Hook a Winter Rainbow

By Bonnie Chasteen | photography by David Stonner | November 1, 2018
From Xplor: November/December 2018

And catch the fun of winter trout fishing!

Wintertime is a great time to land one of the best outdoor adventures of the year. We’re talking about trout fishing. It doesn’t take much equipment, and taking your friends along makes the fishing more fun. Missouri has lots of places to catch pink-striped and spectacularly speckled rainbow trout. Head over to a winter trout area near you, or try one of four awesome trout parks in the Ozarks. Cold weather means no bugs and fewer people, but there’s still plenty of hungry fish for you and your friends to catch.

All you need is a grown-up (one who has some fishing gear and knows how to make hot chocolate is best), a few layers of warm clothing, and the right permits to meet Missouri’s trout-fishing regulations. Grab your friends, and let’s go winter trout fishing!

How to get Fishing Permits

If you and your folks like to do things online, visit mdc.mo.gov/permits, or download the MO Fishing app at mdc.mo.gov/ mobile. Or you can visit a Missouri permit vendor like a sporting goods store.

Where to Go

Visit Your Nearest Winter Trout Area

From northwest Missouri down to Cape Girardeau, the Show-Me State has several community lakes that are stocked with hatchery trout starting in early November. How cool is that?! Some areas let you keep the fish you catch, but some don’t. It’s best to check the area regulations at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZoH before you go. If you're older than 15, you’ll need a Missouri fishing permit. If your chosen area has regulations that let you keep what you catch, you’ll need a Missouri trout permit, too.

Try a Trout Park

With on-site fish hatcheries, Missouri’s four trout parks have plenty of trout to catch, even in winter, when stocking stops. The winter catch-and-release season starts on the second Friday in November and runs through the second Monday in February. Flies are the only kind of lure allowed during this season. If you’re older than 15, you’ll need a Missouri fishing permit.

Regardless of age, you’ll need a Missouri trout permit. You must also release any fish you catch. We’ll talk about how to do that a little later.

What to Wear

To stay warm, dress in layers. Start with a base layer of wool, polypropylene, or polyester. Avoid cotton undies because they will hold sweat against your skin like a cold, soggy sponge.

Next, layer on a thick fleece pullover, wool sweater, or puffy jacket. A fleece or knit cap will keep your head warm. Fingerless mittens or gloves will keep your hands warm and your fingers flexible. Wear wool socks to keep your toes toasty, and waterproof boots will keep your feet dry.

If it’s windy or there’s a chance of rain, sleet, or snow, wear a jacket and pants made of waterproof (but breathable) fabric. Nylon or polyester are good choices.

What to Take

If you don’t have your own fishing gear, this is where an adult angler comes in handy. They can help you put together a set of gear that includes the following:

  • A spin-casting rod and reel.
  • Monofilament line.
  • Net to help you land your catch.
  • Needle-nose pliers for slipping a tiny hook out of a trout’s lip.
  • Steel split-shot sinker. Pinch this onto your line to make casting easier and to reach deep holes where the big fish hide.
  • Tackle box with a few flies, unscented artificial lures, a few bobbers, and a pair of nail clippers for clipping and trimming line.
  • Optional: Stringer or creel if you fish at an area that permits catch-and-keep.
  • Essential: Thermos of hot chocolate (to warm up between catches). How to Cast

If you’re fishing a lake, remember that trout like to hang out near rocks and other cover. If you’re fishing a stream, cast upstream and let the lure drift with the current.

Once your lure’s in the water, keep your line tight. Reel in slack as your lure flows downstream, or you’ll miss lots of nibbles.

How to Catch and Release

If you feel a trout tug your lure, wait a split second and raise the tip of your rod a bit. Trout are dainty diners. If you pull too hard, you’ll yank the hook right out of its mouth. Bring the fish to your net quickly. That way, if you need to release the trout, it won’t be too tired to swim. Keep it in the water while you gently remove the hook.

To release it, hold it with its head pointing upstream until it swims out of your hand.

Don’t Forget to Take Photos

You know what they say: Photos or it didn’t happen. Show your friends and family how much fun winter trout fishing can be!

Also In This Issue

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This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White