15 Best Trout Fishing Rivers & Lakes in Missouri

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If you’re in the middle of the U.S. looking for great trout fishing, Missouri has you covered with excellent creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes across the Show Me State.

While most of the trout come from hatcheries, there are a few places in Missouri where anglers catch wild trout alongside stocked trout, especially in the more mountainous Ozark regions, where cool streams support trout all year.

Whether you’re looking for the trophy of a lifetime, want a good time catching fish, or want dinner, check out these best trout fishing locations in Missouri.

Missouri Trout Species

You may catch four primary trout species in Missouri: rainbow: brown, brook, and cutthroat. Rainbow and brown trout are the mostly widely dispersed across the state, thanks to stocking efforts over the last 100 years. 

Rainbow

Rainbow trout are easy to identify by their silvery bodies with rainbow coloration. However, you’ll notice that not all rainbows have the bright rainbow pattern they’re named after.

Rainbows are the most commonly caught trout because it is the predominant hatchery species. Most rainbow trout are 10-15 inches. However, trophy-sized rainbows can grow over 20 inches.

Brown

Brown trout are also easily identified because they’re brownish-yellow with black spots. They’re originally from Europe and often called German brown trout.

Though they’re not a native species, brown trout are prized trout, thanks to their popularity as gamefish and Missouri Department of Conservation stocking programs.

Brown trout tend to be larger than the other species, which is why so many anglers target them. 

Brook

Though rare in Missouri, anglers have a chance of catching brook trout in a few of the state’s coldest streams. These trout are identified by their reddish-orange belly.

Cutthroat

Cutthroat trout are also rare in Missouri. You can identify them by the bright blood-colored patch on their gill plate. 

How to Catch Trout

No matter what trout species you’re targeting, the approach remains similar.

Trout anglers consistently use three main techniques to catch trout across Missouri: flies, bait, and artificial lures.

The approach to these techniques is slightly different, but they are all effective.

We also go more into depth in our how-to article about trout fishing, linked near the bottom of this article.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is what many anglers think of when fishing for trout. Fly fishing involves drifting an artificial lure that mimics local insect larvae and hatched adults. 

Fly fishing is allowed in most of Missouri’s trout areas.

Bait

In some trout areas, you can use artificial or live bait. Check the local regulations, as this technique is only allowed in some areas.

Bait fishing tends to lead to more fatal hook sets than using artificial lures, so it’s best employed when you can legally keep your catch and are hoping for a fish dinner.

Bait fishing is simple and effective, similar to catfishing in Missouri. Bait a small hook with a worm, minnow, or PowerBait, and cast it into likely trout-holding areas.

Artificial Lures

Artificial lures are allowed in most trout areas. Using artificial lures is similar to bass fishing in Missouri

Small crankbaits, SuperDupers, spoons, and in-line spinners are the most common artificial lures besides flies. 

Best Locations

Below you’ll find the best locations in Missouri for trout fishing. We’ve divided them into regions, so you can easily find a great fishing spot near you.

You’ll notice that most places are in the state’s southern portion, with more waterways conducive to year-round trout. This is because trout are cold-water fish and cannot survive high temperatures.

However, there are many winter trout fishing locations across the state. We’ll call your attention to those later on in this article.

Southeast

Roubidoux Creek

A cold spring feeds Roubidoux Creek, which allows the MDC to stock rainbow and brown trout year-round in this tributary of the Gasconade River.

The White Ribbon Trout Area is the least restrictive, which allows all lures and only has a length limit of 15 inches on brown trout and a daily limit of 4 trout. 

The Red Ribbon Trout Area is more restrictive. MDC limits the types of lures anglers can use and the number of trout they can keep.

This section isn’t stocked as often as the White Ribbon area, but it often holds the larger trout.

During the summer, the water can warm up in the red ribbon trout area, forcing the trout upstream to cooler water.

Maramec Spring Park

Maramec Spring Park is one of Missouri’s trout parks with a hatchery on-site.

The hatchery operation allows this privately owned park near St. James to stock rainbow trout regularly.

If you plan to keep trout for dinner, you better visit from March through October, because catch-and-release rules run from November through February. 

As of this writing, there are also no lure restrictions from March through October. In contrast, the catch-and-release season is only open to fly fishing. 

Check the local maps and regulations, as there is also a sanctuary area where fishing is not allowed.

