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  • Phil Lilley
    Oh how things change quickly on our tailwater fishery.  Two weeks ago, our trout just below the dam were fighting for their lives.  Water quality was lethal for many reasons.  I believe we've covered all  the "why."  (See my November 24th report for an explanation. )  But cold, windy weather last week has changed that, partially turning Table Rock over and sending good, oxygenated-water through the turbines and into our lake.
    Our weather during this Thanksgiving break was as crummy as expected with cold, rainy days and nights. The front still hasn't completely moved out.  Six inches of rain fell, and now our lakes are on the rise, again.  Table Rock is jumping up and expected to go past 918 feet Tuesday.  The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers experimented Monday with various flows through the turbines to see how much water could be run while keeping the dissolved oxygen levels above four parts per million.  The magic generation was 199 megawatts, lake level 710.34 feet, about 3.5 turbines, with a DO level at 4.34 p.p.m..  We will see this flow until Table Rock's level reaches 915 feet.
    During the time when the hatchery was having trouble with the water,  staff moved some of their trout to other hatcheries while other fish were stocked in to Lake Taneycomo ahead of schedule.  Needless to say, we have a lot of trout in the lake right now.  These fish were stocked below Branson but have moved up lake and are being caught all through the upper lake.
    Even though it was rainy and cold, I took my six-year-old grandson fishing Friday and Saturday.  We drifted from above the resort down to about Cooper Creek and caught quite a few rainbows on a pink Berkley Power Egg.  That's right -- one egg on a #10 hook, 1/4-ounce bell weight tied on a drift rig.  Jeriah caught his limit of four rainbows all by himself.
    Those who did get out and fish this last week, saw fish come in consistently.
    Monday afternoon I fished the entire lake from our place to Table Rock Dam.  Drifting and throwing white and sculpin-colored 1/8th-ounce jigs, I caught four rainbows (two on each color) in different places, all above Fall Creek.  I also drifted a #12 gray scud on the bottom and caught two more rainbows in the Narrows area above Fall Creek.  Then I drifted a pink Power Egg on a drift rig below Fall Creek and caught three rainbows and a nice rock.  I was most proud of the rock. 
    My December forecast is bright with lots of trout in the lake and good prospects to see lots of running water for at least the first half of the month.  Water quality is getting better every day.  Monday afternoon when I was on the lake, there was a huge midge hatch.  I had not seen that in weeks.  After such a arduous fall season, we're all ready for our winter trout months -- the best fishing of the year!

  • Al Agnew

    Big River: Sections

    By Al Agnew, in Big River,

    The following is a breakdown of each of those four sections of the Big River (Missouri), giving a description of each stretch, its gradient, the usable river gauge, navigability by paddle craft and boat at various flows, and accesses. The mileages of each access from the uppermost access of each section is given as well.
    Cedar Creek to St. Francois Park
    Cedar Creek, which drains part of historic Bellview Valley in the heart of the St. Francois Mountains, is almost as large as Big River where the two come together. Just below the confluence, there is an old gravel pit on the river that is wide and mostly shallow, and being exposed to the sun, results in considerable warming of the river below in the summer. Just below it, the river encounters the last of the granitic outcrops of the St. Francois Mountain region in what is almost a shut-in, with huge granite boulders in the middle of a big pool. From there the river is characterized by a series of rather large pools separated by riffles and short runs. By mid-summer floating this upper end is a matter of walking the riffles in order to fish the pools. There is also a long section of very shallow water with exposed bedrock at the site of another old gravel mining operation.
    The river above the Leadwood Access has a typical Ozark headwater stream fishery, with smallmouth, largemouth, and goggle-eye. There are also some huge carp in the big pools, and suckers are abundant. The low water bridge at the Leadwood Access forms the final barrier to spotted bass spread, and there are few spotted bass above it, while below it they have become common. Below the Leadwood Access, the river begins to show the effects of erosion from lead mine tailings as it enters the Old Lead Belt. For the next 2.5 miles it retains good habitat, with nice, deep pools, even though the mine waste, which consists of fine gray gravel, is evident on the gravel bars. But when it reaches the next access, it begins a four mile loop around a big bend, where the entire inside of the bend was covered with mine waste that continually eroded into the river for many years—along with trash from the county landfill that was once located there as well. Starting at that bend, the river's channel has been largely clogged with mine waste, filling in pools and smothering the crevices within natural gravel and rock rubble that form living space for bottom organisms. The impaired river continues all the way through the rest of this stretch. For two decades or more the area has been a federal Superfund site as attempts are made to stabilize the tailings, and the work is now winding down, but the effects will probably last for many more years.
    This section is pretty in places as it winds through a shallow valley lined with low bluffs that gradually get taller as you go downstream until they tower more than 100 feet over the river as you near St. Francois Park. But it flows through the highly developed area of the Old Lead Belt, and homes and cabins line the river banks in many areas. The stretch from the Desloge area to St. Francois Park also appears to be suffering from inadequate sewage treatment, or perhaps the interaction of treated sewage with the lead tailings, because by late summer there will be huge mats of odorous, sludgy, almost black algae that form on the bottom and then float to the surface to pile up against obstructions in great slimy masses. So far nothing seems to be happening to remedy this situation.
    One other note: Beginning at the Leadwood Access, there are health advisories on the suckers, redhorse, and sunfish, due to contamination with lead and other heavy metals.
    Gradient: 4.3 feet per mile.
    USGS river gauge: Big River Near Irondale, located at the U Hwy. Bridge outside Irondale. There is now a gauge near Bonne Terre that will be useful in coming years, but it hasn't been in the system long enough yet to show the flow in cubic feet per second, or to correlate levels in feet with various water conditions. As such correlation becomes possible, this information will be revised to reflect that gauge.
    Normal flow for December through February: 75-125 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May: 100-175 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November: 12-50 cfs.
    Low flows range from 5-10 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 300-400 cfs.
    Navigability:
    Under 20 cfs—nearly all riffles will require walking in the upper sections. Below Leadwood, some riffles will require walking and you will scrape bottom in most riffles.
    20-40 cfs—Some riffles will still require walking, very few will float a canoe without scraping bottom.
    40-80 cfs—upper sections will still be shallow enough to scrape bottom, but lower sections will be low but floatable with occasional scraping.
    80-150 cfs—easily floatable and fishable.
    150-250 cfs—high but probably still fishable.
    250-400 cfs—very high, possibly muddy, very difficult to fish from a moving watercraft.
    Over 400 cfs—too high.
    This section is not considered jetboatable due to narrow twisting channels and frequent obstructions, even when there is enough water.
    Accesses and mileages:
    Hwy. M bridge (on Cedar Creek a few hundred feet upstream from its confluence with Big River)--0.0
    Hwy. U bridge—3.0
    County Road 511 bridge—8.6
    Leadwood MDC Access—15.7
    St. Francois County access (locally called “Bone Hole”)—18.8
    Hawthorn Road bridge (poor access)--23.1
    State Street bridge—24.1
    St. Francois State Park, upper access—33.6
    St. Francois Park, lower access—35.0
     

