Winter trout program expands fishing opportunities for anglers

For the fair-weather fishermen like me, this is the time of the year to re-spool the reels, restock the spinners, and sort through the rest of the mess that served as a tackle box through the spring, summer, and fall.

But for the hearty boys and girls who don’t let a little cold or blowing ice interrupt their ichthyological interests, opportunities abound year-round. Of course I’m talking about those folks who will forego the visions of sugar plums associated with upcoming holidays, and dream exclusively about wading waist deep in ice water on March 1.

Anglers do not have to wait until March 1 to get their trout fishing fix thanks to the Winter Trout Program in the St. Louis region.

Thanks to the state Department of Conservation and many local municipalities, trout anglers can fill their stringers close to home while they wait in anticipation for the end of February. Eighteen lakes in the St. Louis region will receive about 40,000 rainbow trout this winter.

Closest to home for Jefferson County anglers are the 6.5-acre Island Lake and 1.5-acre Carp Lake at Suson Park off Wells Road on the other side of the Meramec River. Both lakes have available fishing platforms and handicap accessibility. Anglers with a valid fishing license and annual trout tag may keep up to four fish daily.

Anglers at the other side of the county may consider traveling south for their winter trout fishing adventures. Legion Lake in Perryville, Giessing Lake in Farmington and Rotary Lake in Jackson will receive about 9,000 trout this winter from the conservation department. Fishing in these lakes is catch-and-release only through Jan. 31. Anglers may only use artificial lures and flies and must return their catch immediately, unharmed until that date. After Feb. 1 fishermen may use any bait and keep up to four fish each day.

Back up north, about half of the participating lakes are catch-and-release only, and the rest, like those as Suson Park, allow anglers to keep what the catch. Lakes 7 and 21 at August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles County are for catch-and-release fishing only, but Lakes 3, 22, and 23, there allow anglers to keep up to four fish.

Other catch-and-release only lakes in the winter trout program are Jefferson Lake in Forest Park, Koeneman Park Lake in Jennings, Tilles Park Lake, Union City Lake in Franklin County, and Walker Lake in Kirkwood.

The additional catch-and-keep lakes include Boathouse Lake at Carondelet Park and O’Fallon Park Lake in St. Louis City, Gendron Lake in St. Ann, January-Wabash Park Lake in Ferguson, and Vlasis Park Lake in Ballwin,

Anglers are only allowed to fish with one pole and line at a time, and any type of chum is prohibited at all locations. The conservation department stocks additional fish through the season. A local phone line, 636-300-9651, is updated following each stocking, providing information on the most recent number of fish added to each lake.

The thrill of the catch awaits all anglers and those who plan to put fish on their stringers know that the hatchery raised rainbows are delish fish when they are baked, smoked, fried, or prepared just about any other way.

Most of the fish that are stocked in area lakes are about 12 inches long, but the program includes occasional “brood stock” lunkers that may weigh up to 10 pounds. Opportunities like that can tempt even the wariest of us who worry about the weather to consider wetting a line in the winter time.

Originally published by Leader Publications of Jefferson County on December 3, 2022.

Published by John J. Winkelman

A freelance outdoor writer for more than 30 years

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