Missouri Trout Park Fishing
Missouri Trout Park fishing is a great way to get started fly fishing or just get started fishing for trout in general.
These parks are an awesome way for families to experience some really fun and exciting trout fishing opportunities in Missouri. Here's some information to get you off on the right foot.
The Missouri Trout Parks are very interesting. No other type of trout water attracts so many fans, and yet many anglers hate them. They certainly seem to bring out strong opinions from fisherman, either positive or negative. And there's the fact that they are stocked every night. I've yet to hear of any public water anywhere in the country that is stocked so frequently, which is one of the reasons why trout parks tend to be either loved or hated. More on that later, but for now we'll discuss the fishing, which is probably why you're reading this article in the first place.
The trout parks are home to many fish. As a matter of fact, few trout waters anywhere in the country can match the fish numbers present in our trout parks. Bennett Spring was once sampled at the end of a fishing day (when numbers are lowest, since it is stocked early every morning), and found upwards of 8000 trout per mile. That is more trout per mile than the Madison or the Yellowstone, and in a stream that carries a lot less water to boot.
But as you'll always find with everything that looks too good to be true, there's a catch- a couple actually. Crowds probably cause more problems than anything else. If you visit any trout park on a weekend, you're likely to find the popular pools sporting nearly shoulder to shoulder crowds. Unless you fish for a different reason than I do, that's no fun. Still, there are a couple of good ways to get around the crowds, although you probably still won't be totally alone. The first, and most obvious, is to try to come on weekdays if you possibly can. Often water that looks like a party scene on Saturday can have no more than a small crowd on Tuesday. Also, you can find water that is a little further from the road than the lazy folks like to fish. It's true that there will probably be a well-worn fishing trail leading along the river, so this isn't a sure-fire tactic. But it may get you away from the worst of the crowds. You should also consider fishing a different water type than everyone else. Many fishermen assume that hatchery trout are lazy, and will only spend time in the deep pools. Nonsense. I have caught many trout park fish in fast riffles and boulder strewn pocket water. You'll often have these places to yourself, and the fishing is usually just as good, if not better than where most fisherman congregate. The final catch is that fishing is ruled by the park "whistle." The whistle signifies the beginning and the end of legal fishing hours. Usually, you can begin fishing at sunrise, and you must leave the water at sunset. Since many fish are taken out soon after the buzzer, it is more necessary than usually to get on the water early in the morning. You can catch fish all day in the parks, but generally the fastest fishing is soon after the buzzer. This forces the angler to stake out a spot 30 minutes or so before fishing hours begin, or just trust to luck that they will find a good spot. The fishing hours also mean that you cannot fish the magical hours before sunrise and after sunset, which is a real downside. That is the only catch to trout park fishing that you simply cannot get around, at least in a legal manner.
Fishing Tips for Missouri Trout Parks
Now for the techniques. I will warn you that I don't cover every angle to trout park fishing. I will just say enough to get someone started. I couldn't tell you all the important details if I made this article 50 pages long (and I won't do that, don't worry). Certain things can only be learned by hands on experience. The purpose of this section is to help get you to the point where you can learn those important aspects.
If you simply want to catch a limit of four fish quickly, using any legal means, my advice is very simple. Head to one of the bait fishing sections at a trout park, find a nice deep hole, preferably either above or below one of the low head dams that are so prevalent along our trout parks. Bring some Orange or Rainbow colored Powerbait paste, #10 hooks, and a variety of split shot. Put the split-shot about one foot up the leader, using a small split shot for shallow water, a slightly larger one for mid-depth water, and a large one for deep, fast water. Ball up enough Powerbait to completely cover the hook, and float the bait off the bottom. To make sure you have enough bait to float the hook, check in the slow water along the bank. Then cast out, close to the middle in slow water, and close to a deep, rocky bank in fast water. If the water is slow enough to allow, let it sit, if not, drift it along the bottom with a tight line, setting the hook at the slightest indication of a strike.