    St. Francois Park to the mouth of the Mineral Fork
    St. Francois State Park makes a good base of operations for floating both upstream and downstream. While the river upstream is rather highly impaired from the mine waste and overfertilization, it begins to recover as you go downstream. The pools get deeper and the algal blooms decrease. By this point it is also a little larger, though it will still become too low for easy floating by late summer most years. It is a pretty stretch, with occasional high bluffs and some nice gravel bars, and it has very little development, just long stretches of farmland and wooded hills. And it simply looks fishy, with a lot of water willow beds, woody cover, and rocky pools.
    The access is rather poor throughout this stretch, which decreases the number of people using it. While there is a small canoe rental operation at the Highway 67 bridge, it is not popular with the rental hordes, and you can sometimes have it to yourself even on summer weekends.
    Spotted bass now probably outnumber smallies in this stretch, where they were totally absent no more than fifteen years ago. Catfishing is good. The water is normally rather murky, with visibility no more than four feet and often three feet or a little less, although it gets much clearer in the autumn.
    Washington State Park, near the downstream end of this stretch, is popular not only for swimming and fishing in the river but for hiking trails and especially for the best example of native American petroglyphs in Missouri.
    Gradient: 3.3 feet per mile.
    USGS river gauge: The “Big River Below Bonne Terre” gauge, located at the Highway E bridge north of Bonne Terre, has not been in operation long enough to correlate various water levels on the gauge to actual conditions. The “Near Irondale” gauge is probably the most usable one at this point, but there are several good sized tributaries between it and the beginning of this stretch, so water conditions at Irondale may not be the same as conditions on this section. Gauges farther downstream are below the mouth of the Mineral Fork, so they are not very useful, either. The Irondale gauge will be used in the information below, but understand that it may not reflect actual conditions on this stretch.
    Normal flow for December through February: 75-125 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May: 100-175 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November: 12-50 cfs.
    Low flows range from 5-10 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 300-400 cfs.
    Navigability:
    Under 10 cfs—low but floatable, though one will scrape bottom in wider riffles and a few might have to be walked.
    10-50 cfs—floatable,with occasional scraping.
    50-100 cfs—easily floatable.
    100-200 cfs—high but easily floatable, fishing may be difficult due to stronger currents.
    200-400 cfs—very high, possibly muddy, fishing difficult.
    Over 400 cfs—too high.
    Most of this stretch is not jetboatable due to narrow, twisting riffles and obstructions. If the Irondale gauge reads over 200 cfs you may be able to take a jetboat upstream from the Washington Park Access at Hwy. 21 if you are very experienced, but you may encounter dangerous obstructions. A few people run short sections from private accesses at flows much less than 200 cfs, but it is not recommended.
    Accesses and mileages:
    St. Francois State Park, lower access—0.0
    Berry Road, just below Hwy. 67 (private access)--1.4
    Cole's Landing at the end of Dickenson Road (private, fee access, and sometimes difficult to find the owner)--11.1
    Blackwell Bridge on Upper Blackwell Road (parking almost non-existent)--14.8
    Washington State Park boat ramp off Hwy. 21—19.6
    Washington State Park picnic grounds (last access before the Mineral Fork)--22.6
    Mammoth MDC Access (1.5 miles below the Mineral Fork)—25.9
    Mouth of Mineral Fork to Morse Mill
    The Mineral Fork, the largest tributary to Big River and big enough to furnish some floating itself, adds a considerable amount of water to the river, making it floatable year-round and jetboatable at least part of the year. Other than volume, however, the river changes very little. It remains a murky, fertile stream with good looking habitat. Development is not too intrusive and it is still a pretty stream, though far from spectacular.
    Not far below the Mineral Fork, the stretch from the Mammoth Bridge MDC Access to the Browns Ford Access was one of the original three Smallmouth Special Management Areas. The protection of smallies in this section allowed them to barely hold their own against the encroachment of non-native spotted bass, and there is still a significant population of smallmouth in this stretch, though spotted bass probably outnumber the smallies. Catfishing is excellent.
    Gradient: 2.3 feet per mile.
    USGS river gauge: Big River Near Richwoods, at the Hwy. H bridge west of De Soto. This gauge is in the middle of this section, and is very reliable.
    Normal flow for December through February: 300-500 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May: 500-700 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November: 125-350 cfs.
    Low flows range from 60-100 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 800-1200 cfs.
    Navigability:
    Under 100 cfs—low but floatable, possibly with scraping bottom in wider riffles.
    100-200 cfs—easily floatable; jetboating marginal, with possibility of boat and motor damage.
    200-400 cfs—easily floatable, a little low for really easy jetboating but experienced boaters should have little problem.
    400-800 cfs—high but floatable and jetboatable.
    800-1200 cfs—very high, strong currents may be dangerous for the inexperienced, fishing difficult from moving craft, may be muddy.
    Over 1200 cfs—too high.
    Accesses and mileages:
    Mammoth MDC Access—0.0
    Merrill Horse MDC Access—5.4
    Brown's Ford Access—10.7
    Morse Mill Access—29.1
    Morse Mill to the Meramec
    The Morse Mill dam is the first of three old mill dams on the lower river, and the mill pond above it is the beginning of significant changes to the river, both man-made and natural. From there on, the river becomes very slow and begins to dig into its alluvial banks. One will still encounter some high, wooded bluffs, but for the most part the river flows through wide bottomlands. Development, much of it haphazard and ramshackle, lines the banks, and trash dumps are not unusual.
    This stretch once held a good smallmouth population, but now smallies are nearly non-existent except for a few small, specific areas where there is faster water. Spotted bass fishing, however, can be excellent. Walleye are occasionally caught, especially below the old mill dams in the spring, and catfish are abundant. This section is little floated; most fishing is done by people who put in small boats and fish short sections. Jetboating is possible, but the river gets too low by late summer and the mill dams limit running the river to the stretches in between them.
    Gradient: 1.7 feet per mile.
    USGS river gauge: Big River Near Byrnesville, at bridge on lower Byrnesville Road. This gauge is in the middle of this stretch and is very reliable.
    Normal flow for December through February: 320-600 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May: 650-900 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November: 150-450 cfs.
    Low flows range from 70-200 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 900-1600 cfs.
    Navigability:
    Under 100 cfs—floatable some scraping bottom likely.
    100-300 cfs—low but floatable, jetboating possible but difficult.
    300-600 cfs—easily floatable, jetboating easy for the experienced.
    600-900 cfs—floatable and jetboatable, strong currents.
    900-1200 cfs—high but usually still fishable.
    1200-1600 cfs—very high, may be muddy, possibly dangerous for both floating and jetboating. Warning—the mill dam areas will be especially dangerous.
    Over 1600 cfs—too high.
    Accesses and mileages:
    Morse Mill Access—0.0
    Cedar Hill Access—10.8
    Rockford Beach Park—20.8
    Times Beach MDC Access on the Meramec, 3 miles below the mouth of Big River—33.8

