List of Fish Species in the Truman Reservoir 2023 [Updated]

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List of Truman Reservoir Fish Species [Updated]

Truman Lake dam
The construction of the Truman Dam was finished in the 1970s. MoBikeFed, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Truman Reservoir is a large, artificial body of water located near Warsaw, Missouri. It is one of the largest water bodies in the state, with over 900 miles (1,450 km) of shoreline and a maximum volume of 327,000 cubic yards (250,000 cubic meters). Six massive turbine engines produce ample power for nearby towns and cities. The dam was initially planned solely to prevent flooding of public lands. Planning began in the 1950s and construction ended in the 1970s.

Today, the Truman Reservoir is a sprawling body of water frequented by tourists and locals. It supports local wildlife and recreational activities. Several arms shoot off from the main body of water to the north, south, and west. The Truman Reservoir flows eastward into the beautiful Ozarks. Along the reservoir are locations designated for picnics, fishing, swimming, and other fun activities.

A visitor’s center overlooks the dam and reservoir, providing a scenic view of these structures and the surrounding area. In addition, visitors can learn about the region, the local environment, the dam’s history, and more. Several parks, lakes, and wildlife management areas flank the reservoir’s shores. For example, the Harry S. Truman State Park can be found on one of the central peninsulas of the reservoir. Parks like these designate land to be preserved for future generations. Additionally, visitors can enjoy hiking, boating, camping, and biking areas that will remain undeveloped so long as the park is protected.

List of Fish Species in the Truman Reservoir

1) Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus)

Spotted bass
Spotted bass grow larger than sunfish species, often reaching lengths of 12 inches. Brandon Preston / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America; intentionally introduced to the Truman Reservoir

There are a few black basses, fishes in the genus Micropterus, introduced to the Truman Reservoir by local wildlife agencies to improve the area’s sportfishing opportunities. Often, black basses are stocked alongside catfish and smaller sunfish species like bluegill and green sunfish to create a self-sustaining ecosystem of exciting sportfish. Large, predatory basses occupy the central water column and predate upon smaller sunfish, while delicious catfish consume detritus and occur near the bottom of the reservoir.

Spotted bass are one of a handful of black basses stocked in the Truman Reservoir. All black basses share a similar appearance with a streamlined body, dark green or brown colors along the body, and large mouths. However, spotted bass have smaller mouths compared to largemouth and smallmouth basses. In addition, an angler can look for a series of spots following the lateral line, a trait that can help determine a spotted bass from other black basses.

Fast-flowing, warm rivers make excellent habitats for spotted bass, but they will also readily take advantage of lakes and reservoirs. They are generalist carnivores and consume various prey items, including aquatic insects, fish, and crayfish. Like other black basses, adults can grow much larger than other sunfish species, regularly reaching lengths of around 12 inches (30 cm). Anglers may take up to six black bass per day from reservoirs in Missouri.

2) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Largemouth bass
Largemouth bass are popular sportfish in the US, with an average length of 16 inches. Patrick Jackson / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America; not native to the Truman Reservoir

The largemouth bass can be found in almost any sport fishing lake or reservoir in the United States. This species is one of the most stocked sport fishes in the United States due to its popularity as a sportfish. Their large size is one of the features that tend to attract anglers. On average, a largemouth bass reaches around 16 inches (41 cm), but they can grow to be up to 38 inches (97 cm). In addition, largemouth bass are exciting to hook and provide quite a fight. This species of fish is also edible and delicious.

Black bass, fish in the genus Micropterus, reproduce in the spring and summer. Male fish will construct solitary nests, impress females with displays, and aggressively chase away intruders. Once the eggs hatch, males will continue to guard the nest for a few days. Some species will protect their nests until the young leave while others abandon the nest after a few days regardless.

