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Phil Lilley

Pertinent Information You Need For The Current River

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The sole use of this topic is to provide good information about floating and fishing the Elk River and it's tributaries.

Promoting businesses such as lodging, outfitters and fishing guides is strongly urged!

Anything posted here could and will be used in other locations on OzarkAnglers.Com for informational use.

To start it off, here's a few posts by OAF members that should be helpful:

Regulations - http://ozarkanglers.com/index.php?option=c...6&Itemid=88

Al Agnew:

At one time or another I've floated all of Current River from Tan Vat to Doniphan. I even guided on it one summer when my friend and guide Gaylon Watson needed an extra hand. I remember one float where we were guiding a big family group, and I got stuck with two teenage girls in my canoe. They weren't all that into fishing, and continually hung up in the trees when they did fish, but I was proud of the fact that one of them actually caught the biggest smallmouth of the trip. This was on Gaylon's favorite stretch, from Powdermill to Van Buren. He had a perfect gravel bar a short distance below Paint Rock Bluff that he always camped on overnight, but on this trip one couple refused to camp on a gravel bar, and we spent one whole day before the trip getting a camping trailer down a very rough road to the vicinity of Paint Rock, so that the couple could camp in it while the rest of the party camped on the gravel bar.

On a trip with Bob Todd below Big Spring, we were drifting through a side channel off the river when we jumped a doe. Then we saw two fawns standing on the bank where the doe had been...and one of them was an albino! Beautiful little creature.

The stretch above Cedargrove is the only place where I've actually seen a live armadillo in Missouri (plenty of road kills, but no other live ones). I've spent a lot of time flyfishing between Montauk and Baptist Camp and below, and that's where I've caught my biggest MO brown trout, a 29 incher.

I floated from Williams Landing to Two Rivers this past summer, and caught more than 70 smallmouths. None were very big, though...I think the biggest was about 16 inches.

It's a great river, and only the boat traffic and party floaters keep it from being one of my favorites.


Current River is a great smallmouth fishery. My home stretch of water is from Owls bend to Van Buren. I had several 30 fish days this past year. The only problem w/ the fish is that most fish are 10-13 inches. I did catch a few 15-16 inch fish this year, but not many. I have fished the SMB management areas on the meramec and the big piney rivers. These areas have much larger average fish. A few years back on the piney, I had a weekend float in August catching over a hundred fish most over 14 inches that trip rivaled Ontario.

Current River in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is a prime location for a SMB management area. Great population of fish, great habitat and food supply to grow monster SMB. It is not even on the MDC radar for a SMB management area. I remember a trip w/ my father back in the early 70's when dad and I fished one hole of water and caught 3 huge fish. 24, 20 & 18 inches. Wow what an outing. This type of fishery is still possible on this river. The main reason the fish aren't larger is they take a long time to reach these sizes, and are harvested a year or so after reaching legal length.

This river and also the meramec are used extremely heavily in the summer months. If each angler soaking worms takes 1 or 2 legal fish each outing, the number of mature fish is diminished. Changing the limits would force the law-abiding anglers to put the fish back into the river to grow giving more fish a chance to get to trophy size. Current River and the Eleven Point are Missouri's treasures known nationally for their scenic beauty. They should also be known for their fishery.

Al Agnew:

I agree, Kicknbass, the Current has a lot of potential that's not being realized. I think the reason it isn't on the radar for special management is precisely because the growth rates are slower due to the colder water, or at least that's what a lot of the old data showed. It's almost like "conventional wisdom"...Ozark streams in general have slow growth rates because they are cool and infertile, and the most heavily spring fed ones are even worse. I really wonder about that. The more time I spend on these rivers and on rivers in other parts of the country, the less I agree with the conventional wisdom. Growth rates in many parts of the country that produce bigger fish regularly aren't much, if any, better than they are here. If you're comparing river fish to lake fish, yes, there is a difference. But rivers all over the ocuntry have similar growth rates. And I think somebody just decided that slow growth rates on rivers like the Current are due to cold water just because it seems to make sense. I disagree. I think fish on the less heavily spring fed streams go more dormant in the winter, so they have a warm weather growing season, but the fish in these heavily spring fed streams feed more all year long, so they may actually grow in winter as well as the summer.

I think, based on what I've seen on the Current (and I don't spend much time on it compared to other streams) that it has LOTS of small fish. As you said, many are probably being cropped off at 12 inches. And it's also possible that the smaller fish may be a little overpopulated and that's contributing to slow growth rates. A slot limit would seem to me to be a great idea on the Current.

Best one to two day float-

Al Agnew:

If you float during the middle of the week, the traffic usually isn't too bad. You'll still run into canoes and jetboats, but usually a manageable number of both. And the fish don't mind, they are used to the traffic.

Best two day if you want to avoid SOME of the jetboats would be Round Spring to Two Rivers. Lots of fish in that stretch. But there are bigger fish downstream, along with more and bigger boats. I used to really love the Powdermill to Van Buren stretch, but I haven't floated it in several years. It's a long two days.

As for one day floats, a nice short one that can produce good fishing is Two Rivers to Powdermill. Jerktail to Two Rivers is nice, too. For a longer one that doesn't get as much canoe traffic (but more boat traffic)...Powdermill to Logyard. And although all the horse traffic has somewhat messed up the lower Jacks Fork, you can still catch smallies from Eminence down, and it's a rather interesting float to go Eminence to Powdermill and fish both the smaller water of the Jacks Fork and the Current...doing that float, after getting accustomed to the Jacks Fork, the Current seems like a HUGE river when you get to it.

By the way, about this time of year the upper Jacks Fork gets a LOT of canoe traffic on weekends as well, though you won't see jetboats on it. Fish on the upper Jacks Fork aren't quite as used to the traffic, since it is mainly on spring weekends, so the fishing sometimes isn't all that great there this time of year.

As for camping...if you want campgrounds you can drive to, Jerktail is about 3/4 of the way through the Round Spring to Two Rivers stretch, and Logyard is a good place on the Powdermill to Van Buren stretch.

But it's a whole lot better to just pick out a gravel bar and set up camp. There is no shortage of gravel bars on the Current.


If your insisting on the Current and Smallmouth, I'd probably go from Pulltite down to Round Spring on a weekday. Its ten miles, so it can be done as a loooooong one day or easy two day with ample camping opportunities. Plus there are no jet boats in the summer time. Its not as productive as the waters Al mentioned (downstream) but we usually catch enough to keep it interesting. Cheers.

Horsepower limits on the river- http://www.nps.gov/ozar/planyourvisit/horsepower.htm

More info to come.

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