Ever since they were first brought here more than 100 years ago, trout have been making a big splash in Missouri.
Today’s it’s hard to imagine fishing in Missouri without trout. Think March 1 trout opener – an annual rite of spring that brings thousands to the state’s four trout parks each year on the opening day of March and kicks off a fishing period at these sites that sees thousands of additional anglers visit the trout parks throughout the summer.
Think Lake Taneycomo – a reservoir that has long had national prominence as a trout-fishing destination. Or think about any of a number of sections of streams in the state that are managed for trout. Put them all together and you have a fishing experience that enriches both the angling variety and economics of Missouri.
The two species that make up the trout fishing experience in Missouri are rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and brown trout (Salmo trutta). Though it’s hard to envision Missouri without trout fishing, neither of these members of the salmon family are native to the state’s waters.
Rainbow trout are native to the Pacific Coast and were introduced to Missouri in the 1880s. Brown trout, a native of Europe, came to Missouri in the early 1900s. Since coming to the state, they have quickly worked their way up the angler popularity charts. Today, more than 277,000 people spend more than 1.4 million days each year fishing for trout in Missouri.
This also has a positive effect on the state’s economy. According to a 2011 survey (the most recent data available), trout fishing generates annual retail sales of $104 million and has an overall yearly economic impact of $187 million for our state. Missouri trout fishing supports more than 2,300 jobs.
Part of the reason for this popularity is that, when prepared properly, trout provide good table fare. For people who like to fly-fish (a popular way of catching trout), there’s also the challenge of using a lure – and for some, creating a lure – in such a manner that it will entice the trout to strike at it.
Yet another appeal of trout fishing is the thrill of seeing a distinctly marked fish swimming through clear stream waters… and then seeing it change direction to lunge at your hook.
Both rainbow and brown trout are fish that need cool waters. They do best in waters that generally remain below 70 degrees F. Thus, despite their widespread popularity, the amount of trout habitat in the state is limited. In Missouri, the bulk of suitable trout habitat consists of 170 miles of Ozarks spring branches and spring-fed streams and the 2,080-acre Lake Taneycomo.
The majority of the state’s trout fishing activity is sustained through human efforts. There is a limited amount of rainbow trout spawning that occurs in the state, but most trout propagation – for both rainbows and browns – occurs at hatcheries. The fish that are raised at hatcheries are stocked at trout-fishing areas around the state.
By Francis Skalicky
(Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. He can be reached at 417-895-6880.)