An angler is likely to find a largemouth bass in weed beds, where they hide and wait for unsuspecting prey items to swim past. Largemouth bass tend to occupy nearshore areas during spawning and feeding. During most other seasons, a boat will be required to find largemouth bass hiding in deeper waters. Anglers can use a variety of baits and lures to catch one and may take up to six black bass per day from reservoirs in Missouri.

3) Longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)

Longear sunfish in hand
In Missouri, longear sunfish are considered non-game fish; 50 non-game fish can be caught per day. Dominic / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Lepomis megalotis is a species of vibrantly colored sunfish with an extended ear flap on the operculum, the bony structure that covers the gills. The longear sunfish is named after this extended earflap which is located roughly where an ear would be on the head of an animal. Longear sunfish are orange with iridescent blue scales creating intricate patterns throughout the fish’s body. Some individuals possess horizontal bars which can help distinguish them from other vibrantly colored sunfish. A more detailed description can be found here.

Longear sunfish occupy calm streams and lakes with plentiful aquatic vegetation and sandy or gravelly substrates. They spawn in the summer, with males constructing nests in large colonies, a habit that deviates from the solitary nesting of black basses and other sunfish groups. Alternatively, some males will sneak into the nests of other males while posing as potential females. These “sneakers” will then attempt to fertilize eggs in the traditional male nests before the sneaker is chased away.

They are diurnal hunters, looking for prey during the day. Longear sunfish usually hunt near the top of the water column for small aquatic invertebrates and will only rarely eat other fish. Longear sunfish are considered non-game fish in Missouri and the daily bag limit for all non-game fish is 50.

4) Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)

Caught bluegill
Bluegills primarily consume insects but they also occasionally eat small fish, snails, and worms. Noah Poropat / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America

The bluegill is another stunning sunfish with a greyish-brown body and fins tipped with blue and orange. Unfortunately, they never caught on as a popular sportfish because they stay small and, as a result, are no longer routinely stocked in most states. However, unlike other piscivorous sunfish, the bluegill does not accumulate as many toxic metals and is, therefore, safer to eat. Check the local guidelines on wild fish consumption as bluegill from some regions may be safer than others.

Like other Lepomis sunfish, they are primarily insectivorous but will also consume snails, worms, and small fish.

Spawning occurs in warm water between May and July. Male bluegill tend to be particularly aggressive during the breeding season, and while they are not dangerous, they will try to attack swimmers if they come too close to the nest. Bluegill are considered non-game fish in Missouri and the daily bag limit for all non-game fish is 50.

5) Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)

Green sunfish in hand
Green sunfish mainly eat aquatic invertebrates but also eat smaller fish sometimes. Dominic / CC BY 4.0

Native to parts of North America

Lepomis cyanellus is a small, green sunfish with an iridescent, blue-speckled pattern and an ear spot just above its pectoral fin. They also have yellow to white edging along their pelvic and anal fins. An average green sunfish will be around 7.9 inches (20 cm) long. Although they rarely grow large enough to make a decent catch, they are considered delicious panfish.

To catch a green sunfish, an angler should try to fish in areas with abundant aquatic vegetation and refugia in the form of sunken wooden debris. One source suggests placing live bait on a bobber rig, such as worms or crickets. Green sunfish are considered non-game fish in Missouri and the daily bag limit for all non-game fish is 50.

They are nest spawners, a trait that is characteristic of sunfish. The green sunfish diet mainly consists of aquatic invertebrates, although they sometimes predate upon smaller fish. When introduced, green sunfish compete with other invertivores and have been responsible for several local extirpations of native species.

6) Orangespotted sunfish (Lepomis humilis)

Orangespotted sunfish in hand
Orangespotted sunfish are not popular sportfish due to their small size but they are a food item for larger fish. Mathew Zappa / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Orangespotted sunfish are superficially similar to longear sunfish, although they lack any barring pattern that may be present on a longear, and orangespotted sunfish have a shorter opercular flap. In addition, they are very vibrantly colored. Males are vibrant cyan with orange underbellies and fin margins. They also possess orange scales throughout their body, giving them a spotted appearance. Female orangespotted sunfish are duller by comparison.

