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Brown Trout Found Floating...

Phil Lilley

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BRANSON, Mo. -- Every once in awhile, something comes up from the depths of Missouri's waterways that drops the jaws of experts and novices alike. Such a fish surfaced at Lake Taneycomo on Sept. 10, 1997.

Mike Adams knew the brown trout was unique as soon as he saw its 3.5-foot carcass floating about 70 feet from the bank just upstream from Lilley's Landing Resort and Marina. The fish had been dead at least 24 hours before Adams, the dock manager at Lilley's Landing, fetched the fish out of the water. Signs showed it may have been in poor health before that.

"This was a very old trout, and it's possible that its condition was going downhill even before it died," said Mike Kruse, a fisheries research biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. Even in its "downhill" condition, the measurements of the fish provided to the Department by resort owner Phil Lilley showed this behemoth brownie was a one-of-a-kind fish " perhaps the only of its kind in the world.

The carcass weighed 37.1 pounds, which would have shattered the current brown trout state record of 24.95 pounds. Its girth was an impressive 27 inches. But the most intriguing aspect of the fish was its length.

The fish measured 41.75 inches, which easily surpassed the 40.25-inch length of the current world-record brown trout. Since this fish was longer, Kruse said there's a chance, in its healthier days, it also could have weighed more than the 40.25-pound brown trout recognized as the all-tackle world record by the International Game Fish Association. The dead trout's girth was close enough to the world-record girth of 28 1/8 inches to fuel speculation even further.

Since the fish was found dead, it won't show up in any record books. No trophies. No certificates. From an angling statistical perspective, it's just a dead fish. It's much more than that to the Department's fisheries biologists, though. This giant provides encouragement to those who manage Taneycomo's trout . . . and anticipation to those who fish for them.

"This fish shows that the lake has the capacity to produce world-record trout. I think that's important in regards to our efforts to restore the big fish-aspect to that fishery," said Chris Vitello, MDC southwest regional fisheries supervisor. Putting the size back in the lake's trout population has been one of the requests Taneycomo anglers have made to the Department of Conservation in recent years. It was one of the reasons for the regulation changes that went into effect on a portion of the lake March 1.

Obviously, the big fish shows that brown trout are doing well at Taneycomo. However, Vitello said the fish's large size is a good sign for rainbows as well."We won't be finding 40-pound rainbows, but this shows that the conditions are there for growing big trout "both rainbows and browns," he said. Even before this month's giant surfaced, Kruse and Vitello suspected that big trout were lurking in Taneycomo.

"Arkansas has been the producer of some of the biggest brown trout in the world, and Taneycomo is part of the same system," Kruse said. "Biologically, Taneycomo has better conditions for growing large trout than Arkansas. The impoundment has more deep-water refuge that can hide big fish. Also, a trout doesn't have to use as much energy in Lake Taneycomo. There are more low-velocity areas where a fish can lay around and get fat."

Lilley agreed.

"I think the lake has gotten a bad rap the past few years in terms of food base and growth of fish," he said. "I think the brown trout have shown, just from what we've seen, that the growth rate is there. You just have to give the trout a chance to grow. That's what this new regulation will show. And I think the rainbows will grow as fast as the browns."

Although Adams was impressed by the big brown he pulled out of Taneycomo on Sept. 10, he wasn't surprised. He's fished the lake for 26 years, and he knew the big fish were there."I have fished up and down the lake and I've seen shadows and I've seen fish," he said. "We always had a feeling that these types of fish were here."

-Francis Skalicky- Missouri Department of Conservation News

Lilleys Landing logo 150.jpg

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