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Ice Fishing in Missouri

Published on: Dec. 13, 2013

for the spring fishing season to start, get out there and give ice fishing a try. Not much compares with bringing a nice fish up through a small hole in the ice, and absolutely nothing beats a meal of freshly caught winter panfish. Pick a comfortable sunny day on a pond or lake with safe ice and an abundant population of bluegill or crappie, and you will be hooked on ice fishing. And if you can, bring a kid along. Christmas break offers the perfect time to spend some quality time. Ice fishing provides the fast and furious action needed to keep a young angler interested, and you may just make a fishing partner for life.

“Memories Make the Best Presents, but They Are Hard to Wrap!”

By Phillip Pitts

If you have a few years under your belt, think back to your special memories of mom and dad. Or think about the most fun days you had with your brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends. I’ll bet one of those memories is of a fishing trip where everything went great. Or, perhaps where everything went so wrong, all you could do was laugh. I’ll wager there is no amount of money you’d exchange for that picture in the family album of the proud, smiling faces with the catch of that day long ago.

Since 1990, the Missouri Department of Conservation, often in cooperation with the local city government, has been providing an opportunity to make one of those priceless memories with its winter trout fishing areas at 28 lakes throughout the state.

Each year, around the first of November, the Department stocks rainbow trout in five lakes in the Kansas City area and 16 lakes in the St. Louis area, as well as lakes in Jefferson City, Mexico, Sedalia, Kirksville, Columbia, Jackson, and St. Joseph. The Kansas City lakes and some of the lakes in St. Louis are stocked several times throughout the winter. Most of the stocked trout are about 12 inches long and weigh three-fourths of a pound, but a few of the trout stocked in each lake are lunkers (about 4 pounds) that have served as brood stock at Department hatcheries for several years.

The trout is a cold-water fish and provides excellent fishing in the winter when other fishing possibilities are more challenging. For a couple of weeks after the trout are first stocked, they have not learned to be wary of anglers and hooks. The trout are hungry and readily bite any lure that passes within reach. Catching lots of fish in a short time is pretty common right after stocking.

Fourteen of the lakes have a catch-and-release season for about three months prior to Jan. 31. During the catch-and-release season, only unscented, artificial lures can be used for bait. Beginning Feb. 1, anglers can use live worms, cheese bait, crickets, etc. After a few months in a lake crowded with lots of other fish, the trout are very hungry and cooperative. Once again, the fishing in these lakes is great for a short while and, if you have a trout permit, you can keep up to four tasty trout, too.

So, think about it. Have you made one of those memories for a child in your family yet? Now is the time! Get your rods and reels in shape. Buy some small hooks and trout bait. If you plan on ice fishing, check if it is allowed at your local lake. Get your fishing license and trout permit and don’t forget your camera. Years from now, as your loved ones look at the picture from that special day, they will smile and recall it fondly. They might think that day just happened, but you’ll know you made it happen. You gave them a special, priceless gift worth more than any fancy electronic toy or the latest fashion — and made some great memories for yourself, too.

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