This sunfish prefers habitats with ample cover and aquatic plants. They can tolerate various water quality conditions and substrates, although they will only spawn on gravel substrates. They do not tolerate very silty water or high pollution.

Orangespotted sunfish are notably smaller than other species in the Lepomis genus, with an average length of around 3 inches (7.6 cm). As a result, they are not popular sportfish, but they provide food for larger fish. Orangespotted sunfish are considered non-game fish in Missouri and the daily bag limit for all non-game fish is 50.

7) Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus)

Warmouths are a reclusive species, usually hiding in vegetation. Andrew Durso / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States; not native to the Truman Reservoir

This smaller sunfish is not a member of the black basses; instead, fish in the genus Lepomis are known as true sunfish. As a result, they tend to be smaller than their Micropterus counterparts, with a typical length of between 4 and 10 inches (10.2 and 25 cm). Warmouth are usually brown with red and orange hues, although they are not nearly as colorful or iridescent as other Lepomis species like the orangespotted or longear sunfish.

The warmouth earns its name from its enormous mouth, which allows this Lepomis species to eat larger fish than other species of fish in the genus Lepomis. In addition, warmouth can tolerate low oxygen conditions and survive poor water quality. Their large size, broad diet, and tolerance to adverse water conditions make them competitive predators. This species is also aggressive, making them an exciting sportfish. As a result, warmouths are stocked in lakes and reservoirs throughout the United States, although they are not nearly as popular as the larger and more aggressive black basses.

The perfect habitat for warmouth includes slow-moving water, plentiful vegetation, and muddy substrates. As a result, they stick to cover and tend to be a reclusive species. Their spawning season is spring, and their reproductive strategy is identical to other nest-spawning sunfish species. Anglers may harvest up to 15 warmouths per day provided that each fish is at least 7 inches (18 cm) long.

8) White crappie (Pomoxis annularis)

White crappie
Anglers at the Truman Reservoir can catch 30 crappies a day. Environmentalista / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

White crappies are versatile fish that inhabit a variety of aquatic habitats. Generally, they are lightly colored, silver fish with laterally compressed, rounded bodies. The common name “crappie” refers to fish in the genus Pomoxis. Species within this genus are distinguished from other sunfish species by spiny gill covers. The Truman Reservoir is home to both species of crappies.

They are not difficult to catch and can be fished using a variety of rigs and strategies, like classic bobbers and spider rigging. Both species are predators that hunt for small fish and invertebrates at dawn and dusk. White crappies lay their eggs on aquatic vegetation, while black crappies are nest spawners. Male black crappies construct a nest in the sediment of a water body for females to deposit their eggs. Males exhibit short periods of parental care, protecting eggs laid by females in the male’s nest for around five days.

Both species are predators that hunt for small fish and invertebrates at dawn and dusk. Generally, they are easy to catch and anglers may take up to 30 crappies per day.

9) Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)

Caught black crappie
Black crappies are popular with beginners and young anglers as they are fairly easy to catch. Mark Eanes / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Black crappies inhabit clear water and prefer areas with abundant submerged aquatic vegetation. Their niche overlaps with largemouth bass, which often predate the smaller black crappie. Black crappies are easy to catch and are often a favorite among young or new anglers.

Like many other popular sportfish, the black crappie has been introduced throughout the United States to stock sportfish fisheries. Black crappies are sunfish with a dark, mottled appearance.

Black crappies are typically small, with an average length of 10.8 inches (27.4 cm). Crappies are crepuscular hunters, meaning they feed during the morning and evening, so anglers should search for them during these times. They are also schooling fish, so more are sure to be present where one is found. Anglers may take up to 30 crappies per day.

