The 16 Best Trout Fishing Rivers and Lakes in Missouri: Expert Guide (2024)

Missouri Trout Fishing Feature Image

When it comes to incredible trout fishing, few places rival the abundant offerings that Missouri has in store. The state’s unique blend of natural beauty, diverse water systems, and well-managed fisheries combine to create a trout angling experience that stands out on a national scale.

The Show-Me State boasts an array of rivers, streams, and lakes that are regularly stocked with various trout species, including rainbow trout, brown trout, and the occasional brook trout or brookies that provide a consistent and exciting fishing experience throughout the year. 

What truly sets Missouri apart from other states is its dedication to carefully implemented regulations that promote sustainable fishing practices and help maintain the quality of its fisheries. Whether you’re an avid angler or a newcomer, Missouri’s trout angling scene has something extraordinary to offer.

Missouri Trout Species

While rainbow trout and brown trout are the primary focus of Missouri’s stocking programs, there are occasional reports of cutthroat trout and brookies being caught in the state’s waterways. However, these species are not nearly as common as rainbow and brown and are normally just part of experimental breeding and restocking programs. 

Cutthroat trout are known for their distinctive red or orange slashes on the underside of their jaws and are more common in the western US states, while brooks exhibit vibrant colors and are often associated with cooler, more pristine waters of the eastern states.

Brown Trout

Brown trout are a significant contributor to Missouri’s trout angling reputation. Known for their elusive nature and impressive size, browns often challenge anglers with their cunning behavior. Their colors range from golden brown to olive, adorned with black and red spots. Browns thrive in both cold and warmer waters, allowing them to inhabit a wide range of habitats, from small streams to larger rivers and reservoirs.

Rainbow Trout

Wild rainbow trout are known for their vibrant pink stripe along their sides and the striking array of colors they exhibit and are a staple species of Missouri’s trout fisheries. These hard-fighting fish are prized for their energetic resistance when hooked, making them a favorite target for anglers seeking thrilling battles. Their adaptability to various water conditions and diets, along with their remarkable growth rates, have led to their prevalence in many of Missouri’s rivers and lakes.

Missouri Trout Water Classification

In Missouri, the conservation of trout populations and the enhancement of angling experiences are achieved through a system that includes various types of fishing areas, stocking programs, and regulations. Among these, the Blue Ribbon areas, Red Ribbon areas, and White Ribbon areas, as well as Winter Trout Lakes, play pivotal roles in providing diverse opportunities for trout angling enthusiasts.

Blue Ribbon Trout Areas are top-tier trout locations known for their exceptional water quality, habitat, and trout populations. Blue Ribbon Trout Areas receive regular stockings of rainbow trout and brown trout, making them prime destinations for anglers seeking high-quality fishing experiences. These areas often have specific regulations aimed at preserving the health of the fisheries and maintaining sustainable populations.

Similar to Blue Ribbon Trout Areas, a Red Ribbon Trout Area will also offer quality fishing opportunities, but they may have slightly lower stocking rates or slightly different regulations. These areas are still carefully managed to provide enjoyable fishing experiences, although they might not have the same level of trout abundance as Blue Ribbon Trout Areas.

White Ribbon Trout Areas are typically more accessible and provide ample opportunities for trout angling. White Ribbon Trout Areas are often found in urban or suburban settings, making them convenient options for anglers who may not be able to travel long distances to reach other trout locations. These areas offer a mix of fishing experiences, from family-friendly outings to more serious angling pursuits.

In addition to river and stream fishing, Missouri offers a unique opportunity for winter trout fishing in designated lakes. Winter Trout Lakes are stocked with trout during the colder months, providing anglers with a chance to enjoy trout angling even when traditional river and stream angling may be less feasible due to weather conditions. These lakes are carefully managed to ensure successful winter angling experiences.

The Best Missouri Trout Rivers and Streams

1. Roubidoux Creek

Missouri Trout Fishing Roubidoux Creek

Located in south-central Missouri, Roubidoux Creek is accessible through a couple of city parks and public areas. It is gaining recognition as a trout fishing destination thanks to its clear spring-fed creek with rocky features that are home to rainbows and browns. Trout average around 10-14 inches and are most responsive to fly angling with nymphs, dry flies, and small streamers, as well as spinning artificial lures.

2. Little Red River

Missouri Trout Fishing Little Red River

Located in southern Missouri, the Little Red River is accessible through various public and private access points along the length of the river. Known for its productive trout fishery, the tailwater river is filled with controlled water releases from Greers Ferry dam. Home to rainbows and browns that can reach impressive sizes, the best results are spin angling as well as fly fishing using midges and streamers.

3. Crane Creek

Missouri Trout Fishing Crane Creek

Located in southwest Missouri and accessible through public areas and private properties, Crane Creek is gaining popularity among local anglers. This clear creek has a diverse habitat that is home to a huge number of rainbow trout and brown trout. The fish reach 14 inches on average, with larger trophies being somewhat common. Fly angling with nymphs, dry flies, and small streamers or light tackle artificial lures is very popular here.

4. North Fork White River

Missouri Trout Fishing North Fork of the White River

Located in southern Missouri, the North Fork River has various access points, both public and private, along its length. Known for its scenic beauty and relatively untouched nature, the pristine river with clear water and gravel bottoms is the perfect habitat for rainbow and brown trout. Big trout average around 10-14 inches here, with fly fishing with nymphs, midges, and dry flies being the most popular methods.

