Now is the time when many outdoor enthusiasts still have deer hunting on their minds. However, if you’re not ready to put your fishing gear away yet, look no further than your nearest trout park for some angling enjoyment.

The winter catch-and-release season at Missouri’s four trout parks has become something of a winter tradition for some local anglers. The trout parks this season applies to are Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Roaring River State Park near Cassville, Montauk State Park near Salem, and Maramec Spring Park near St. James. 

This year, the season opened Nov. 10 and runs through Feb. 12. The season, as its name states, is for catch-and-release fishing only – no trout may be kept.

This is not a throughout-the-week fishing opportunity at all the trout parks like the trout parks’ summer season is. During the winter season, the three state parks (Bennett Spring, Roaring River, and Montauk) are open for fishing on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Maramec Spring Park is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

Flies are the only type of lures permitted during the winter season, but don’t interpret this to mean that you need a fly rod to fish for trout at the parks. You can use spin casting or baitcasting equipment as long as you have a fly-type lure on your hook.

Flies are defined as artificial lures constructed on single-point hooks using any material except soft plastic bait and natural or scented bait (as defined in the Wildlife Code of Missouri) that is tied, glued, or otherwise permanently attached to the hook.

To be double-sure, anglers can check at the park office to be certain their lure is legal. You should also check at the park office to make sure you know the boundaries and specific regulations of fishing zones at the park where you intend to fish.

The winter catch-and-release season doesn’t draw as many anglers as the summer park trout season, which runs from March 1 through Oct. 31 and, for some, that’s part of the winter seasons’ attraction.

Francis Skalicky

In addition to supplying anglers with their occasional “fishing fix” to get them through the winter, this season is also a good chance to get out and enjoy the winter scenery at the trout parks. All four trout parks have their own distinctive wildlife and topographic features that can be viewed much better in the winter because of the lack of foliage.

Keep in mind that during the winter season, you don’t need to buy a daily trout park tag when you fish. You will need a trout permit and, if you are age 16 through 64, you will also need a Missouri fishing permit. (If you are exempt from needing a Missouri fishing permit because of age or other conditions, you will still need to purchase a trout permit to fish the winter catch-and-release season at the trout parks.)

Trout permits can be purchased at any location that sells fishing permits. In addition to the catch-and-release opportunities at trout parks, the trout permit allows you to fish at Missouri’s other managed trout areas.

Of course, trout parks aren’t the only places trout anglers can go in winter. Lake Taneycomo offers good trout fishing opportunities, as do a number of streams in southern Missouri that have designated trout management zones.

(Francis Skalicky works for the Missouri Department of Conservation in southwest Missouri. He can be reached at 417-895-6880.)