10) Smallmouth buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus)

Smallmouth buffalo in hand
Although they look similar to European carp, smallmouth buffalo are native to the United States. Cody Stricker / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States

On occasion, an angler visiting the Truman Reservoir may reel up a chunky carp known as a smallmouth buffalo. This species can grow to monstrous sizes, making them an exciting catch if an angler snags a significant individual. They have large, bulbous heads, forked tails, and large scales. While they resemble a non-native European carp, this species is native to the United States.

Smallmouth buffalo possess bony plates in their throats, which they use to break open the tough shells of mollusks. Shellfish and algae make up the bulk of a smallmouth buffalo’s diet. Very little is known about their reproductive habits, although their breeding season is thought to be in the spring, and they are broadcast spawners, meaning that they deposit their eggs in the substrate and provide very little parental care.

Like other carp species, the smallmouth buffalo is edible and is sometimes marketed as a food fish. This species is considered non-game fish in Missouri and the daily bag limit for all non-game fish is 50.

11) Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)

Blue catfish
In Missouri, there is a daily catch limit of 5 blue catfish. Tim / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States and Mexico; not native to the Truman Reservoir

The largest catfish species in North America is the blue catfish. It can grow to enormous sizes, with a recent record weight of 143 lbs (65 kg). However, the typical blue catfish will reach an average weight of around 4 pounds (2 kg). Not quite as monstrous, but still sizeable!

Blue catfish are stone-grey in color with light underbellies. Giant individuals look like statues as they slowly glide through the water. They possess a deeply forked caudal fin which distinguishes them from smaller catfish species like bullheads. They are similar in appearance to the channel catfish, and the edges of their anal fins can help identify this species. In blue catfish, the anal fin is generally straight. In channel catfish, the anal fin is somewhat rounded.

This species thrives in clear streams with an abundance of invertebrates which they feed upon. However, they have small eyes and poor eyesight, so blue catfish rely on their sensitive barbels to detect prey items in the water column or hide in the substrate.

Catfish are a popular sport and food fish. They are well known for their flavor, and because they feed primarily from the water column and less from the substrate, they tend to taste better than species that are bottom-feeding specialists. In Missouri, anglers may take up to 5 blue catfish per day.

12) Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Channel catfish
The recommended bait to catch channel catfish is live fish or nightcrawlers. Tim / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

The most popular sport catfish is the channel catfish or the channel cat. This species has a forked tail and a round anal fin instead of a straight one. The average length for this species is 10 to 20 inches (25 to 51 cm).

The channel catfish thrives in clear streams but can tolerate turbid water. They also can survive in brackish water. Young channel catfish have the typical invertebrate diet seen in other catfish species. The adults consume various prey items. Channel catfish reproduction is temperature-dependent and is initiated when the water temperature reaches at least 75 °F (23.9 °C). When temperatures are favorable, male channel catfish construct a nesting area for females to lay their eggs. Males protect and care for the eggs until they hatch.

The National Parks Service suggests using live fish and nightcrawlers to catch a tasty channel catfish. However, they will accept a variety of meat-based bait, from squid and shrimp to hotdogs and processed bait. Anglers may take up to 10 channel catfish per day.

13) Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)

Flathead catfish
It’s recommended to use gloves when handling catfish, as they can sting you. Cody Stricker / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States and Mexico

With a distinct protruding lower jaw, the flathead catfish has one of the most curious appearances of any catfish. This catfish is mottled, olive-colored, and immature individuals may appear black. Young fish may be confused with bullheads as they are both rather dark in color, but bullhead catfish do not possess a protruding lower jaw at any age. This species is also larger than other species on this list, with an average length of 30 inches (76 cm) and weights exceeding 100 pounds (45 kg).

This species is a passive, nocturnal hunter that spends most of its time in deep pools. However, they will travel to shallower areas in search of prey when hunting. This species primarily consumes invertebrates and fish. They spawn once in early to mid-summer.