Others prefer jig fishing or fly fishing. I will discuss jig fishing and fly fishing in the same section, because the techniques are pretty much the same, whether you are using a spinning rod or fly rod. For this kind of fishing, you want water that has some current, but still has a bit of depth. You'll want to put on your polarized sunglasses now, and scan the water around you for fish. Chances are, you'll find a pod after a minute or to of gazing into the water. Now its your job to get the fly (or jig) to the fish, at there depth and in the right feeding lane. Trout park fish often won't move even a foot to take a fly, so you need to get it pretty close. If the water is clear and shallow enough to see your fly or jig throughout the drift, fish with a tight line, and no indicator or bobber. You may feel the strike, and you may see it. In any case, you need to set the hook right away. For deeper water or faster water, use a small strike indicator to help detect the strikes. For jigs, you'll want to have some between 1/32 ounce and 1/100 ounce in White, Olive, Black, Yellow, Pink, and combinations there of. My favorite jig is a 1/64 ounce pink and white jig. While jig fishing, you may want to impart a little action by jigging or slowly retrieving, or you may want to dead drift it. Try different things until you find what the fish want. Fly fisherman will want Olive Woolly Buggers, Hare's Ear Nymphs, Scuds, Orange egg patterns, and Crackleback dry flies. The Woollies should be #8-#12, the Nymphs #14 or #16, and the Cracklebacks #10-#14.
Missouri Trout Park Regulations
All of the trout parks except Maramec Spring (which during the regular season allows all baits and lures throughout the park) have separate regulation zones. The trout parks have a fly fishing only zone (where some single hooked lures including marabou jigs can be used), and a zone where all baits and lures are allowed. Some of the parks also have areas where all artificial lures and flies except soft plastics can be used, and Bennett Spring has an area where only bait can be used. If this isn't already complicated enough, the trout parks all have a regular season and a catch and release season. From March 1- October 31, all the trout parks are open according to special "zone" regulations every day. From mid- November through mid-February, the trout parks may be fished Friday through Monday with flies only, and no fish may be kept. Maramec Spring is open every day during the catch and release season. The parks are closed to all fishing during the two weeks after the end of regular season, and the two weeks after the end of the catch and release season. These regulations often change, so you should check them before you go. Don't take our word for it.
While the trout parks certainly have their drawbacks, they can be very worthwhile to fish. The trout population is excellent in all four parks, and for many anglers, that is enough to make all the troubles worthwhile. The trout parks are especially excellent for those learning to fly fish, or those who have never fished for trout before. Also, there are some challenging fish that any angler would be proud to catch. So if you haven't already, come try one of our trout parks.
Maramec Springs park is the nearest trout park to St. Louis, and it shows, at least when you are allowed to keep fish. Winter fishing is completely different as you will have much of the water to yourself. Also, there are many more large fish caught in this catch and release season.. This park is often busy during the catch and keep season, and the problem is compounded by the fact that the spring branch is less than a mile long. With that said, it's still a great place to fish, just don't expect it to come easy. It seems the best way to catch trout consistently here is to pick one school of fish, (the water is usually so clear you pretty much see any fish in the creek within ten yards) and concentrate on it. If you jump every time you see a different school of fish, you'll make yourself crazy. Instead, cast to that one school with everything in your tackle box. If you are spin fishing, you'll want small spinners, Zeke's trout bait or Powerbait, 1/128 ounce white marabou jigs, glow-balls in a variety of colors, and small crankbaits. You may have to cast to the school of fish for some time before you make your catch, so be patient.
You are best off here, as well as at other parks to fish as light as possible. Typically, spin fishermen use 2 lb or 4 lb line and an ultralight setup. For a complete rundown on a setup to use we have a trout park spin fishing basic set-up page to help you out. Waders are a plus, but in the warm months you will see some folks wet-wading the area. In colder months, you will certainly need a set of waders, preferably chest waders, but hip-waders will suffice.
If you are a fly fisherman, the same basics apply. You will want to fish light. A 5/6 weight rod or lighter is about right with 6x or 7x tapered leaders and strike indicators are part of the set-up. Maribou jigs, glow-balls, woolly buggers, pheasant tail nymphs, and copper johns are all typical winners. If you are interested in getting started fly fishing, these parks are an excellent foray into the sport.