  • Al Agnew

    Big River

    By Al Agnew, in Big River,

    The largest tributary of the Meramec River, Big River begins with water running off the north side of a ridge topped by State Highway 32. It almost immediately begins to have permanent flow, however small, and is dammed on the upper end by the U.S. Forest Service's Council Bluff Lake, a beautiful, clear, timber-lined reservoir nestled among high wooded hills. In this upper portion the watershed is within the igneous rock of the St. Francois Mountains, the oldest outcrops in the Ozarks and the geologic center of the Ozark uplift.
     
     

    Although there is an MDC access where Highway 21 crosses the river south of Potosi, the river there is still wading water only. It first becomes marginally floatable a few miles downstream, where Cedar Creek enters and adds some flow. From there it flows for nearly 124 miles northward to enter the Meramec. The river in that long reach may be the most abused stream in the Ozarks, suffering from the effects of vast amounts of old lead mine waste as well as some of the ills of suburban civilization as it flows through what is known as the Old Lead Belt, once the largest lead producing area in the nation. Below there it flows through a barite (tiff) mining region and has suffered fish kills in the past from barite mine waste. And in its lower reaches it is lined with homes, cabins, and camping trailers along with their often inadequate septic systems and trash dumps. Yet the river has always had the reputation of good fishing. It is a slow river that has never been popular with the canoe rental crowds, and is served by only a couple of small rental businesses. There are two major state parks along the river and a few private campgrounds, but most river users are local people. Access to the river is poor in many sections.

    Big River has only one major tributary, the Mineral Fork, but many smaller streams gradually add to its flow, along with a few springs, and in the old lead mining district there are a number of rusting “drill pipes,” connected to the now flooded underground mines, which are gushing water into the river. While the river does not dramatically change character at any one point, St. Francois State Park makes a convenient place to divide the upper reaches from the “upper middle” river, the Mineral Fork adds considerable water and is the spot at which the river becomes truly big enough for easy floating and some jetboat use, and Morse Mill divides the still pastoral and scenic “lower middle” from the highly developed lower reaches.
    Special Bass Management Areas:


    Description of River Sections (Link)

    River Levels




    Missouri D.N.R. Big Creek Fact Sheet
    Fishing Regulations
    Missouri Code of Regulations; 3 CSR 10-6.505 Black Bass, 1 (C)  On the Meramec, Big, and Bourbeuse rivers and their tributaries, the daily and possession limit for black bass is twelve (12) in the aggregate and may include no more than six (6) largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in the aggregate, except that the daily limit may include no more than one (1) smallmouth bass on the Big River from Leadwood Access to its confluence with the Meramec River, the Meramec River from Scotts Ford to the railroad crossing at Bird’s Nest, and Mineral Fork from the Highway F bridge (Washington County) to its confluence with the Big River.  Otherwise:
    Bass, black (largemouth), smallmouth and spotted bass (kentuckies)- 12-inches length limit, 6 daily, 12 possession.
    Statewide season on bass in rivers and streams is open from the 4th Saturday of May till the last day in February annually.
    White bass, striper, hybrid bass- 15 total daily (only 4- 18 inches or longer can be kept in a daily limit), 30 possession.
    Rock bass (goggleye) - no length limit, 15 daily, 30 possession.
    Crappie, white or black - no length limit, 30 daily, 60 possession.
    Bluegill - no limit
    Catfish - no length limit, 10 daily (only 5 can be flatheads in a daily limit), 20 possession.
    Walleye - 18 inch minimum length, 4 daily, 8 possession.
    Fishing Licenses -
    Residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older and 65 are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license. Those 65 and older do not need a fishing license.
    Proof of residency - Valid Missouri Drivers License.
    Non-residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license. 
    Costs -
    Resident - $12 annual
    Non-resident - $42
    Daily - $7
    Trout Stamp - $7
    Buy Missouri Fishing Licenses Online!
    Report Violations - Poachers
    In cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Operation Game Theft works to stop the illegal taking of fish and wildlife that includes trophy animals and rare and endangered species.
    Missouri Wildlife Code

