The Eleven Point River in South-central Missouri isn't quite a secret, but it's not far off. This strikingly beautiful river winds through one of the most rugged, remote areas anywhere in the midwest. Besides being a first rate trout stream, any trip on the river will provide sweeping views the mountainous terrain surrounding the river. This is a big, deep river that retains a wildness that isn't found in many other areas of the Ozarks.
The Eleven Point begins like every Ozark stream does. It rises from small springs high in the hills, and slowly gathers more tributaries until it reaches the Thomasville access. At that point, the river enters the Eleven Point National Wild and Scenic River area. From this point for about 40 miles downstream, most of the land around the river is publicly owned, and there is no development whatsoever. The upper river from Thomasville to Greer Spring is prime smallmouth bass water, but trout are few and far between. When Greer Spring (one of the most impressive in the world) enters about a half mile upstream from the Highway 19 Bridge, things change drastically. The water stays much colder through the summer, and the current speeds up significantly. From here downstream 20 miles to Riverton, the river is primarily a rainbow trout stream. The Blue Ribbon trout area extends from Greer Spring for 5 1/2 miles to the Turner Mill Access. The very best trout habitat on the river is found in this portion of stream. This water is stocked with 5500 rainbows each year, and it's open to fishing with artificial lures and flies only, with an 18" minimum length limit. The heavy stocking combined with enlightened regulations helps make the fishing very consistent. Also, ideal water temperatures and countless prime holding areas help fish hold over from year to year. 2009's shocking survey turned up 977 trout per mile, mostly in the 11" to 15" range. All said, the trout population seems to be very healthy. This wasn't always the case. This section of stream was managed for a time as a wild trout management area, with no trout stocked. While some wild trout did take hold, fish populations plummeted to around 200 per mile (a relatively sparse population for a river the size of the Eleven Point), and anglers began avoiding the Blue Ribbon water. In 2006, yearly stocking was resumed, and the Blue Ribbon area was back to its old self very soon. Now this five miles stretch is something of a rising star in the minds of trout fisherman. This turnaround is certainly a amazing success story, and a testament to the skill and adaptability of our fine Conservation Department.
Below Turner Mill, the water begins to slow down a little bit, but trout fishing remains very good. All of the riffles and deep pools between Turner and Riverton (14 miles downstream), will hold plenty of stocked rainbow trout. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks rainbow trout about 10 times a year between Turner Mill and Riverton, mostly during the spring, fall, and summer. Although fish numbers tend to be somewhat lower here, fishing is easier for those who are not experienced, because the stocked fish tend to be more aggressive. Also (unlike above Turner Mill), bait is allowed, which gives in-experienced anglers a better chance at hooking up. Good trout water extends all the way downstream to the Riverton Bridge. In all, this means there is about twenty miles of prime trout water on the Eleven Point. Below Riverton, trout habitat begins to quickly decline, and no trout are stocked. With that said, trout are present in fishable numbers for two or three miles below the Riverton Bridge. In small pockets where a spring seep flows in the river, an occasional trout can be found all the way to the Arkansas border, along with abundant smallmouth and largemouth bass.All along the trout water, the river is an interesting mix of deep, slow pools, and fast, turbulent riffles, locally called shoals. Both water types produce trout. Generally, those wanting to focus on the deep pools will do best above Turner Mill. The pools on this part of the river are well oxygenated, and each of them host many large trout. Downstream from Turner, the trout tend to congregate in the fast water, leaving the slower pools with fewer fish. Still, the pools all the way down to Riverton are very pretty, and all of them hold at least some stocker rainbows. The shoals, however, are really the name of the game down on the "Point". These appealing stretches of fast water are often deep, and generally have a lot fish-holding cover. Fish literally cram themselves into these areas in summer. To fish these shoals successfully, leave the dry flies at home. Fly fisherman need heavy nymphs and streamers fished deep under an indicator. Spin fisherman do well with jigs and small spinners. These fish are adapted to surviving the heavy currents this habitat provides, and they have learned to cling to the bottom, rarely rising to the surface.
There are some difficulties with the Eleven Point. First of all, bank access to prime water is just a bit limited. But it's far from non-existent. There is a stretch of wadeable fast water above the Highway 19 Bridge that extends upstream almost to Greer Spring Branch. This is upstream of the river's first major put in, and few fishermen bring their waders to the Eleven Point. Wade-fisherman can do very well in this stretch, often out-fishing the floaters who are further downstream. Decent wading access is also available at Turner Mill. Fly and spin fisherman do well above the access, and bait fisherman do well in the shoal just below it. Canoes are more of an issue to the wading fisherman here, and there is not as much wadeable water. Still, fisherman who don't have boats have been known to do quite well here. Whitten and Riverton both offer access to deep, slow pools. These pools are heavily stocked with rainbows, and provide good fishing from time to time, mostly with bait and spinners. With that said, wading is very limited at both of these accesses, and most of the trout will be fresh from hatchery.
Floating is the most popular option. The river is relatively easy to float. Two rapids (Halls Bay, and Mary Deckar) provide Class II excitement, that enliven the ride a little bit. With that said, there is no whitewater on the river an alert beginner can't handle, provided the river is at near-normal flows. There are three one day floats on the river of interest to trout fisherman. The first and most popular day float is from Greer Crossing Campground to Turner Mill, a five mile float. This all managed as Blue Ribbon water, and may be the best choice for those fly fishing, or tossing hardware. Fishing seems to be very consistent here, with lots of good fly water. The next float is from Turner Mill to Whitten. This is a nice one day float of seven miles, and the trout fishing is good throughout. There are many good shoals, all of which produce well. There are also several quick, oxygenated pools that are very worthwhile. This is a good choice for bait fisherman, but fly and spin anglers also do well. The last trout float is from Whitten down to Riverton, also about 7 miles. This is really a forgotten stretch of the river, but the trout fishing is surprisingly good. The pools this far downstream hold mostly smallmouth bass and walleye, but the shoals are still well populated by trout. A good method here is to run a crankbait or spinnerbait through the slower water in search of bass, and fish the shoals with a fly, spinner, or bait appropriate for trout. Even this far from Greer Spring, summer trout fishing is actually quite good. Multiple outfitters service the river, so renting a canoe or getting a shuttle shouldn't be difficult. For a canoe rental and a shuttle, standard rates are about $35 a day.
Besides day floats, many people decide to go on multiple day camp trips, an enjoyable tactic. We personally floated the entire trout section in July of 2009, taking three days to cover the whole run of 20 miles from Greer to Riverton. I can personally attest that camping on a gravel bar after a long day of successful trout fishing is one of the most pleasant traditions in the Ozarks.
The Eleven Point has all of the ingredients of a great trout river. It is, however, very underappreciated. The river receives some recreational use, but it's insignificant when compared to the nearby Current or Jacks Fork River. Also, the scenic beauty is unrivaled, and the isolation is unbelievably complete. Because of its wise management, the Eleven Point will provide good fishing for many years to come.