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For Big Browns, Think White  at Cabela's

For Big Browns, Think White

Author: Spencer Turner

Where would you fish to catch big brown trout? A better question: Where would you fish to realistically have a shot at catching the next world record brown trout?

A big brown trout from the White River.
Let me answer by relating a chance meeting, on returning from a winter trout fishing excursion. We had stopped for breakfast at "Mom's" cafe in Houston, MO, a little slice of heaven, where breakfast still costs less than $5.00. Locals solve the world's problems over morning coffee, and breakfast fills for the entire day. As I finished, a tall man, decked out in fishing clothes, stopped at my chair.

"Morning Spence," he said, sticking out his hand for that traditional handshake from old acquaintances. I recognized the man, an old customer, from 20 years past.

I inquired what strange coincidence brought us together, hundreds of miles from our respective homes. He explained that he and his two partners were returning from an annual big brown trout fishing excursion to Norfork tailwater.

"How'd you do?" I asked, since it was obvious we were returning from fishing the same river system.

"We touched 22 browns," he replied, grinning as he remembered. "Ranging from just over 20 inches to 9-pounds, 11-ounces, and I lost a much larger trout. Took off and I couldn't turn him."

Touching meant catching, measuring, then releasing the trout. We had caught trout, the largest just over 19 inches; however, nothing like they'd handled. How many small trout had they caught to land 22 large browns?

As we talked, I realized there wasn't a trout fishery anywhere in the world, that produced, year in and year out, as many large brown trout as the White River system. Draining the Ozark mountains of Arkansas and Missouri, this river system, once famous for catfish and smallmouth bass, set the collective fishing world on its head, when Rip Collins caught a new world record brown trout.

And, it was but one of four browns caught since 1988, that measured among the top five brown trout ever handled. This is to say nothing about the thousands of 2- to 10-pound trophy browns caught annually by anglers.

Why? The simple answer: Tailwaters on the White River system.
Floating the White.
The White River and its tributaries ran free and clear until five major hydroelectric dams locked this river in a straight jacket of large lakes, built for electricity and flood control, and tailwaters, spilling cold, nutrient-rich water downstream. The dams and downstream tailwaters changed the ecology of the system to trout water. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Each tailwater supports a year round, world class trout fishery, providing 168 miles of the best big brown trout water found anywhere. Let's visit each tailwater beginning in the headwaters -learn where to fish- and I'll provide beginning points for your search for large brown trout.

Beaver Tailwater
Managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Beaver Tailwater officially flows cold and clear for eight miles, into upper Table Rock Lake. Located near Eureka Springs, AR, it's within easy driving of Little Rock, AR; Tulsa, OK; and Springfield, MO. When not generating electricity, the tailwater provides outstanding access and wade-fishing downstream to Highway 62 Bridge, about 4.5 miles. Further downstream most successful anglers use a boat. Although it's a year round fishery, like all the tailwaters, mature browns move upstream in October and November to spawn, stacking up near Beaver Dam. This tailwater has catch and release zones and other regulations to provide quality angling.

Beaver Tailwater Resources Information:
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
#2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, AR 72205
(501 223-6371)

Maps, licenses, and management information:
Riverlake Outdoor Center
14735 Hwy. 187 West
Eureka Spring, AR 72632
(501 253-5628)

Lake Taneycomo
Located near Branson, MO, Lake Taneycomo is a 22-mile river-lake, long recognized for ease of access and great trout fishing. Since the 1980s, when brown trout were first stocked and a 20-inch brown trout length limit imposed, it has blossomed into one of the world's best large brown trout fisheries, and a legitimate contender to produce the next world record brown. It is wadeable near the dam, and the upper 4 miles have special regulations, in addition to the length limit. The lake supports great brown trout fishing year round; however, the frosting comes in the fall when thousands of mature browns, run out of the lake to the upper 4 miles near Table Rock Dam.

Lake Taneycomo Resources Information:
Mr. Bill Anderson
Fisheries Management Biologist
Missouri Department of Conservation
2630 N. Mayfair
Springfield, MO 65803

Powersite Dam and Upper Bull Shoals A short, tailwater downstream from Lake Taneycomo, near Forsyth, MO, Powersite provides limited trout fishing for about 1/4-mile; however, fall run browns provide some exciting fishing near the dam.

White River Tailwater
The longest tailwater in the system, located near Bull Shoals, Mountain Home and Cotter, AR, the White River tailwater provides outstanding wade and float fishing for large browns throughout its 70-mile length. It has numerous public and private accesses, catch and release zones, and special regulations to stimulate some of the best large brown trout fishing found anywhere. Anglers catch more large browns from the White River than any other trout fishery.

Norfork River Tailwater
A 4.5-mile long tailwater, located east of Mountain Home, AR; Norfork River has, arguably, become the most important tailwater in the White River system. The first tailwater constructed on the system, built in the 1940s, it has the longest history of trout stocking. This tailwater provides a huge flow of cooling water to the White River, adding 20 miles of trout water to the system, and produces hundreds of trophy browns each year. For Hugh Manley, it produced a 38-pound, 9-ounce world record brown in 1988, the third largest brown trout ever caught.

Greers Ferry Tailwater and Little Red River
Located near Heber Springs, AR; the Little Red River became a household name on May 9, 1992 when Howard, "Rip" Collins shattered the world record with his 40-pound, 4-ounce, brown trout caught on a white jig. According to Arkansas fisheries biologists, this 32-mile long tailwater, supports the largest brown trout population found anywhere in the White River system. The Little Red River tailwater differs markedly from other White River tailwaters. It is smaller, water levels are more stable, and the pools support a rich, dense, mat of aquatic vegetation crawling with invertebrates.

As you plan your 2001 vacation, purchase your fishing needs from Cabela's, then visit the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas and the White River System, the world's best large brown trout fishery.

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