Trout fishing has been part of Missouri’s outdoor heritage for most of our state’s history. Early settlers must have been surprised that there were no trout in the cold, clear waters of the Ozarks, because they made efforts to introduce them. Shortly after the Civil War, the Missouri Fish Commission received rainbow trout eggs from California shipped over the relatively new transcontinental rail lines.
Since 1880, Missouri anglers have enjoyed the excitement of trout leaping from cold, rushing streams. In the early years, however, fishing demand kept trout populations low. By the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps was helping to construct hatcheries to add more trout to streams. This began the modern era of trout management.
Missouri’s trout program gradually expanded and diversified, and now provides a wide range of fishing opportunities. Around some of our largest springs (Bennett, Montauk, Roaring River and Maramec) are“trout parks” where anglers enjoy daily stockings of rainbow trout in easily-accessible areas.
Outside the trout parks are areas which are less intensively stocked and fished. Also, there are streams that support brown trout, or even wild, self-sustaining populations of rainbow trout. The cold waters of Lake Taneycomo are famous for producing trophy trout. City-dwelling anglers can enjoy winter trout fishing in a number of lakes and ponds in urban areas.
Providing trout fishing is not simple. The supply of trout from Missouri’s hatcheries is limited. Natural reproduction of trout is even more limited. Less than 1 percent of our permanent streams are cold enough to sustain trout year-round. Even so, trout are popular with anglers and support up to 15 percent of all Missouri fishing.
To guide our management efforts, the Missouri Conservation Commission approved “A Plan For Missouri Trout Fishing” in October 2003. The plan declares that the goal of trout management in the state is to “provide anglers with diverse, quality trout fishing opportunities consistent with overall sound management of our state’s aquatic life.”
The plan, which contains ideas and direction from many of Missouri’s trout anglers, as well as Department staff and employees from other agencies, creates clear goals and priorities for Missouri trout management. It also outlines the tasks necessary to achieve these goals.
Important components of the new trout management plan include renovating Missouri’s trout hatcheries and increasing hatchery production by 20 percent.
Parts of the trout hatchery system that the Civilian Conservation Corps built in the 1930s are still in use. Comprehensive renovations have not been done at any Department trout hatchery since 1978.
Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, at the base of Table Rock Dam, is Missouri’s largest trout producer and holds the greatest potential for expansion. James Civiello, hatchery manager at Shepherd of the Hills, said that expanding the facility will dramatically improve the hatchery’s ability to produce both brown and rainbow trout.
“A new dissolved oxygen system will help us grow more trout with our existing water supply while improving the quality of the water we release into Lake Taneycomo,” Civiello said.
Managers at Missouri’s four other trout hatcheries look forward to similar improvements.
Renovating hatcheries is necessary to produce not only more trout, but to improve the quality of trout. Fisheries Unit Chief Kevin Richards said the new goal is to produce rainbow trout that average 12.5 inches for all waters the Department stocks.
“Additional hatchery production also is needed so we’re not forced to continually operate at maximum capacity as we do now, “Coldwater Hatcheries Supervisor George Kromrey said.“Improvements will create some reserve capacity that we can use when unexpected losses occur and help ensure an uninterrupted supply of trout for stocking.”
The new trout plan also calls for new management area designations and regulations. Th ese will become effective on March 1.
Trout Parks at Bennett Spring, Montauk, Maramec and Roaring River will be managed much as they’ve been in the past. However, two changes to statewide regulations will improve angling in the parks. First, the daily limit for trout has been reduced from fi ve to four. Th e possession limit will be reduced from 10 to eight. Although these changes may reduce the harvest for some anglers, they will help spread the harvest among more anglers and create more successful fi shing trips.
Second, the minimum length limit for brown trout caught from mosts streams, including the trout parks, will be 15 inches. In some waters, the minimum length limit for all trout will be 18 inches. Brown trout have the potential to grow large, but in the past, many browns in trout parks were harvested before they achieved their growth potential.