  • Phil Lilley
    Knowing where public access to Missouri's rivers are is important when planning a floating or fishing trip.  And knowing the distances between these accesses is also important.  Here are a list of Missouri Department of Conservation's public accesses.  Please use the river map provided to see how to get to these accesses.
    Area Name Acres of Public Land Frontage Miles Allenton Access 7.88 0.50 Blue Spring Creek Access     Campbell Bridge Access 10.0   Catawissa Access     Chouteau Claim Access 15.11 0.50 Flamm City Access 20.44 0.50 Highway 8 Access     Redhorse Access 47.33 0.25 Riverview Access 15.15 0.10 Sand Ford Access 32.65 0.25 Sappington Bridge Access 10.0   Scotts Ford Access 17.81 0.30 Scotia Bridge Access     Short Bend Access 74.63   Times Beach Access 0.96 0.25 Valley Park Access 5.00  

  • Al Agnew
    The following is a breakdown of the river into its different stretches between tributaries, giving the general characteristics of each stretch, its gradient (how fast it drops per mile), river gauge information, and mileages between public accesses.  Some notes on the information:
    Gradient:  In general, a gradient of more than 10 feet per mile is very fast, 6 feet per mile is fast, 3-4 feet per mile is about average for floatable Ozark streams, and less than 3 feet per mile means you'll encounter many long, slow pools.  Gradient also may be important in the Meramec Basin because it's believed that the invading spotted bass don't do well in gradients faster than about 3.5 feet per mile.
    River gauges:  For each section, the gauge that most closely reflects the flow in that section is listed, along with its exact location.  All Ozark streams typically flow more water in the March through May period than at other times, and flow the least amount of water in the June through November period.  Highest flows are usually in April, lowest flows are typically in July through October.  The normal flows in cubic feet per second for each of these periods is given, based upon the median flows listed in the gauge information from the USGS website.  The lowest flows that might typically be encountered are given as well, along with the highest flows that could still be fishable. Note that those higher flows may or may not be fishable, depending upon how muddy the stream has gotten after rain events that cause rises, and how long it has had to begin clearing as it drops.
    In addition, there is a rating for navigability, both floating in paddle craft and boating with jetboats, at various flows.
    Finally, accesses and river mileages are given for each section, with the uppermost access listed as mile 0.0, and all other public accesses given in order going downstream, with mileages from the uppermost access.  The accesses are those that are generally open to the public, with a few of them private but the best access in the area and usable by paying a fee.
     
    Short Bend to Maramec Spring
    Usually truly floatable only in the spring, the upper river is clear and fast, flowing through a wide pastoral valley lined by steep hills up to 300 feet high and occasional low bluffs.  Smallmouth are abundant, largemouth common, and spotted bass very rare in this section.  Goggle-eye fishing is usually good.  One or two canoe rental businesses in the Maramec Spring area serve the lower few miles of this stretch when there is enough water, but it is mainly a do-it-yourself float.
    Gradient:  about 6.5 feet per mile
    USGS river gauge:  Cook Station, located at the Hwy. M bridge, upstream from Crooked Creek, which is the only significant tributary within this stretch.  Occasionally Crooked Creek may be coming in high and muddy when the river above is clear, but usually the Cook Station gauge is reliable.
    Normal flow for December through February:  45-80 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May: 70-160 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November: 25-60 cfs.
    Low flows range from 10-25 cfs.
    The highest flow likely to still be fishable ranges from 200-500 cfs.
    Navigability at various flows:
    Less than 30 cfs—below marginal, with walking and dragging a lightly loaded canoe necessary in nearly all riffles.
    30-50 cfs—marginal, with walking necessary in many riffles.
    50-90 cfs—low but floatable, with scraping bottom likely in some wider riffles.
    90-150 cfs—easily floatable.
    150-250 cfs—high but floatable, with strong currents and difficulty in fishing from the watercraft.
    250-500 cfs—very high, the upper limits of floatability, with muddy water likely.
    Over 500 cfs—too high.
    This stretch is generally considered too small for jetboats.  Jetboating may be possible at flows over about 200 cfs, but narrow, twisting channels and frequent log obstructions make the risk to boat and operator significant.
    Accesses and mileages:
    Short Bend MDC Access, just downstream from the Highway 19 bridge—0.0
    Delcour Road low-water bridge—5.4
    Bales Road low-water bridge—7.8 (access questionable due to no-trespassing signs)
    Wesco low-water bridge—12.8
    Klein Ford low-water bridge—15.8
    Cedar Ford low-water bridge—17.8
    Woodson K. Woods CA and Access, just downstream from the Highway 8 bridge—25.3
    (Maramec Spring is less than two miles downstream from the Highway 8 bridge)

