Missouri’s Little Piney Creek is a little-known stream, but it is one of the best wild trout streams in the state. Rising high in the Ozark Mountains, this creek starts as a small, ice-cold trickle, and it gradually becomes a small river that holds hundreds of trout per mile. This stream is a wade fisherman’s dream. Often too low to float, it provides a quiet area to target wild rainbows. In all, about 10 miles of stream holds trout, but the creek changes drastically along its course.
Headwaters to Highway 63
This stretch of small stream is the headwaters of Little Piney Creek. For several reasons, this area of the creek does not furnish as good of trout fishing as other areas. Trout habitat is relatively poor due to several factors. Channelization, warm water temperatures, and irregular flow all contribute.
The biggest obstacle to this stream stretch being a high class trout fishery is the presence of several gravel pits along the stream bed. Although gravel mining no longer occurs on the stream, the stagnant ponds created by past mining elevates the water temperatures and ruins spawning areas. Still, with all of these challenges, there are pockets of good habitat above Highway 63. Some trout will be found in those areas, and they receive little to no fishing pressure.
Lane Spring Branch to Vida Slab Bridge
Lane Spring adds a large volume of water to the creek, and fishing pressure becomes somewhat higher below its mouth. It should be known that the junction pool of Lane Spring and Little Piney Creek has a soft bottom, so you use caution if wading there. Walk up or downstream from this pool before you get in the water. This three-mile portion of the creek holds several hundred trout per mile.
Every appealing pool or rifle will hold some trout, provided there is sufficient current and cover. There are several deep, slow pools that must be waded through to reach better water. You can reach the river in this section at Lane Spring Recreation Area or the Vida Slab Access. Overall, this is the best part of the river to hook into wild rainbows in the 10″-15″ range.
Vida Slab to Milldam Hollow
This stretch of creek is quite pretty. There are deep holes, as well as some very appealing fast water. Unfortunately, this section of stream can get uncomfortably warm for the wild rainbows during the summertime. You won’t find quite as many fish as upstream. Still, this is a very nice, quaint area to fish, and there are plenty of trout to be worth fishing for. You’ll also find plenty of smallmouth bass and goggle-eye here.
You can get on the river at the upper end of this stretch at Vida Slab County Road 7460 Bridge. Also, if you drive along the river on County Road 7440, there will be some places you’ll want to pull over and fish. All in all, this is a pretty place to kill some time and catch a few trout and smallmouth bass. The “creek” is a full-blown river by this point.
Milldam Hollow to County Road 7360
Below Milldam Hollow, the river continues to become warmer. The water is still clear and relatively cool, but the influence of the springs have begun to fade by this point. By this point, it is a decent sized river, and many warm tributaries have joined the stream, marginalizing trout habitat. For these reasons, the state doesn’t manage this stretch for wild trout. Instead, they stock it about ten times annually. Because of warm water temperatures, trout are usually only stocked from late September until mid-June.
A surprising number of trout do survive the summer, and you can find some large holdovers. A number of wild trout are also present. Still, this is mostly a put and take area. Most trout will be about the same size, averaging about 10 inches. This is the place to come if you are looking to saltwater fish, or take a few homes for the frying pan. Most of the fresh stockers will be found in the deeper pools.
There are several bluff holes in this stretch that always hold good numbers of trout and smallmouth bass. Access is at the Milldam Hollow Access, and where County Road 7400 meets the river. Both accesses receive heavy stockings of trout. You can also access the 7360 Bridge, several miles downstream. Few trout are stocked this far downstream however, although you’ll still find some trout in the better pools, as well as a large number of smallmouth bass.
Worms, spinners, and small crankbaits are good bets for both species. Just below the 7360 Bridge, Beaver Creek enters Little Piney. Beaver Creek is quite large and warm. Trout habitat below its mouth is virtually non-existent, except in a few spring-holes. Fishing for warm-water species is very good all the way to Little Piney’s mouth. Smallmouth and rock bass are the most common catch.
Blue Ribbon Section
From the creek’s headwaters to the Milldam Hollow Access, Little Piney Creek is managed as a Blue Ribbon Trout Area. This means that only one trout may be kept, and there is an 18″ minimum on trout. Bait and soft plastic lures are not allowed.
White Ribbon Section
Below Milldam Hollow, you can keep four trout of any size, and there are no bait restrictions. Smallmouth bass must be 12″ to keep, and the limit is six.
Little Piney Creek may not be well known, but the fishing is definitely worth while. If the idea of fishing for trout in almost complete solitude appeals to you, this is a good option. This creek is a true gem.