Flathead catfish are popular eating fish on the dinner plate and have a remarkable flavor. Live bait is best. Some examples of excellent bait fish include smaller sunfish, mudcats, or other appropriately sized bait fish. Care should be taken when handling any catfish as this group of fish possess venom glands that can deliver a painful sting via hollow dorsal and pectoral spines. Gloves are recommended when removing catfish from hooks and processing them for filets. Anglers may take up to 5 flathead catfish per day.

14) White bass (Morone chrysops)

Small white bass
White bass are in the same family as striped bass: the temperate bass family. Mathew Zappa / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

White and striped basses are not closely related to sunfish; instead, they belong to the temperate bass group, which includes all fish in the family Moronidae. Sunfish, by comparison, belong to the family Centrarchidae. Temperate basses are known to hybridize with each other, which can complicate species identification because hybrids contain a mix of traits from both parent species.

Deep, clear water is the preferred habitat for white bass. Here, they hunt for invertebrates and fish, like shad, and young fish of other species. Temperate basses are scatter-spawners and do not make a nest. Instead, they congregate in large groups to mate, migrating upstream to swift streams before mating. Once in spawning territory, females release thousands of sticky eggs that settle in the substrate.

White bass are aggressive fighting fish, so they can be an exciting species for many anglers to hook. Flies, spinners, and small plugs come in handy when targeting this species. The collective daily limit for white, yellow, and striped bass is 15 fish and only 4 fish may be larger than 18 inches (46 cm).

15) Striped bass (Morone saxatilis)

Striped bass
The best time to catch striped bass is during fall. Sawyer Baran / CC BY 4.0

Native to the East Coast of the United States

The striped bass is silver with dark stripes running down its sides and a slightly forked tail. Most temperate basses also have two separate dorsal fins, one with stiff spines and the other with mostly softer rays. It is native to the east coast and has been introduced as a sportfish throughout the country. They are piscivorous and primarily predate upon small fish.

While the average length for white bass is 12.5 inches (32 cm), the striped bass comes in at a whopping 47 inches (119 cm) on average. The two species appear superficially similar with a silver body and black stripes, but the white bass is shorter and rounder than the striped bass, with a slight hump behind its head. Lines on the white bass also are not as complete as those on the striped bass.

An angler looking for a striped bass should target them during the fall. One source recommends fishing strategies like trolling, jigging, and targeting feeding groups, commonly called “boils,” close to the surface. The collective daily limit for white, yellow, and striped bass is 15 fish and only 4 fish may be larger than 18 inches (46 cm).

16) American gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum)

American gizzard shad in hand
American gizzard shad are found throughout eastern North America and have a tolerance for cold water. Dominic / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Gizzard shad are generally small, silver fish. On average, they are around 13 inches (33 cm) in length. They are very laterally compressed, meaning that they are flattened vertically. Additionally, gizzard shad possess a trailing ray off their dorsal fin. Juveniles have a large black dot near their gill covers that fades as the fish ages. Unlike its close relative, the threadfin shad, the lower jaw of the American gizzard shad does not extend beyond the upper jaw. In addition, American gizzard shad are more tolerant to cold water and are distributed throughout eastern North America.

This species is usually found in freshwater habitats, although some populations inhabit saltwater and freshwater. For these populations, the shad spends most of its time in the saltwater and migrates to freshwater rivers to spawn.

The breeding season for this species occurs in the spring and summer months. Females mate with multiple males and do not perform any parental care. Due to their abundance and small size, shad are important prey species for larger predatory fish. Juvenile shad are especially important. As juveniles, shad diets consist of zooplankton and filtered organic material.

17) Freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)

Freshwater drum
Freshwater drums have special teeth that look like molars to help them crush mollusk shells. Mathew Zappa / CC BY 4.0

Native to North America

Freshwater drums are perch-like, silvery fish with a rounded caudal fin. This trait can help distinguish them from perches which usually possess slightly forked caudal fins. In addition, a defining characteristic of the freshwater drum is the presence of a complete lateral line that extends into its caudal fin.

