Gone Wild

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

is absorbed, the fish swim to the surface and begin to feed on their own. Their life-long struggle to find enough food to survive, without becoming food themselves, now begins.

The newly emerged trout find shelter in slow moving water along stream edges, often behind rocks or near aquatic plants. As they grow and become stronger, they move to deeper and swifter areas, taking refuge from the current behind large rocks, logs or rootwads. Trout can save energy in these areas, and can easily catch drifting prey. These areas also provide a good view of potential predators - kingfishers, herons, larger fish and humans. Adult trout seldom venture far from cover of deep water, undercut banks, logjams, rootwads or the turbulent waters of a riffle.

Cold water streams harbor a rich variety of aquatic insects, crayfish and small fishes. Thanks to abundant food and moderate stream temperatures, Missouri trout grow rapidly, reaching 5 to 7 inches by the end of their first year. Two-year-old fish reach 7 to 10 inches and by the end of their third year some approach 14 inches - spawning size.

Their constant struggle against the current keeps wild stream trout in top physical condition. Hatchery trout lead a comparatively easy life in placid waters, growing fat on fish pellets. Wild trout, however, must find, capture and kill all their food. "It's like comparing timber wolves to lap dogs" says a friend. Anglers accustomed to hatchery trout will be amazed at the strength and fighting ability of small 8- or 9-inch wild rainbows and thrilled by the power of larger fish.

Wild trout are also barometers of environmental health. They survive only in the coldest, cleanest waters of our state. Pollution from municipal, agricultural or industrial sources and stream disturbances from gravel mining, livestock

grazing and removal of streamside trees threaten wild trout and their habitat.

How to Fish for Wild Trout

If you've never fished for wild trout, be ready to change tactics. First, don't expect to walk up to the edge of a pool and see trout as you would in a trout park. On a wild trout stream, all you may see is fish darting to the nearest rootwad! Remember, only shy and cautious trout survive in the wild.

Approach a wild trout like you'd approach any wild animal, slowly and cautiously. Stay low and out of sight as much as possible. Approach

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