By Ryan Miloshewski
If you fancy yourself an avid trout fisherman, Missouri is the state for you. Home to four daily trout parks, a plethora of Ozark streams, and the fabled waters of Lake Taneycomo, there is no shortage of opportunity. What you might not be familiar with is the influx of available trout waters that occurs every November in the urban lakes around St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia. The Urban Trout Fishing Program, operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), is a unique and exciting prospect for trout fishermen not wanting to travel far to catch a stringer of rainbows.
Started in St. Louis in 1989, the Urban Trout Fishing Program provides anglers the opportunity to fish for Missouri’s two trout species (Rainbow and Brown trout) in their own backyards. The MDC stocks many lakes in residential parks and urban conservation areas with trout starting November 1st, and continuing all the way until mid-February in each city. Months of trout fishing for those otherwise not wanting to venture far from home in the nasty winter months is a cinch.
Where does the MDC get the trout? I interviewed Kevin Meneau, MDC Fisheries Management Biologist, and head of the St. Louis Winter Trout Program, back in 2013.
“Our cold-water hatcheries produce the trout. They are organized like one big system. So, fish can and do come from any of our hatcheries throughout the state. Montauk usually handles most of St. Louis area needs,” Meneau explained.
According to Kevin, over 38,000 trout are annually stocked in St. Louis City and County lakes alone. Fish size varies, but the average size of “stockers” ranges from nine to eleven inches, with some reaching as large as eighteen inches. I can tell you this year at Busch Conservation Area lakes the trout have all been 15 inches or better, and they are fighting hard. Most stockers are eager and willing to bite, so catching a limit in a couple hours is feasible. If you’re lucky, you may hook into one of the brood stock released in one of the lakes. Once brood stock trout are done with their breeding duties, the MDC stocks them in one of the many trout waters in the state. From November to February, some of them reach urban waters. The amount of fish stocked changes year to year.
“The number of brood stock trout released is quite variable, mainly depending on the need for our hatcheries to retain adequate numbers of larger fish for spawning. We’ve stocked as few as 170 and as many as 325 in the St. Louis area,” said Meneau.
In December 2011, I was lucky enough to land one of those brutes, and had a replica mount done to create a lasting memory. Weighing in at 9 lbs. 8 oz, it is the largest trout I have ever caught, and I didn’t have to go more than 10 minutes from home to catch it!
My go-to tactics include almost exclusively using artificial lures. Marabou jigs (1/8 to 1/125 oz) in dark colors (olive, black, brown/orange), casting spoons (Super Dupers, Lil’ Jakes, Kastmasters, Little Cleos), wooly buggers on a fly rod, Rapalas, and Trout Magnets are all deadly. I have found jigs to be the most consistent producers, but sometimes the finicky nature of trout makes one bait better than the other. Don’t be afraid to try different lures, retrieves, and rigs. Powerbait, salmon eggs, corn, and nightcrawlers all work, too, if you are a bait fishermen. However, I tend to catch more on artificial lures than anything else!
Here is a list of all lakes that are stocked with trout in Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia. Most lakes are catch and keep, with a daily limit of 4 and possession of limit of 8, but some lakes are catch and release until January 31st. In catch and release lakes, only artificial baits may be used (no Powerbait or natural baits may be used). Catch and keep lakes allow all legal methods.
August A. Busch Conservation Area Lakes 3, 21, 22, 23, 28
Suson Park Lakes 1, 2, and 3
Boathouse Lake-Carondelet Park
Carp Lake Island Lake
Jefferson Lake-Forest Park
Koeneman Park Lake
O’Fallon Park Lake
Tilles Park Lake
Vlasis Park Lake
Wild Acres Park Lake
Kansas City Region
James A. Reed Wildlife Area: Coot Lake, Plover Lake
Fountain Bluff Sports Complex
Liberty Park Pond (Sedalia)
Everyday Pond (at Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph)
Cosmo-Bethel Lake (Columbia)
Kiwanis Lake (Mexico)
McKay Park Lake (Jefferson City)
*Note: items in bold are catch and release from Nov.1-January 31st.*
For more information, contact your local Missouri Department of Conservation Regional office and ask about lakes that are stocked with trout in your area.
St. Louis: 2360 Highway D St. Charles, MO 63304 (636)-441-4554
Kansas City: 12405 SE Ranson Road Lee’s Summit, MO 64082 (816)-622-0900
Central: 3500 East Gans Road Columbia, MO 65201 (573)-815-7900
Good luck and happy fishing!