5. Bennett Spring State Park

Missouri Trout Fishing Bennett Spring State Park

Located in southwest Missouri inside the Bennett Spring State Park, this lake offers easy access to designated trout zones throughout the park. As one of the most popular and heavily stocked trout fishing spots in the state, this spring-fed river with consistent water flows is extremely popular with anglers throughout the year. Both rainbow and brown trout average around 15 inches long, with larger trophy fish being relatively common. Fly fishing with nymphs, wet flies, and midge patterns, as well as regular bait fishing with soft plastics, can get quick results.

6. Little Piney Creek

Missouri Trout Fishing Little Piney Creek

Located in central Missouri, the Little Piney Creek is accessible through a wide range of public areas and conservation land. Increasing in popularity among trout enthusiasts, this river is clear and spring-fed with rocky terrain suitable for trout to enjoy. Rainbow and brown trout are usually in the 10-14 inch range and respond quickly to fly fishing with nymphs and dry flies, along with light tackle artificial lures.

7. Meramec River

Missouri Trout Fishing Meramec River

Running throughout eastern Missouri, the Meramec River has multiple public access points along its length. This is a very well-known river for its trout fishing opportunities that have varying conditions and a range of fish species present. Rainbow and brown trout are common, with rainbows reaching 16 inches easily. Fly fishing with nymphs and egg patterns will get great results for experienced and new anglers, primarily along the upper stretches of the river.

8. Niangua River

Missouri Trout Fishing Niangua River

Located in Central Missouri, the Niangua River has various access points, including public accesses and private properties. This river is known for its scenic beauty and decent trout habitats. Rainbow and brown trout are common here, with sizes ranging from 10 to 16 inches being common. Most of the trout are stocked annually and will respond to only flies, giving you a great chance of landing your next trophy using nymphs, streamers in terrestrial patterns.

9. Roaring River

Missouri Trout Fishing Roaring River

Located in southwest Missouri and throughout the Roaring River State Park, this waterway is easily accessible with developed facilities within the state park. Roaring River State Park is one of the most popular trout angling destinations in the state. With stocked and wild rainbow trout from 10-16 inches, brown trout can grow considerably larger in the Roaring River. Fly angling with wet flies is your best option in this well-maintained stocked and wild trout area.

10. Current River

Missouri Trout Fishing Current River

Located in southern Missouri and with multiple access points along the river, including public accesses and private resorts, the Current River is a highly popular spot for trout angling and recreational floating. This scenic river has clear waters and diverse aquatic life, including healthy populations of Rainbow and brown trout. The rainbows in the Current River can reach 12-16 inches, while the brown trout can grow larger. Fly fishing with dry flies and streamers or spin fishing with small lures are popular methods here.

The Best Missouri Trout Lakes and Trout Parks

1. Boiling Spring Trout Lake

Located in Southern Missouri and accessible within the Boiling Spring Campground, this spot offers a quiet and secluded angling experience. The spring-fed creek with rocky terrain is a haven for rainbow trout that typically range from 10-14 inches long. The fish in this trout park are highly reactive to fly fishing with nymphs, dry flies, and small streamers.

2. Trout Lake at Turner Mill Access

Located in Southwest Missouri, the Trout Lake is accessible within the Turner Mill Access area. This is a lesser-known trout angling spot, suitable for those seeking solitude with some 10-14 inch rainbow trout ready to strike. This is a fully man-made and stocked lake with fish willing to strike at almost any bait you offer them, making it the perfect spot for complete beginners to have success.

3. Maramec Spring Park

Missouri Trout Fishing Maramec Spring Park

Located in East-central Missouri and easily accessible within Maramec Spring Park, you’ll find several designated fishing spots around the Springs. Popular for its stocked trout fishery and historic surroundings, the spring-fed waters of the Maramec Spring Park have varying conditions that are excellent for large rainbows and browns. Rainbows in this trout park can reach 16 inches easily and are very responsive to wet flies, nymphs, and more, while browns can become much larger and are caught by fewer trout anglers each year in Meramec Spring Park since they seem to respond to only flies.

4. Indian Trail Hatchery

Located in Southern Missouri, several designated fishing spots are accessible from within the hatchery grounds. The hatchery is known for educational opportunities and trout fishing experiences throughout its man-made ponds and raceways. Rainbow and brown trout are common here at a length of 10-14 inches. While there is not much room for fly fishing, bait fishing is very effective here, and the fish are extremely willing to bite.

5. Fourche Lake

Located in Central Missouri inside the Harry S. Truman State Park, Fourche Lake is a relatively less crowded spot than other trout angling areas in the state. This is a man-made lake with controlled conditions that is home to rainbow trout that typically range from 10-14 inches long. The most popular method here is bait fishing with various soft plastics, but there are some limited fly fishing spots, too, along with a designated catch and release season for normal and trophy trout.

6. Montauk State Park

Located in Southern Missouri, this larger trout lake is easily accessible within the Montauk State Park and its designated trout zones. This is one of the most popular trout parks in the state, with an abundance of spring-fed, clear waters with consistent flows. Rainbow trout and brown trout are extremely common here, with rainbows often ranging from 10-16 inches in length. Montauk State Park offers both catch-and-release and catch-and-keep angling seasons, and anglers get excellent results with both fly fishing and basic fishing with no bait restrictions.

Missouri Trout Fishing Regulations

Missouri’s fishing regulations are generally considered to be highly effective in maintaining healthy trout populations and providing quality fishing experiences. The Missouri Department of Conservation actively monitors fish populations, assesses habitat conditions, and adjusts regulations as needed to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries.

In terms of cost, trout angling in Missouri is relatively affordable compared to some other states. While there are fees associated with obtaining a Trout Permit from the Missouri Department of Conservation and a regular angling trout permit (for anglers aged 16 to 64), these fees contribute to the immediate and long-term conservation and stocking programs that maintain the quality of trout fishing.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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