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Winter Outdoor Fun…with Trout

Nov 26, 2007

With longer nights and colder weather here, I sense that housebound feeling creeping up on me. Fortunately I’ve heard there is a natural remedy. It’s winter trout fishing—something to do with family or on your own that’s healthy outdoor fun and close to home.

At the lunchbunch table at work the other day, Mike Kruse, our fisheries program supervisor, told me that winter trout lakes and Missouri trout parks offer a mix of opportunities (catch-and-release at most places and catch-and-keep at a few) that I should try.

Mike himself loves trout fishing. He says it’s partly because the fish are fun to catch, especially on a flyrod. I did try to cast with a flyrod once and never quite got the mesmerizing flow of line as I saw Brad Pitt do in “A River Runs through It.” (You know, that flow of oneness with a line and a fish and it’s all backlit and the golden drops sparkle in the early daylight.) My line just sort of tangled in a pile.

Fortunately, we don’t have to have such gear to enjoy winter trout fishing, especially at the city lakes. A regular old rod and reel will do. Then just be sure to get a trout permit ($7, good for an entire year) and if you’re between 16 and 64 you’ll also need a fishing permit.

The trout parks and many (though not all) of the trout lakes are only catch-and-release now (can’t take them home to eat). Because of that, you can’t fish with bait, but must use artificial lures instead. Beginning Feb. 1 you can catch and keep the trout at the winter lakes, while the trout parks allow it beginning March 1.

I asked Mike for some tips for the catch and release winter trout fishing:

“The best advice is to experiment and visit with other anglers who are having success. Trout often strike lightly, so keep your line tight and use light line-–4-pound test or less–-for the best results. Drifting or very slowly retrieving a small jig or fly under a tiny bobber or strike indicator is often a good technique. Be ready to strike at the slightest hesitation.”

The photo, by the way, is one Mike had of a very happy angler in the St. Louis area. That was one unusually big trout! Expect most of them to be more on the 1- or -pound size, not the 12 or so pounds that one was. But it was from one of our winter trout lakes, so there’s always a chance…

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