    Maramec Spring to the mouth of Huzzah Creek
    At Maramec Spring, the river receives a huge influx of 56 degree water, so much water that during dry summers, the river will have 3 to 5 times the volume below the spring as it has above it.  In high flows in the spring or after heavy rains, Maramec Spring can be coming in murky, and not far below Maramec Spring, Dry Fork enters the river.  Dry Fork is a long stream with a large watershed, but it is a classic losing stream, nearly all of its water sinking underground along its course to emerge at Maramec Spring.  When the Dry Fork is flowing after rain events, it is usually coming in muddy.  So due both to Maramec Spring and the influence of the Dry Fork, the river below is often considerably murkier than it was above the spring, and this murkiness can persist throughout this entire stretch.  Typically, the visibility of the river in spring and summer is no more than about four feet, though it can get very clear in the autumn and early winter.
    The stretch from Woodson K. Woods to the Scotts Ford MDC access is a red ribbon trout management area, and holds both rainbow and brown trout.  Most trout fishing is done within the first three miles below the spring.  The trout section of the Meramec is heavily fished and has the reputation of being somewhat tough fishing, but can produce some nice browns and plenty of rainbows coming from the Maramec Spring put and take trout fishery.  This stretch also holds a decent smallmouth population and scattered pockets of largemouth.
    From Scotts Ford to Birds Nest near Steelville is one of the original three Smallmouth Bass Special Management Areas, with a one fish/15 inch limit on the smallies.  The smallmouth population in this stretch, along with the rest of the section, is very good, as is the largemouth population.  Spotted bass are present in small numbers.  Catfishing can be good in the lower half of this section, and goggle-eye are very abundant but usually run fairly small.
    The river is typical Ozark pool/riffle/run water with the occasional long, slow pool, but the usually adequate volume of flow insures that it moves along well.  There are a number of canoe liveries and campgrounds and the river receives extremely heavy use by rental canoes, kayaks, and rafts in the warm weather months.  Jetboats are common, but the river is often too low for easy jetboat use in the late summer.
    The landscape along the river continues to be pastoral, with wide, cleared bottom fields and steep wooded hillsides up to 300 feet higher than river level.  Sheer bluffs are uncommon in the upper portions, but below Steelville there are a number of impressive bluffs reaching as much as a hundred feet high.
    Gradient:  about 3.5 feet per mile
    USGS river gauge:  Steelville, at the Birds Nest bridge, near the middle of this stretch.  It is fairly reliable for the entire stretch.
    Normal flow for December through February—230-420 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May—400-600 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November—160-350 cfs.
    Low flows range from 100-175 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 800-1400 cfs
    Navigability:
    Less than 150 cfs—low but floatable, with scraping bottom likely in some wider riffles and split channels.  Jetboating below marginal.
    150-250 cfs—easily floatable, with jetboating marginal; some riffles will be nearly unrunnable and the possibility of boat and motor damage high.
    250-500 cfs—easily floatable, runnable by jetboat with some difficulty in split channels or around obstructions.
    500-900 cfs—high but floatable with strong currents and difficult fishing from moving craft, jetboating easy for the prudent.
    900-1400 cfs—very high and fast for floating with muddy water possible, jetboating possibly dangerous because of obstructions.
    Over 1400 cfs—too high.
    Accesses and mileages
    Woodson K. Woods CA and Access (1.9 miles above Maramec Spring)--0.0
    “Cardiac” and “Suicide” walk-in MDC accesses—4.0
    Scotts Ford MDC Access—8.9
    Riverview MDC Access—16.1
    Fishing Spring Road MDC Access—20.6
    Highway 19 (No public access, but several campgrounds)--21.1
    Birds Nest Road bridge and Birds Nest Park—23.8
    Garrison's Campground (private access)--29.1
    Saranac Spring Campground (private access)--32.9
    Onondaga Cave State Park—42.2 (Onondaga Cave is 2.5 miles below the mouth of Huzzah Creek)

    Onondaga to the mouth of the Bourbeuse
    The 25 miles or so from Onondaga downstream is the most spectacularly scenic portion of the Meramec, with numerous huge bluffs and big gravel bars.  A couple of the most interesting bluffs are  Black Bluff just upstream from Campbell Bridge, and Vilander bluff a couple miles below Campbell Bridge.  Black Bluff is notable because it is the site of a very recent bluff collapse; in 2010 a huge section of the bluff broke away and fell into the river.  Vilander Bluff, which has two major faces, is about 200 feet high, and is dotted by two wild caves.  There are several other wild caves in this part of the river, including Greens Cave a couple miles above Meramec State Park, at the base of another huge bluff.  And two of Missouri's finest “show caves”, Onondaga and Meramec Caverns, are also found along the river in this stretch.
    The river from above Onondaga to Meramec State Park almost ceased to exist back in the late 1970s, when it was slated to be buried beneath the reservoir formed by the Meramec Dam.  The Meramec Dam battle was one of the most bitter conservation conflicts in the country at the time, and  the river was saved by a referendum among the counties of the basin that went almost 65% against the dam, even though the land for the reservoir had already been acquired and preliminary work had started on the dam itself.  Most of the land returned to private ownership, but subject to scenic easements that limited new construction within a certain distance of the river.  A few parcels reverted to state ownership as part of the state park system or as MDC accesses.
    This stretch is as popular as the section immediately above it, with a number of large canoe rental businesses and the two major state parks, Onondaga and Meramec.  It also receives heavy jetboat use.
    Below Meramec State Park, the river becomes much more the province of jetboats.  There are fewer canoe rental businesses and fewer anglers float it in paddle craft.  While the geology changes and the bluffs are not as high or as prominent, the river changes little otherwise, just becoming a little wider and slower down to the mouth of the Bourbeuse.  Summer homes and cabins are much more numerous in this lower portion, however, which may lessen the “wild” experience for many floaters and anglers.
    Huzzah Creek adds quite a bit of very clear water to the usually somewhat murky flow of the river above, and this section is often clearer than it is above the Huzzah.  Visibility is commonly around 4-5 feet, perhaps a little less in the downstream half.
    Smallmouth are abundant down to about Meramec Caverns, with largemouth common throughout this stretch.  The non-native spotted bass are rather uncommon above Meramec State Park, but increase very quickly downstream to become abundant in the lower half of this stretch.  Walleye are found throughout this section in small numbers.  There is an excellent catfish fishery, freshwater drum are common, and crappie can be found in quiet backwaters.
    Gradient:  2.6 feet per mile.
    USGS river gauge:  Near Sullivan, at Sappington Bridge.  It is in the upper portion of this stretch but is fairly accurate for the whole stretch.
    Normal flow for December through February:  550-1000 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May:  950-1450 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November:  325-700 cfs.
    Low flows range from 140-300 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 1500-3000 `cfs.
    Navigability:
    Less than 250 cfs:  low but floatable, scraping bottom possible in wide riffles and split channels. Jetboating marginal.
    250-500 cfs:  easily floatable, jetboating possible but many spots will likely be very shallow, especially in split channels.
    500-1000 cfs:  easily floatable and jetboatable.
    1000-2000 cfs: high but fishable under normal circumstances.
    2000-4000 cfs: very high, possibly fishable but very difficult from a moving canoe or kayak, conditions dangerous in some areas due to obstructions and submerged willows.
    Over 4000 cfs: too high.
    Accesses and mileages:
    Onondaga Cave State Park—0.0
    Campbell Bridge MDC Access—5.3
    Blue Springs Creek MDC Access—10.2
    Sappington Bridge MDC Access—14.5
    Meramec State Park boat ramp—19.3 (there are several other areas within the park in the next several miles to access the river)
    Sand Ford MDC Access—26.7
    Plum Ford, undeveloped access at end of county road—35.7
    Red Horse MDC Access—43.9
    Hwy. 30-47 bridge, private access at resorts only—48.6
    Mill Hill Road bridge, iffy accesses at the old bridge site just upstream and under the new bridge—54.1
    River Round MDC Access—57.5
    Chouteau Claim MDC Access at the mouth of the Bourbeuse River—63.1
     