The most striking feature of the freshwater drum is its unusual teeth which look like a series of molars and are specially designed to crack open sturdy mollusk shells. These teeth are not uncommon in other species of fish, but they are particularly pronounced in freshwater drums. In addition, this species can produce a deep, throaty noise that they use to scare off predators and communicate. This action is made possible because they have particular muscles to vibrate their swim bladder.

Freshwater drums are bottom dwellers and eat similar prey as catfish. This diet includes insects, fish, crayfish, and mollusks. They enjoy slow currents in deep reservoirs and lakes. Spawning occurs in schools annually from late spring to early summer. Thousands of offspring are produced in one spawning event and left to fend for themselves in the open water. This species is considered non-game fish in Missouri and the daily bag limit for all non-game fish is 50.

18) American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)

American paddlefish
In Missouri, there is a limited open season where two American paddlefish can be caught if they are at least 32 inches in length. Emőke Dénes, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the United States and Canada

Paddlefish are giant, grey fish that are related to sturgeons. Only one species of paddlefish exists today: the American or Mississippi paddlefish.

In 2003, the only other species of paddlefish that existed in the modern era went extinct following the construction of the Gezhouba Dam in China. This group of fish is migratory, traveling to spawning grounds upriver, and they can suffer catastrophic losses if these migratory paths are disrupted. The American paddlefish is found only in the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes and is considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List in some parts of its range. The construction of dams and reservoirs that interrupt natural migration patterns is one factor influencing American paddlefish populations.

They are planktivorous, long-lived, and can grow up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) long. The long nose, or rostrum, is dotted with electroreceptors that allow the paddlefish to sense prey. Paddlefish infrequently spawn, once every two to three years, and produce thousands of tiny offspring while investing little parental care. The infrequency at which they spawn makes it difficult for populations to recover.

There is a limited open season on paddlefish in the state of Missouri where anglers are allowed to take up to two individuals that are at least 32 inches (81 cm) in length.

19) Longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus)

Longnose gar in net
Longnose gar can usually be found in small groups and have a higher tolerance for water bodies with high salinity levels. Steve Taylor / CC BY 4.0

Native to North and Central America

Longnose gar are one of few species of gar present in Missouri and can be distinguished from the others by its snout. As its name suggests, the longnose gar possesses a skinny, long nose with rows of sharp teeth. Of all the gar species, the range of the longnose gar extends the farthest north, reaching areas up into Quebec. An average longnose gar will be about 25 inches (64 cm) long.

Longnose gar can be found in slow-moving rivers, ponds, and impoundments, often in small groups. They hover, motionless in the water until a prey item unwittingly approaches them. At this point, they sideswipe the prey item to impale it on their sharp teeth. Longnose gars are vital predators of sunfish, shad, and shiners, controlling prey fish populations. In addition, longnose gar can tolerate higher salinity, sometimes entering saltier waters to hunt menhaden in coastal estuaries. This species is considered non-game fish in Missouri and the daily bag limit for all non-game fish is 50.

20) Walleye (Sander vitreus)

4 walleyes can be taken every day at Truman Reservoir if they are at least 15 inches in length. Rob Foster / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States and Canada

Walleye fishing is notably difficult at the Truman Reservoir. This popular sportfish is often stocked in lakes and reservoirs to support recreational sport fishing.

Walleyes are primarily piscivorous but are known to eat invertebrates, amphibians, and even small mammals. Due to their large eyes, they are well adapted to their nocturnal lifestyle and visual hunting strategy. They also possess an arsenal of sharp teeth, facilitating their carnivorous diet.

This delicious fish is highly sought after by sport fishers. Fishing for walleyes is like fishing for bass species; they can be caught with various fishing tactics. Sources suggest using live bait such as minnows, earthworms, and leeches. Anglers may take up to 4 walleyes per day provided that each fish is at least 15 inches (38 cm) in length.

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