One thing is for sure. There is no shortage of trout streams in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas. Some are spring-fed rivers and creeks. These provide everything from daily stocked put and take fishing for gullible trout, to the pursuit of wild rainbows in a pretty spring creek. There are also trophy brown trout streams that can and do produce stream grown trout in the ten pound range. In all, there are eighteen spring-fed streams in the Ozarks that are managed for year-round trout fishing, seventeen of which are in Missouri. All have public access. Of these, the freestone section of the North Fork of the White is often considered to be the best, with trout populations in the thousands per mile, with the upper section holding lots of wild rainbows and some browns, and the lower section holding a lot of browns and some rainbows. Other streams that are well worth fishing are the Eleven Point, Little Piney, Current, Meramec, and Niangua Rivers in Missouri, and the Spring River in Arkansas.
The tailwaters of the Ozarks are a completely different animal. All of the Ozark tailwaters are part of the White River System. All of these tailwaters of bottom draw dams hold thousands of rainbow trout per mile, as well as the constant chance of catching a world record brown. Cutthroat and brook trout can be found as well. There are about 150 miles of year-round trout tailwaters in the Ozarks, and about 130 miles of these can be found in Arkansas. Access is ample. The White River below Bull Shoals Dam is the most well known, providing one hundred miles of quality trout water. The upper twenty miles is the most heavily fished of this tailwater, but there are year-round populations of trout all the way to Guion, which is 92 miles below Bull Shoals Dam, and trout range considerably further downstream in the winter. The reason why this tailwater can produce trout for such a long distance is due to the fact the North Fork River flows in about fifty miles below the dam. The North Fork River also provides world class tailwater trout fishing, and it gives the White River the shot of cold water it needs to extend its trout water by fifty miles. Every true trout fisherman should make a visit to the White River in their lifetime, because 100 fish days can, and regularly do happen. This article just scratches the surface of trout fishing in the Ozarks, and I will describe specific streams in detail in coming articles.
In short, there is something for every trout fisherman in the Ozarks. There are not as many streams as there are in the Appalachians or the Rockies, but the ones that we do have compare favorably to the trout streams anywhere else in the world. Come and give Ozark trout fishing a try.