Current River

The Current River has excellent access for anglers in White Ribbon and Blue Ribbon areas. It runs through Montauk State Park, which we will discuss next, and continues into the Ozark National Scenic Riverways before eventually flowing over the border into Arkansas.

There are no bait restrictions in the White Ribbon area, and you’ll mostly find rainbows here.

However, brown trout will migrate up the river every once in a while, so if you happen to hook into a brown, ensure that it’s over the length limit before you keep it.

The Blue Ribbon area is where you’ll find the most browns and more bait restrictions. While the trout population is healthy here, they limit anglers to keeping one trout over 18 inches to help keep the population healthy and for anglers to have a chance at a trophy trout.

The Current River is stocked with rainbow and brown trout regularly, and it’s believed that they naturally reproduce in the river.

Montauk State Park

People visit Montauk State Park mainly because of the incredible trout fishing. It offers gorgeous views and some of the best trout fishing in Missouri.

There are three fishing areas within the state park. The catch-and-release-only area is restricted to fly fishing.

A separate fly fishing-only area does allow you to keep fish you catch.

Finally, artificial lures and natural bait area has the least restrictive rules in the park.

These areas are marked on maps and within the park.

There are five access locations within the state park to get to the Current River, where you can catch rainbows or browns.

Little Piney Creek

Little Piney Creek is home to wild and stocked trout with White Ribbon and Blue Ribbon areas. There is lots of public access to the creek; however, there is also a lot of private property, so be sure you stay within the public boundaries.

The White Ribbon area downstream of Milldam Hollow Access is the part of the creek that is stocked, which is why it has fewer restrictions.

The Blue Ribbon area farther upriver is home to wild trout. Here you will need to brush up on restrictions on lures, length limits, and the number of fish you can keep.

To have the best odds of success on Little Piney Creek, you must be very stealthy; otherwise, the trout will spot you as you stand there for hours trying to catch them.

The savvy trout may even laugh at you! At least that’s how I feel when I can see the fish, and they won’t bite.

The Little Piney Creek’s trout may be hybrids of various species of rainbow trout stocked in the past. They now reproduce on their own and maintain a healthy population.

Eleven Point River

The Eleven Point River has 20 miles of water suitable for trout, including 5 ½ miles of Blue Ribbon or Trophy areas above the Turner Mill Access areas.

There’s a good stretch of White Ribbon river that’s generously stocked from Turner Mill downstream to Highway 160.

This river makes for excellent float trips, so if you’re not fond of wade fishing, the Eleven Point River is an ideal place to fish.

Unfortunately, Eleven Point has limited bank access, so floating the river in a kayak, canoe, or drift boat is the best option when trout fishing this river northeast of Alton.

You’ll primarily catch rainbows but don’t be surprised if you hook into a brown trout. Officials manage the Eleven Point River for both species.

Barren Fork Creek

Barren Fork Creek is a Blue Ribbon area, not for the faint of heart. However, I recommend this Shannon County creek for the experienced angler looking for a challenge. 

The Barren Fork Creek is small and crystal clear, so you must be covert when approaching the water, so you do not spook the trout.

Once you’ve reached the water, you’ll need to make an excellent cast without getting snagged in a tree. However, if you can overcome these obstacles, the trout are usually hungry and quality-sized fish.

Mill Creek

Mill Creek is another small creek that offers anglers a challenge. This tributary of Little Piney Creek is a Blue Ribbon area, so only flies and artificial lures are permitted. 

These are wild rainbow trout, so it’s not a regularly stocked area; this also means most of the trout you’ll catch will be small, typically 7-10 inches. However, 14-inch and larger trout hide in its waters but are tougher to fool. 

The main challenge of fishing Mill Creek is having little casting room. However, this little creek is worth checking out if you’ve mastered close-quarters casting because fewer anglers dare to fish these waters.

Blue Springs Creek

Most of Blue Springs Creek is accessible via the Blue Springs Creek Conservation Area. The availability of water access will allow you to find a good fishing hole; however, because it is a small creek, the casting will be tight.

You can jump across some creek sections, while other areas require you to wade. 

This is a Blue Ribbon area of wild rainbow trout. It’s a tributary of the Meramec River in Crawford County.

Spring Creek

Another Blue Ribbon area, Spring Creek, is known for producing 4- to 14-inch trout, so don’t be expecting to bring home a trophy.

