trophy area).

Spinners, such as Rooster Tails, Mepps and Panther Martins are great lures for trout. Retrieve a light spinner steadily through shallow water when water is off, especially when you see trout "nipping” the surface. Work eddies, where the current swirls behind objects in the water's path, with spinners, jerking and letting the spinner move in the swell.

Then there are the always faithful crank baits such as Rapala, Husky Jerk, Rouge, Flatfish and Blue Fox. In still water, work a flatfish in shallow water where trout are feeding. In the morning and evenings when light is low, throw a floating Rapala in fairly deep to deep, channel water, retrieve it quickly to drop it down, and then jerk it as you retrieve. Try this—after getting it down, stop it dead, jerk it and retrieve and stop again. Both rainbows and browns will follow the bait and either hit it when it stops or just follow it all the way to the boat without striking but 9 of 10 times, they’ll strike it when it’s dead in the water. This technique works best when using suspending baits. Work bluff banks and especially around underwater trees and other structure—browns hide during the day and come out at night generally. Colors- silver, gold, rainbow styles and bright, shiny colors. Don’t be shy on size—go big. Seven to 13 inch baits so exceptionally well on all size trout.

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