The Rainbows of Crane Creek
Trout are not native to Missouri. In the latter part of the last century, fishing enthusiasts released all kinds of non-native fish in Missouri waters, including eight different species of trout and salmon. It was even hoped salmon might establish a spawning run on the Mississippi River. No thought was given to the fact that salmon and trout are creatures of the northern regions of the globe and require the cold water that goes with long winters and streams fed by slowly melting snow banks.
The colorful Crane Creek "McCloud strain" rainbows have a reputation for skittishness; they have persevered in the stream because they seek shelter at the first sign of an approaching predator, be it two-legged or four. The Conservation Department protects them with catch-and-release regulations-you can fish for them, but you must release them unharmed immediately once caught.
These fish provide a wonderful challenge for anglers willing to fish with artificial lures or flies and approach the stream with stealth. They are also a genetic reservoir should Missouri's trout hatcheries be decimated by calamity or disease. Even now, the McCloud fish are used to produce offspring for a "wild" trout section of another Missouri river. Biologists use sperm collected from a few of the Crane Creek fish in late November to fertilize eggs of the regular hatchery strain of fish, then stock the resulting offspring. As adults, fish bearing the McCloud genes should flourish and reproduce naturally.
The little town of Crane, near Aurora, southwest of Springfield, is off the beaten track. Wild trout fans all over Missouri cringed when Crane Creek was featured on a national cable television fishing show. The host even caught a large rainbow out of the little stream. Devotees imagined hordes of anglers descending on what many have felt is a well kept secret. But it didn't happen; if you fish Crane Creek, you are not likely to encounter many other anglers. Most of the fish are small, and catching them is tough. It's not fishing that appeals to a lot of people, even if it did show up on the sports network.
Wild trout have a special value to some anglers. The fish have crisp colors, clean fins and an overall sleek appearance. Knowing that they are stream-bred and have foraged on their own for every ounce of protein gives them a mystique all their own. They are strong fish, too, and put up a surprisingly