Spring Creek’s draw is the solitude it offers while trout fishing. Of course, you must watch out for the private property, but the trout management area gives anglers good access to this Big Piney River tributary.

Southwest

Bennett Spring State Park

A popular destination for year-round trout fishing, this is one of Missouri’s trout parks. There is a hatchery on-site, so you know the trout population has to be good.

The main drawback to fishing in the summer is that it gets very crowded. This is a popular destination to float the river and camp, so you’ll be battling the crowds on popular holidays during the summer.

During the winter, you must be aware of special catch-and-release regulations. Also, certain techniques are only allowed in specific zones of the park, so it pays to read up on the rules.

Brown trout and rainbow trout are the two species of trout you’ll likely encounter while fishing at Bennett Spring State Park.

Lake Taneycomo

Technically, Taneycomo is a lake, but it fishes more like a river because there is a constant flow through it.

This lake is home to some of the largest trout in Missouri, thanks to relatively stable water conditions and excellent food sources.

As with most trout areas in Missouri, Lake Taneycomo has differing regulations depending on your fishing zone. If you pay attention to these zones, you shouldn’t be fined for using the wrong lures.

Taneycomo is a popular spot for trout fishing, but there is enough room for anglers to spread out and find their fishing area with a little work.

Roaring River State Park

This Missouri state park is known for its trout fishing opportunities. I remember visiting here as a child many times. There’s a family picture of a young Wesley holding a stringer full of trout that my dad caught, and it’s still one of my favorite places to trout fish.

The MDC regularly stocks the river with trout from the park’s hatchery.

There are three zones you should get to know.

Zone 1 allows artificial lures, flies, and soft plastic baits. However, dough baits and natural baits are not allowed.

Zone 2 is a fly-only area, and Zone 3 is the least restrictive fishing area where you can use any trout bait.

The areas are posted in Roaring River State Park and on the park maps, so you can be confident you’re fishing in the correct zone.

Crane Creek

Crane Creek has been featured on ESPN and several fishing magazines; however, that doesn’t mean anglers flock to it. It can be a tricky place to fish.

The trout are wise, and the water is crystal clear, so you must be sneaky to have a chance.

Crane Creek is a Blue Ribbon area, so flies and artificial lures are the only baits allowed. 

Crane Creek has a reproducing population of trout, remnants from California trout stocked more than a century ago. After so many generations, these are fully wild trout, which is another reason they’re a little more challenging. I wouldn’t recommend this creek to a beginner.

North Fork of the White River

The North Fork of the White River is the only trout stream with a Red Ribbon area and a Blue Ribbon area in Missouri. This is the place to go if you want to catch big trout.

The biggest downsides to this area are the heavy traffic because it’s a popular place to fish and float. Also, the best locations are the most difficult to reach (isn’t that generally the case?) and often require a boat.

The Red Ribbon and Blue Ribbon areas only allow flies and artificial lures, including no soft plastics. The difference between areas is the size and number of fish you can keep.

In the Red Ribbon area, you can keep two trout if they’re at least 15 inches. In the Blue Ribbon area, you can only harvest one trout if it’s at least 18 inches.

The Red Ribbon area is stocked with brown trout, while the Blue Ribbon area is managed as a trophy rainbow trout spot.

These river sections north of Norfork Lake is the place to begin if you’re looking to catch a trout of a lifetime.

More Missouri Trout Fishing

Northeast

Spur Pond

Spur Pond in Kirksville is stocked by the MDC during the winter and gives anglers easy access to trout. However, it’s catch-and-release-only from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31.

The pond is easy to get around, and there’s a dock to fish from if you choose.

Northwest

Coot Lake

Coot Lake is another winter trout fishing area offering anglers near Kansas City good access to fishing year-round and trout fishing from early November through February.

Plover Lake and the kids-only Honker Pond, also in the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area, are also often seasonally stocked with trout.

More Winter Trout Fishing

The MDC stocks various ponds and lakes with hatchery trout during the cooler months, often from roughly November to February.

A fair number of those waters are near St. Louis, Kansas City and other population centers. 

Check out the MDC’s Winter Trout Fishing Areas page for more information about waters that will be stocked near you.

Wherever and whenever you fish, be sure to purchase all the fishing permits needed for trout fishing.

Catch More Trout

Now that you know WHERE to catch trout in Missouri, let’s work a little on your techniques. Check out our simple guide to trout fishing to learn the top methods, baits, lures, and other tips.