SPRINGFIELD – Note to trout anglers: Just because leaves are changing colors and your friends are talking about hunting deer, ducks, or small game doesn’t mean you have to put your fishing gear away.
Trout fishing is hardly a secret in Missouri, but for many people, it’s not in the spotlight in autumn like it was back on March 1 when thousands of anglers participated in the state’s annual trout park opener. At this time of year, many people are planning hunting trips or are trying to squeeze in a couple more trips to the lake before winter fishing patterns – and winter temperatures – set in. For many, this will involve outings where adults can pass on their knowledge and love of the outdoors to children and grandchildren. For others, it means finding solitude and getting away from computers, meetings, and other stressors of work.
All this leads back to trout. Even though (to paraphrase Robert Frost) trout fishing is the road not frequently taken in terms of outdoor choices at this time of year, a trout-fishing trip can provide outdoor entertainment and tasty table fare for nature-lovers of all ages.
“Fall is a good time to fish the trout streams in Missouri,” said Craig Fuller, Missouri Department of Conservation fisheries biologists who oversees trout-management areas at Bennett Spring State Park and on the Niangua River. “You have nice weather, a lack of recreational float traffic, beautiful fall colors, usually stable and clear stream flows, and trout are actively feeding as they get ready for winter.”
The same holds true for Missouri’s four trout parks.
“Typically, October has fewer anglers than the summer months of June, July, and August,” said Mike Mitchell, who manages the MDC hatchery at Bennett Spring State Park in Laclede and Dallas counties. “The lower angler turn-out can make for a peaceful fishing experience. Water clarity during October is very good, which allows anglers to see the fish better. Fall colors and cooler weather make for a beautiful backdrop.”
The summer fishing season at Missouri’s four trout parks – Bennett Spring State Park, Roaring River State Park, Montauk State Park, and Maramec Spring Park – runs through Oct. 31. Fishing hours at the parks are from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. A daily trout tag is required to fish at the parks.
Don’t worry – those who fish the trout parks in October won’t have to settle for summer’s left-overs. The streams at all four parks are stocked daily (based on predicted anger attendance) through the end of the month. That means, in October, approximately 30,000 fish are stocked at Bennett Spring, Roaring River, and Montauk, and 10,000 are put into the water at Maramec Spring. The size of the fish trout-park anglers can catch range from 12-inch stockers to lunkers that weigh between three and eight pounds.
After the trout parks’ summer seasons end October 31, all four areas will re-open for the winter catch-and-release season, which runs from November 8 through February 10. As the season’s name states, it is for catch-and-release fishing only – no trout may be kept.
Not all the trout parks are open every day during this season. The three state parks (Bennett Spring, Roaring River, and Montauk) are open for fishing on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Maramec Spring Park is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. During the winter season at the trout parks, you don’t need to buy a daily trout park tag when you fish. You will need a trout permit and, if you are age 16 through 64, a Missouri fishing permit.
Lake Taneycomo in Taney County is another well-known Missouri trout fishery that is a great place to fish in the fall. As is the case with trout parks, trout stocking continues at Taneycomo at this time of year. (The lake is stocked each month throughout the year.) In October, more than 60,000 trout are put into the lake. Anglers can also visit Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery at the west end of Taneycomo (just below Table Rock dam) to learn how trout are raised.
If none of this has caught your fishing fancy, don’t forget about Missouri’s trout streams. There are several Ozarks streams that, because of suitable habitat conditions, are capable of sustaining trout populations. Under the Conservation Department’s trout management plan, these trout streams are categorized as either white ribbon trout areas, red ribbon trout areas or blue ribbon trout areas. The differences between the classifications have to do with differences in regulations and management strategies. Like the trout parks and Taneycomo, some trout streams also receive fall stockings.
“Managed trout streams get stocked at different rates and some get stocked more frequently than others,” Fuller said. “But, yes, there are trout-managed streams that get stocked in the fall.” As an example, Fuller said the Niangua River White Ribbon Trout Area gets stocked every month of the year with rainbow trout, From October through February, its gets stocked twice a month. Anglers are reminded that they need to purchase a trout permit to possess trout on Missouri’s white, red or blue ribbon trout streams and to fish at Lake Taneycomo upstream from the U.S. Highway 65 Bridge.
More information about trout-fishing opportunities in Missouri can be found at your nearest Conservation Department office or at www.missouriconservation.org.