VisitMO Editor’s note: Katie Steele Danner is the director of the Missouri Division of Tourism (MDT).
Trout season runs March 1 thru October.
It was cold on March 1, 2013, when I partook of a must-do in Missouri – “fly fishing.” Actually, I didn’t do any fishing; I was an enthusiastic spectator. The thermometer read lower than 40, what my family calls “Katie temperature,” which is usually my go outdoors limit. However, that day was special. I had joined Governor Jay Nixon, along with State Parks Director Bill Bryan at Bennett Spring State Park for opening day of Missouri’s trout season. Bundled-up against the cold, I watched as men, women, college students and kids stood waist-deep in rushing 38° water, their graphite, fiberglass or plastic rods in a flurry of activity as line and lures zipped thru the air toward the water’s surface. The anglers were serious – and obviously very hardy. One thing they all had in common was a big smile. Did I mention it was really cold? It was actually snowing.
In Missouri, trout are abundant year-round, regardless of the weather. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) stocks rainbow trout in 18 Missouri lakes; three state parks (Bennett Spring SP, Roaring River SP, Montauk SP); one trout-park, privately owned by a philanthropic foundation (Maramec Spring Park); and more than 120 miles of non-commercial, spring-fed streams — the Current River and Eleven Point River, to name two. Annually, MDC releases more than two million Missouri raised rainbow trout; fish ranging from 3/4 of a pound to four-pounders ...but much larger lunkers are out there.
"Every Missouri trout park and stream has its own special character,” said Gov. Jay Nixon, an avid trout fisherman himself. “That’s why for generations, these parks have been outdoor travel destinations for those who fish from throughout the country. Whether you’re there for the time-honored tradition of opening day, with hundreds of others, or you’re enjoying solitude as you cast a fly toward a deep pool, the Missouri trout experience offers beautiful scenery, great facilities, and terrific fishing.”
Trout season in the four trout parks opens March 1. Fishing is allowed daily from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There is a daily limit of four fish, possession limit of eight. The season ends October 31; however, catch-and-release fishing is permitted November thru early February – a good time to hone your skills. The season in the wild streams and protected trout areas varies, but is generally year-round. It is always best to check MDC’s website for general information, regulations, dates, limits and licenses.
The sport is not limited to fly-rods and hand-tied flies. You can be successful using rods and reels from heavy-duty to ultra light, and bait from tiny flies to multi-hook lures to salmon eggs and bugs. Some in my family even use a cane pole with a piece of string tied to the end and a bit of cheese on a hook, or a throw-line, with no pole at all. Use whatever you like.
Lest you think you can’t be competitive in Missouri, think again. Using a pole and line, the Missouri record rainbow trout is 18 lbs. 1 oz., taken at Roaring River; using a throw-line, the record is 15 lbs. 6 oz., caught at Lake Taneycomo. Want something bigger? The Missouri record brown trout is 28 lbs. 12 oz, also from Lake Taneycomo. (Records as of March 2014.)
Professional fisherman Scott Pauley, MDT’s outdoors expert, says: “With rainbow trout in the 20-pound class and brown trout pushing 30 pounds, Lake Taneycomo is a proven trophy area for rainbow and brown. There is no reason to travel any farther than Missouri to access some of the best trout fishing in America.”
I addition to great trout fishing, the state-managed parks offer camping, lodging, hiking, swimming, dining, general stores and other activities. They have special concrete pathways, allowing streamside access to those with physical limitations. Nearby businesses offer fun activities, ranging from ziplines to caves to museums. Stay on this official Missouri travel website, where you can find listings for thousands of attractions throughout the state. Missouri . . . enjoy the show.