    The mouth of the Bourbeuse to the mouth of Big River
    The Bourbeuse River, the Meramec's second largest tributary, doesn't always add a lot of water to the river, but it adds enough in high water events to change the character of the river considerably downstream.  The Meramec becomes wider as well as slower and more murky.  Visibility is often no more than three feet, but in low late summer and autumn water levels it can still be clear, and the river retains an Ozark appearance with big gravel bars and low bluffs.  But it is a very settled stream, with many areas lined with cabins and homes.
    Relatively few people float it in paddle craft, but it is popular with jetboaters and the occasional prop boat can be encountered.  All the game fish found anywhere in the Meramec can be caught in this section.  Smallmouths, while not nearly as common as in sections farther upstream, still make up a  percentage of the bass species.  Spotted bass are very abundant.  Walleye are a little more common, and catfish are very abundant.
    Gradient: 2.0 feet per mile
    USGS river gauge:  The nearest is the “Near Eureka” gauge at the old bridge at Times Beach, but it is below the mouth of Big River so it is affected by the flow of Big River.  The best way to gauge this section is to subtract the flow of the “Big River at Byrnesville” gauge from the “Near Eureka” gauge.
    Normal flow for December through February:  800-1800 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May:  1800-2600 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November:  500-1500 cfs.
    Low flows range from 150 to 350 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 3000-6000 cfs.
    Navigability:
    Less than 500 cfs—low but easily floatable, jetboats may have trouble in wide riffles and split channels.
    500-2000 cfs—easily floatable, easily jetboatable but there may be a few obstruction-filled riffles.
    2000-4000 cfs—easily jetboatable, floating is easy but fishing from paddle craft may be difficult.
    4000-8000 cfs—jetboatable but fast water may be dangerous, very high for floating and difficult fishing.  Very good chance of being muddy.
    Over 8000 cfs—too high.
    Accesses and mileages:
    Chouteau Claim MDC Access at mouth of Bourbeuse—0.0
    Robertsville State Park access—5.2
    Catawissa MDC Access (must paddle through old gravel pit lake to get to the river)--11.9
    Pacific Palisades MDC Access—16.5
    Allenton MDC Access—23.4
    Times Beach MDC Access (three miles below the mouth of  Big River)--30.2
     
    The mouth of Big River to the Mississippi
    This last section is truly an urban river, lined in many places with homes, cabins, and even industrial plants.  There are areas where gravel has been dredged for many years, forming large pools that get speedboat and jet ski use.  However, the river's banks have actually been protected to some extent with greenways and public lands.
    The river in this final section is often influenced by high water on the Mississippi, which can back up the Meramec for many miles.  It is very slow, usually quite murky, and has far fewer clean gravel bars.  Paddle craft are not very popular on this stretch, while jetboats and prop boats are both common.
    The smallmouth largely disappear.  Spotted bass and largemouth remain common, however, along with catfish and rough fish.  Even though it is in the “backyard” of the St. Louis metropolitan area, the fishing can still be quite good.
    Gradient:  0.8 feet per mile
    USGS river gauge:  The best one is the “Near Eureka” gauge three miles below Big River.  Much of the river downstream is sometimes affected by backwater from the Mississippi, which may make gauge readings problematic.
    Normal flow for December through February:  1100-2400 cfs.
    Normal flow for March through May:  2300-3700 cfs.
    Normal flow for June through November:  1500-5000 cfs.
    Low flows range from 200-600 cfs.
    Highest flows likely to be fishable range from 3000-8000 cfs.
    Navigability:
    Less than 500 cfs—easily floatable but very slow, jetboatable but may be difficult at wider riffles.
    500-1000 cfs—easily floatable, easily jetboatable but with possible obstructions.
    1000-5000 cfs—easily floatable but possible dangers from strong currents, easily jetboatable but murky water and wind may hide obstructions.
    5000-8,000 cfs—boatable but very high, probably muddy and dangerous.
    Over 8000 cfs—too high.
    Accesses and Mileages:
    Times Beach MDC Access—0.0
    Castlewood State Park boat ramp—8.0
    Valley Park MDC Access—11.5
    Green Tree Park MDC Access—12.5
    Ackerman Access at I-44 bridge (no boat ramp)--15.0
    Highway 30 bridge (good parking, poor access)--18.4
    Winter County Park boat ramp—19.4
    Highway 21 bridge (walk-in access, iffy parking in this area)--22.6
    Flamm City MDC Access (1.5 miles above the Mississippi)--31.0

  • Phil Lilley

    Meramec River

    By Phil Lilley, in Meramec River,

    The Meramec river system may be the most important river recreational area in Missouri due both to the high quality of these five major streams and their proximity to the largest metropolitan area in the state.  The Meramec itself is as pretty as any stream in the Missouri Ozarks, furnishes a wide variety of fishing,  and is the second longest undammed river within the Ozark region.
    The river has its beginnings in the area around Salem, Missouri, flowing north off the gently rolling divide that separates it from the headwaters of the Current River.  In its upper reaches, the Meramec is a losing stream and is often dry, its flow sinking into the deep gravel beds along the channel.  In fact, a tributary, Hutchins Creek, typically flows more water than the Meramec above it, and it is at the confluence of the two streams that the river first becomes fishable and intermittently even floatable.  But the generally acknowledged “head of navigation” on the Meramec is the MDC Short Bend access near where Hwy. 19 crosses the river.
    From Short Bend, the Meramec flows for more than 195 miles in a generally northeastern direction to finally enter the Mississippi just south of St. Louis.  Along the way it picks up water from many small, clear streams, numerous springs including Maramec Spring, the sixth largest spring in the Ozarks, and three major tributaries, the Big, the Bourbeuse, and the Huzzah (or four if you count the Huzzah and Courtois creeks as separate streams—they merge just a mile above where the Huzzah enters the Meramec).  Many caves are found along the river, including Onondaga Cave and Meramec Caverns, which are justly world famous.
    The middle reaches of the Meramec, and its two tributaries Huzzah and Courtois, are some of the most popular float streams in the Ozarks, and numerous canoe livery businesses and campgrounds dot their banks.  In addition, thanks to the consistent volume of water the river receives from Maramec Spring and the Huzzah and Courtois, it is big enough for heavy jetboat use.  If you're looking for solitude on the Meramec, you won't find it very easily in the warm weather months.  But the beauty of the river and its good fishing can offset the sometimes crowded conditions.