No changes are planned for winter catch-and-release fi shing at the trout parks. All four parks will be open for catch-and-release fi shing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from the second Friday in November through the second Sunday in February. A trout permit is required for fi shing during the winter catch and release season.
Blue Ribbon Trout Areas” will be waters with the best habitat quality or self-sustaining populations of trout. Fishing regulations will include an 18-inch minimum length limit on all trout, and a daily limit of one trout. Fishing will be restricted to flies and artificial lures only. Gigging of non-game fi sh will not be permitted. Th ese restrictive regulations are designed to sustain the maximum density of adult trout and offer the chance to harvest a trophy-sized trout. Larger Blue Ribbon streams will be stocked. Smaller ones will be managed for wild, naturally-reproducing rainbow trout.
“Red Ribbon Trout Areas” will be areas that are also high quality trout habitat, but where habitat or water temperature deficiencies limit trout survival or growth. Th ere is a 15-inch minimum length limit on trout from these streams, and a daily limit of two trout. Some areas will be restricted to flies and artificial lures only. Gigging of non-game fish will be permitted. These streams will provide good catch-and-release fishing and a chance to harvest quality-size trout.
“White Ribbon Trout Areas” will be established in a number of coldwater streams that can support trout all year. The new statewide daily limit of four trout and new minimum length limit of 15 inches on brown trout will apply in these streams. There is no length limit on rainbow trout. All types of flies, lures and bait will be permitted. Gigging of non-game fish will be permitted.
* Consult the Wildlife Code for a complete listing of area boundaries and regulations.
** Catch and release from November 1 through February 28
At Stone Mill Spring Branch, from November 1 through February 28, only catch-and-release fishing using artificial lures and flies will be permitted. Anglers must possess a trout permit to fish there. In future years, similar winter catch-and-release rules will be established at other White Ribbon Trout Areas. These areas will provide great opportunities to catch and harvest trout, the occasional chance to harvest a large trout and additional opportunities for winter catch-and-release fishing.
Because of high angling pressure, regular stocking will continue at Lake Taneycomo. To help support these stocking efforts, a trout permit will be required for all anglers fishing upstream of the U.S. Highway 65 bridge on Lake Taneycomo. A trout permit still is required to possess trout below the Highway 65 Bridge. No other changes to fishing regulations on Lake Taneycomo and its tributaries have been made, except that the daily limit of four trout will apply.
“We wanted to make our trout regulations as consistent as possible,” said Protection Unit Chief Terry Roberson. “Also, we thought long and hard before reducing the limit from five to four, but we concluded it would help spread out the harvest and create more successful trout anglers.”
This change was broadly supported by anglers during public meetings conducted in 2003 to discuss the future of trout management in Missouri.
One of the most difficult tasks directed by the trout plan is to acquire more areas for anglers to fish.
Steve Eder, the Department’s Fisheries Division Administrator, said, “The Department of Conservation only acquires land from willing sellers, and the limited number of coldwater streams creates few purchase opportunities. Nonetheless, we have made acquisition of new trout waters, through purchase, easement or partnerships a high priority.”
A great example of a partnership is the new“White Ribbon” trout area on Hickory Creek, created through an agreement with the City of Neosho. Hickory Creek has held a few trout, but the Department plans to begin regular stocking there during 2005.
New winter trout fishing opportunities also have been created in city park lakes in Columbia, Jackson and Jefferson City. Trout stocked in these lakes are reared in private hatcheries, and the Department shares the cost of purchasing and stocking with local communities.
Ultimately, “A Plan for Missouri Trout Fishing” has three priorities: to create more successful trout fishing trips, to more equitably distribute trout harvest among anglers and to provide more trout fishing opportunities.
For more information about “A Plan for Missouri Trout Fishing,” or about trout fishing opportunities in Missouri, visit our website at: <www.missouriconservation.org/fish/sport/trout/>.
As Conservation Department Director John Hoskins said, “We want to provide the best possible trout fishing here in Missouri.”
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