ST. LOUIS — The weather may be turning colder, but the trout are still going to be biting this winter season, thanks to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“The winter trout program has been here in St. Louis since about 1989. We stock nine area lakes with about thirty to thirty-five thousand trout annually,” says John Schulte, a Fisheries Management Biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Trout are raised at cold-water hatcheries across the state, including Montauk hatchery near Salem. Lakes are stocked from November through February. The goal is to provide angling opportunities closer to home.
“As we get into those winter months, folks tend to be more sedentary. Maybe not get out and move as much, not get as much sun exposure,” says Schulte. “So, getting out to one of these lakes and going fishing is a great opportunity to get some sunlight and get that Vitamin D production up.”
You may ask why fish are stocked in the winter instead of the summer.
“Trout are a cold-water species and are very dependent on higher oxygen levels. And colder water has a higher capacity to retain oxygen,” explains Schulte.
But that requires a healthy ecosystem. Walker Lake in Kirkwood Park is one of the stocked lakes.
“This used to be sort of a drainage ditch going through the park. And it was redone between 2010 and 2014 in a four-phase project to get it to this state that we are in now,” says City of Kirkwood Horticulturist Pete Laufersweiler.
He says they’ve worked hard to make it a great place to fish.
“In doing the shore planting and sinking things like barley straw in the lake as a natural algaecide. We’ve also have the filtering of the water coming off of the streets into the lake. We’ve put in bio-detention basins to filter that water as it gets to the lake.”
All to improve the water quality. And happy, healthy fish make for happy winter anglers.
“There will be days where you just want to stay curled up on the couch under a blanket. And people will be out here in their full snowsuits trying to stay warm, trying to catch the trout,” says Laufersweiler.
Anglers like Marti Bockoff from Crestwood, who says she’ll fish all winter long.
“Just getting out of the house when it is nice. Don’t want to stay in. I’m an outdoor girl,” says Bockoff.
Biologist John Schulte explains, “From November to the end of January is catch and release season. Then starting February 1, you will be able to catch and release some of those trout.”
He says visit the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website to see all the regulations, to purchase your permit and trout tag, and to get the stocking hotline number.
Illinois folks, you aren’t missing out. The Department of Natural Resources has stocked many lakes in southern Illinois. All anglers must have a state fishing license and inland trout stamp.