    The Meramec harbors nearly every game fish species found in the Ozarks.  The smallmouth bass is the most sought after species, along with rainbow and brown trout in the area below Maramec Spring, but largemouth are also very common, non-native spotted bass are abundant in the lower half of the river, and goggle-eye (the northern rock bass, to be exact) are targeted by many of the local anglers.  Crappie can be found in quiet water areas over much of the Meramec, and the sunfish family is further represented by bluegill, longear, and green sunfish.  Walleye and sauger are found in the lower half of the river, white bass migrate up it from the Mississippi, channel and flathead catfish furnish excellent fishing over much of its course, freshwater drum are common, longnose gar are found in each large pool, and common carp furnish some fun fishing.  The Meramec is also very popular with giggers, with abundant redhorse, hogsuckers, buffalo, and carpsuckers. In fact, because of the diversity of habitat in the Meramec from the cool, clear headwater stretches to the big, slow, murky lower reaches that connect with the Mississippi, the list of fish species found in the river numbers over a hundred.
    That diversity is reflected in the characteristics of the different stream stretches.  As each major tributary or spring enters the river, the character of the flow changes.  Each section between tributaries is a different stream, but each has its own charm and beauty.  Whatever you are looking for in a float stream, you can find it somewhere on the Meramec.
      Meramec River at State Park Access  
     
    River Levels

    Meramec River at Steelville

    Meramec River at Cook Station

    Meramec River at Sullivan, MO

    Meramec River at Valley Park, MO

    Mermaec River at Eureka, MO
    Fishing Regulations
    Special Management Rules for Meramec River
    Main steam and its tributaries, except as noted below:
    ◾ Black bass—Daily and possession limit is 12 fish and may include no more than 6 largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, combined total of both species .
    ◾ Spotted bass—No minimum length limit In Crawford and Phelps counties.
    ◾ The use of porous-soled waders is prohibited .
    ◾ Only flies and artificial lures may be used, and soft plastic baits and natural and scented baits are prohibited when fishing for any species.  From Scotts Ford to the railroad crossing at Bird’s Nest.
    ◾ Smallmouth bass—15" minimum length limit . Daily and possession limit of 12 black bass, which may include no more than 6 largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, combined total of both species, may include only 1 smallmouth bass.  From Highway 19 bridge in Dent County to Pacific Palisades Conservation Area.
    ◾ Goggle-eye—8" minimum length limit
    Red Ribbon Trout Area:  From Highway 8 bridge to Scott’s Ford and in Dry Fork Creek from the elevated cable crossing to its confluence with the Meramec River—8 .2 miles.  Two (2) trout daily limit and must be at least 15 inches in length to keep, using only artificial lures and flies only.
    Bass, black (largemouth), smallmouth and spotted bass (kentuckies)- 12-inches length limit, 6 daily, 12 possession.
    Statewide season on bass in rivers and streams is open from the 4th Saturday of May till the last day in February annually.
    White bass, striper, hybrid bass- 15 total daily (only 4- 18 inches or longer can be kept in a daily limit), 30 possession.
    Rock bass (goggleye) - no length limit, 15 daily, 30 possession.
    Crappie, white or black - no length limit, 30 daily, 60 possession.
    Bluegill - no limit
    Catfish - no length limit, 10 daily (only 5 can be flatheads in a daily limit), 20 possession.
    Walleye - 18 inch minimum length, 4 daily, 8 possession.
    From Cedar Grove to Arkansas state line - daily limit on hogsuckers is 5.
    Fishing Licenses -
    Residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older and 65 are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license. Those 65 and older do not need a fishing license.
    Proof of residency - Valid Missouri Drivers License.
    Non-residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license. 
    A Missouri TROUT STAMP is required for ANYONE who fishes the trophy or Blue Ribbon area on the Current River, regardless if the angler is keeping or releasing their catch. (New March 1, 2005)
    Costs -
    Resident - $12 annual
    Non-resident - $42
    Daily - $7
    Trout Stamp - $7
    Buy Missouri Fishing Licenses Online!
    Report Violations - Poachers
    In cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Operation Game Theft works to stop the illegal taking of fish and wildlife that includes trophy animals and rare and endangered species.
    Missouri Wildlife Code

  • Phil Lilley
    There are many outfitters on the Current River offering services that vary from canoe and kayak rental, fishing guides, camping supplies to lodging.  Here is our list:
       Two Rivers Canoeing Adventures    Akers Ferry Canoe Rental    Cave Spring Park and Current River Cavern    Circle B Campground    Dogwood Cottages    Harvey's Alley Spring Canoe Rental    KC's on the Current    Riverside Motel, Cabins & Beulah's Country Home    Shady Lane Cabins & Motel    The Landing    Troutt & Sons, Inc.    Windy's Canoe Rental    Big Spring Lodge and Cabins    Golden Hills Trail Rides and Resort    Van Buren Chamber of Commerce    Camelot RV and Campground    Jadwin Canoe Rental    Running River Canoe Rental

