Winter Trout Fishing: A Must-Do Activity

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Guest blog by Bob Randall
The Missouri Trout Fishermen’s Association

Winter Trout Fishing 1The most important consideration to fishing for trout in the winter is to have a hook in the water. If you let the weather dictate your fishing trip you won’t catch any fish. Except for bad road conditions we say, “Go fish!”

Winter trout fishing requires some preparation. Wearing the correct clothing is an important factor. Wear loose layers of wool or other moisture wicking clothing. Pack breathable, waterproof outerwear, a change of dry clothes and fingerless gloves. It is especially vital to know the symptoms of hypothermia and realize when your body is reacting to cold.

Trout, on the other hand, don’t have such worries. Trout are cold blooded and don’t have to maintain a certain body temperature. However, when temps drop, it translates to less feeding activity. Water temperatures usually follow air temperatures but at a slower rate. The temperature of a spring creek or a tail water below a dam can remain fairly stable compared to impounded water. Consider that with a slower metabolism, trout will be more likely to stay in pools or slower currents. This means you’ll want a smaller lure or bait when fishing.

Figuring out what food sources are available and what the trout are feeding on will help you catch more fish. A grasshopper or ant fly probably won’t be on the menu in the winter. However, there may be insect hatches on a warm winter day. If dry flies aren’t on the menu, insect nymphs, larvae, worms and fish eggs probably are. Trout will still take spinners that mimic smaller fish but you will have to slow down your retrieve.

Most Missouri trout are rainbows and are caught year round, but fishing for brown trout is usually more successful in the late fall, winter and early spring. The state stocks several locations with browns. The big ones feed more at night so your best fishing times are dawn and dusk. Some brave anglers fish the Taneycomo Tailwater late at night. If you’re interested in night fishing, don’t go alone! Wear a life jacket. Familiarize yourself with the river bottom, the fishing holes, and the water releases through the dam. Your local tackle shop is a great resource to use for questions about night fishing before you go.

In winter, the trout parks are catch and release using flies with a single hook only. No live or dough bait is allowed. Beside the year round opportunities for trout fishing at the trout parks and some Ozark streams, the state stocks some urban lakes in the winter time. These lakes will not support a year round trout population so it’s strictly a wintertime opportunity. The trout stocked in some area lakes are catch and release until in late winter. Click here for specific area information. These stocked trout will probably take any lure or bait you throw at them, so bundle the kids up and take them trout fishing. Find those lakes by clicking here. Caution: if your lake freezes over, stay off the ice.

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Be aware of your fishing line to make the most of your day. Reduce your fishing line (or tippet) size, as the water is probably clearer in wintertime. You can do the same with your bobber or strike indicator as well. If you’re looking for a great lake for winter trout fishing, consider Lake Taneycomo below the Table Rock Dam. The water from the depths of Table Rock that runs the generators keeps Taneycomo cold enough to sustain a good trout population. Furthermore, the water stratification turnover at Table Rock Lake affects the oxygen level of Lake Taneycomo and therefore, the fishing improves.

In addition to fishing, it is a great time to wildlife watch as well. With the eagles coming down to winter and nesting, you’re more likely to see them. The limited number of winter fishermen means your chances of seeing an eagle swoop down and grab a trout for food is greatly increased.

Winter trout fishing is a great outdoor activity for the whole family to enjoy. You may see a few eagles catching a snack. You may catch a few fish for the dinner table. You are sure to have a memorable time though, so get out there and keep fishing.

The Missouri Trout Fishermen’s Association is all about trout. They have three chapters in the state, Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield. Their aim is to serve all trout fishermen, beginners and experts alike. Find trout fishing buddies, a resource to area fishing opportunities and meet with individuals sharing a common interest. Whether you like fly fishing, spin fishing or just fishing in general, you’re sure to fit in. All three chapters are into teaching kids and adults about our sport.

MTFA supports conservation, not only in the state’s trout fishery but the conservation efforts in all aspects of our state’s natural resources. They participate in educational programs with the Missouri Department of Conservation and are affiliates of the Conservation Federation of Missouri.


Read about some wine and fish pairings you’ll have to try with your fresh catch.


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