Trout fishing never really ends in Missouri, with many dedicated anglers taking advantage of the state’s catch-and-release season during the winter months.
In a little more than a week, however, the annual catch-and-keep season begins at Missouri’s four trout parks.
March 1 is a big day at Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Montauk State Park near Licking, Maramec Spring Park near St. James and Roaring River State Park near Cassville, Missouri.
Thousands of anglers will fill all four parks, where the Missouri Department of Conservation operates rainbow trout hatcheries. Many anglers will arrive before dawn to stand shoulder to shoulder as they await the signal to cast their first lines of the season.
Fishing is one of the Show-Me State’s most popular pastimes, with nearly one quarter of the state’s population spending at least some time fishing each year.
Trout fishing is especially popular by design. The conservation department stocks more than 800,000 rainbow trout annually at the four parks and approximately 1.5 million annually statewide.
To help predict angler turnout on opening day, hatchery staff rely on permit records going back more than 80 years. Montauk, Bennett Spring, and Roaring River hatchery staff expect crowds of about 2,000 anglers at each location and Maramec Spring staff are planning for a crowd of about 1,000. Based on these predictions, hatchery staff will stock three trout per expected angler on opening day for a total of more than 21,000 fish averaging around a foot in length. The hatcheries will also stock a mix of “lunkers” ranging from three to 10 pounds.
“We have plenty of fish for this year’s trout season,” said Brian Canaday, MDC Fisheries Division chief.
Missouri’s catch-and-keep trout season will continue through the end of October.
Know the rules
There are a few things you’ll need to know before heading out to one of the state’s fishing parks, including getting the right permits and knowing the state’s limits on how many trout you can take home.
If you’re within the ages of 16 to 64, you’ll need a Missouri fishing permit, which will allow you to fish for trout and most other species around the state. Daily fishing permits are $7, while annual permits are $12 for Missouri residents and $42 for nonresidents.
You can buy Missouri fishing permits from numerous vendors around the state, online at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits, or through MDC’s free mobile apps, Mo Hunting and Mo Fishing. To purchase permits on Fort Leonard Wood, or for more information about fishing opportunities on post, visit the Outdoor Adventure Center, located in Building 2290 on FLW K Road, or call 573.596.0131, ext. 64223.
To fish for trout in one of the four trout parks, you’ll also need to purchase a daily trout tag. Daily trout tags are $3 for adults and $2 for anglers ages 15 and younger, and are available at all four parks.
In most areas, you can use any type of pole and line to fish for trout, as well as trotlines, throwlines, limb lines, bank lines and jug lines.
Inside the trout parks, some regulations and allowed methods vary by fishing area. Conservation department officials recommend anglers ask for details when purchasing their daily trout tags.
Daily limits vary by species, season and fishing area, but in general, trout anglers are limited to no more than four trout per day, and can only be in possession of eight trout at a time.
There’s no limit on size for rainbow trout, but brown trout must be a minimum of 15 inches in length to harvest.
For more information about trout and other hunting and fishing seasons in Missouri, visit the conservation department’s website, https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov.
(Editor’s note: Information for this article was provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri State Parks system. Portions of this article were also based on a Feb. 11 article by Ken White, who writes about hunting and fishing for the Springfield News Leader.)