  • Sam Potter
    At times the Current River can be tough to fish, especially once you get down stream a mile or so below Montauk park. To list just 5 flies would be difficult because a lot depends on the time of year, hatches and the water conditions. If I gave you 5 flies to use on the Current River and you fished them the wrong time of year or in the wrong water conditions, you might not think I knew what I was talking about. I suggest that you narrow down the situation, but I do agree that if you do not go to the Current River without some caddis flies, you are missing the most important insect the river produces. Adult, larva, and pupa in various sizes and colors should be available to match the food source. Caddis will hatch the year around on the Current River. Even during the winter, if the conditions are conducive.
    When in doubt, drift larva or pupa below an indicator, because trout feed below the surface a heck of a lot more than they do on top.
    Sam Potter - The following is a list of flies that I use on the Current River:

    Caddis Dry – CDC #16-20 TMC 100 in brown, black, green, tan
    Caddis Emergers #16-20 TMC 2488 in brown, black, green, tan
    Caddis Larva #16-20 TMC 2488 in green, cream, brown, black

    Trico #28 TMC 518 in black
    BWO #18-22 TMC 518 in olive
    Brown Drake and Hex in size 8 and 6 TMC 100 in brown, brown/yellow

    Ants #19 TMC 102Y in black
    Hoppers #8-12 Dai-Riki 280 in tan, brown, green
    Yellow Stone #14 Dai-Riki 270 in yellow

    Midge #32-30 TMC 518 in tan, black
    Sculpins #2-6 TMC 200R or Dai-Riki 899 in brown, tan, olive, olive/blue
    Mohair Leech #10 TMC 100 or Dai-Riki 270 in olive, brown, cinnamon, tan, black
    I do not fish nymphs very much. I prefer casting a fly, to casting an indicator. If I am using caddis larva, I fish them below a dry fly. There are a ton of fishermen that use nymphs with an indicator and catch a lot of fish with that method, but I enjoy casting too much and the indicator gets in the way. I will use a very small piece of yarn at times for an indicator, but it is not my preferred method of fly fishing. I like the feel of casting a line and fly instead of plopping an indicator. I pride myself on accuracy and presentation.
    Fly fishing to me (at this stage of my life) is more than just catching fish. I have caught thousands over the past 50 years, using just about any method you can think of.... casting a dry fly with the perfect presentation and getting a selective trout to rise and take it, is what I prefer to do. It is the challenge and the reward that I cherish, not the numbers or the size of the fish. I have caught 50+ trout a day on numerous occasions and some huge fish, don't get me wrong I love to catch a lot of fish and BIG fish, but I enjoy making that perfect drift and catching a 12" brown just as much if not more. I have spent entire days just trying to catch one huge fish that I have found somewhere on the stream...That is the type of determination that I have. It is the challenge that drives me. I get the same challenge from a 12" brown that refuses my fly.
    The colors of the flies, I described, are for the body of the fly. Were the caddis you observed hatching and flying close to the surface or dropping eggs? It makes a difference. Did you notice any activity below the surface? For every bug they take off the surface they are probably taking 8 below the surface, if there is a hatch on. Excellent opportunity for swinging emergers.
    I have witnessed, on several occasions, trout catching flying caddis, not on the surface mind you, flying in mid air. Think about all the information that a trout must calculate to catch a bug flying. Force of the water, speed of the insect, windage and distance from the water surface. I would never have witnessed these instances if I had not been looking at the precise fly taken at the time of the jump. I find myself more observant with insects than I did twenty years ago. I use to just concentrate on fishing and missed out on a ton of information, and enjoyment that makes fishing more than just catching fish.
    Catching fish during a hatch can be very rewarding, OR it can be very frustrating, if they are keyed in on a specific size and color and you can not replicate what they are looking for, it can be frustrating.
     

  • Phil Lilley
    Montauk State Park is home to one of four trout parks in the state of Missouri. Since its acquisition in 1926, the 1,393 acre park has been one of the most popular vacation spots in Missouri. The fast-flowing, spring-fed headwaters of the Current River make Montauk an ideal home for rainbow trout and the scenic valley creates a pleasing atmosphere for fishing enthusiasts and vacationers.

    Montauk Hatchery began operation in 1932 with the current production facilities being built in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. The hatchery produces and stocks between 300,000 to 400,000 trout a year. On average the park is stocked with 200,000 trout each year. Montauk Hatchery also provides trout for Maramec Spring Hatchery; five White Ribbon Trout areas; and the St. Louis Urban Winter Trout Fishing areas.
    Hours
    The Hatchery is open to visitors from dawn to dusk seven days week.
    Tours
    Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 PM— Memorial Day through Labor Day. Call the Hatchery office to schedule other times
    Directions
    Montauk State Park is located 22 miles southwest of Salem Missouri or 12 miles southeast of Licking Missouri on Highway 119.
    From Salem: Highway 32 west approximately 11 miles to Highway 119. Highway 119 south approximately 11 miles to Montauk State Park.
    From Licking: Highway 137 south approximately 3 miles to Highway VV. Highway VV east approximately 9 miles to Highway 119. Highway 119 south 1 mile to Montauk State Park.
    Get current stream information provided by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Natural Resources.


  • Phil Lilley
    It has been said that Montauk is the most natural trout stream among the four Missouri state trout parks.  These maps show the different zones from fly fishing, catch and release to bait fishing and keeping trout.  
    Click on each map header to download a pdf format of each full map.

    Montauk State Park Map with Holes Marked.  Click map for pdf file download.


    Map supplied by Darrell Bentley at Reed's Fly Shop at Montauk.

  • Phil Lilley
    These are a series of 16 river maps of the Current River.  These are your maps... if you have any suggestions or would like to contribute with additional river information, email them to me and I'll add them to the maps (lilley @ lilleyslanding.com).  You will receive credit for your help.
    Click each map for a PDF file.

     Headwaters to Tan Vat

    Tan Tav to Cedargrove 

    Cedargrove to Akers

     Akers to Pulltite

    Pulltite to Round Spring

     Round Spring to Bee Bluff

    Bee Bluff to Pondermill

    Pondermill to Carr Creek

    Carr Creek to Chilton Creek

    Chilton Creek to Van Buren

    Van Buren to Big Spring

    Big Spring to Panther Spring

    Panther Spring to Bay Nothing

    Bay Nothing to Compton Campground

    Compton Campground to Doniphan

    Doniphan to Big Island

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