The click of a classic fly reel being stripped, the barely audible glug and ripple as a rainbow sips a dry fly, the zip and splash as line rips through clear water and pulls taut with a fish on the other end. These mental images get my heart racing during the cold winter months. With spring quickly approaching, the annual tradition of anglers hitting Missouri’s trout waters is close at hand. I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend on a real beauty of a trout stream, the North Fork of the White River, with my friend Matthew Taylor and his father, Shawn. The Taylors have lived on the river for decades and know every bend, riffle and hole. While we didn’t catch any lunkers, the spirited fight and vivid crimson coloration of the selfsustaining rainbow trout population more than made up for it. The brown trout on this stream are stocked, and the ones that survive through the seasons take on beautiful vibrant copper and yellow hues in their spotting and reach a respectable size through the abundant wild food sources available to them. This blue ribbon trout area in Ozark County tumbles through some fantastic hill country. The light was great. The water was great. The fishing was great; so great that I spent the whole time with my camera in my hands, and my fly rod never made it out of the case! I hope these photos inspire you to hitch up your waders and visit one of the dozens of beautiful trout areas Missouri has to offer.
PROTECTING MISSOURI'S TROUT FISHERIES
Missouri’s trout are healthy and free of most diseases. To ensure that they remain that way, and to keep our streams free of aquatic nuisance species, please follow these guidelines:
- Do not release live or dead trout obtained from outside the state into Missouri waters. Consult a Conservation Department fisheries biologist before stocking trout from any source (see Page 3 for regional office phone numbers), and be aware that importation of trout into Missouri is strictly regulated. To see a full listing of trout regulations, consult A Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations available at permit vendors, or visit the link listed below.
- Thoroughly clean boots, waders, boats, trailers and fishing tackle between uses. Do not transfer mud, aquatic plants, water or fish parts from one body of water to another. Consider replacing felt-soled waders, which may result in the transfer of plants or animals between water bodies, with boots with sticky rubber soles.
- Report any fish kills, dying or diseased fish or water pollution to a Conservation Department fisheries biologist, or call the Department’s Environmental Services Unit at (573) 882-9880.
TROUT FISHING ETHICS
A wide variety of trout fishing opportunities are available to Missouri anglers. However, the state’s trout waters are limited and can get crowded. To make everyone’s experience more enjoyable, consider the following:
Respect Your Fellow Anglers:
- Know and follow posted fishing regulations.
- Don’t wade in front of others—allow space for backcasting.
- Give priority to disabled anglers in areas accessible to them.
- Don’t throw rocks or disturb the water.
- Minimize noise—avoid loud music or yelling.
- Minimize the amount of time you play a fish.
- Handle the fish gently, keep it in the water and release it quickly.
- Hold an exhausted fish underwater, facing upstream, until it swims away.
- Use the heaviest tackle appropriate.
- Use needle nose pliers to back the hook out. Never pull a swallowed hook; instead, cut the line.
- Use barbless hooks or squeeze the barb flat to make releasing fish easier.
Minimize Your Impact on the Environment:
- Don’t litter! Bait containers, cigarette butts and fishing line harm wildlife and degrade the outdoor experience.
- Use only designated trails and parking areas.
- Don’t shuffle your feet in the water to stimulate fish to feed.
Visit the links listed below for more information and to download maps of Missouri trout areas.
Trout Parks: Missouri has four trout parks, heavily stocked and heavily fished. These parks are located at hatcheries and stocked daily. Their regular season is March 1 through Oct. 31.
Winter Trout Areas: Several small lakes, with a Nov. 1 to Jan. 31 catch-and-release season. Most are stocked once in early November.
White Ribbon Trout Areas: Fishing is permitted year-round. Stocked less intensively than trout parks. Daily limit is four trout with a 15-inch length limit on brown trout. Less crowded than trout parks and winter trout areas.
Red Ribbon Trout Areas: Stocked less intensively than white ribbon areas. Browns are typically stocked once a year. Special regulations may include length limits, reduced creel limits and tackle restrictions.
Blue Ribbon Trout Areas: Small streams are not stocked, but depend on self-sustaining populations of rainbow trout. Only artificial lures are permitted. Natural, soft plastic and scented baits are prohibited. The daily limit is one trout of 18 inches or greater length.
Lake Taneycomo: Stocked with both rainbow and brown trout. Daily limit is four (one brown trout), there is no length limit on rainbow trout below Fall Creek, and the minimum length limit for browns is 20 inches. Above Fall Creek all rainbows between 12 and 20 inches must be released unharmed immediately and only flies and artificial lures may be used.