Archive for the ‘Trout’ Tag


For most practical purposes trout fishing’s best days are over for the summer. The state regulated program stocks trout in small inland lakes in April and October.  After a beginning flurry of action, the number of anglers declines in number.  The catch rate declines significantly.  A small residue population of the fish continues into the summer when the water usually gets too hot for them.

There is one significant exception to this experience.

An 810-acre lake near Marion, Illinois is a surprise trout fishery. Stocked each October with 7,000 to 12,000 rainbow trout, the fish are plenty wild and scattered by the following spring when the anglers venture forth.

Devil’s Kitchen Lake accessed is available via Interstate 57 exits 53 and 54 west. The lake is on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge just off Spillway Road.  Day use passes, directions, and site specific regulations are available at the refuge Visitor Center 2 miles south of Route 13 on Route 148.

Rainbows are torpedo shaped with a square tail. They have many small spots over the entire body and tail.  Rainbows have a white mouth and gums and sport 10 to 12 anal rays.

Trout are a cold water fish and in most downstate lakes, the water warms quickly in the spring. That makes for the potential of a quick die-off.  Due to the depth of Devils Kitchen Lake, the problem is not as severe.  It is over 90 feet deep near the dam area and the fish tend to congregate there on warm summer days.  In a lake situation, the rainbow trout acts a little differently than would be the case in a small stream.  For that reason it is advisable to do a little scouting of the water prior to wetting a line.

If fishing from shore or without the modern electronics available to some anglers with boats, a good topographical map is important. In either case fishermen search for shoreline structure.  Trout seem to be particularly susceptible to the suns rays.  To avoid the sun and predators they will often be in or near a sheltered area or deep water.  Most shore fishermen fish in the early morning or late evening during the summer months.  Water is cooler during those periods according to locals.

Devil’s Kitchen Lake has a number of ledges and drop offs. The map and electronics come in handy in locating such areas.  The area just to the south of the dam area has a number of such ledges.  They look like steps going from the shore into deep water.

During the summer the area just out from the dam attracts trout. They often will appear on a graph as a cloud of bait fish suspended at about 15 to 20 feet deep.  In the hot weather of a southern Illinois summer heats the surface water to a point where it is not comfortable for trout.  They will move down to about 20 feet depth where the water tends to be more comfortable for them.

Early in the morning and late in the evening, when the water tends to be cooler, the trout will come to the surface in search of bait fish and flying insects that land on the water to rest.

Rainbow trout are most comfortable in water that is 56 to 70 degrees F. Once the water gets to 79 and above, they leave that water in search of more comfortable environments during cooler weather.  As the water warms, they seek out deeper water which usually means the dam area at the north end of the lake.

The shad forage in the lake also like the cooler water. But they seem to be willing to go into warmer water to avoid the trout seeking to eat them.  In the cooler evening temperatures both predator and prey will rise to feed.  In the brushy areas at the north end of the lake, insects will come out.  The fish will seek to capture any hapless insect in that area.  Further south, there are some trees that attract trout.  Any area where there is runoff from the shore will also attract trout.  They hang out there in hopes of getting any terrestrial insects that wash into the lake by a summer rain.

Most trout take natural baits like mealworms, red worms, minnows or pieces of nightcrawler. You can usually cut the nightcrawler in thirds and threaded them onto the hook for best results.

There are no longer any facilities available in the form of boat rentals, bait and food services.

Bait, tackle and fishing licenses are available at Cooksey’s Bait Shop on the corner of Old Route 13 and Highway 148, just north of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center. They are also available at the marina on Little Grassy Lake just south of Devil’s Kitchen Lake about two miles on Spillway Road.




The overcast skies begin to clear. On the shore of Lake Taneycomo in Branson, MO there is little wind as we put the boat in the water but that changes an hour or so later.  Temperatures are around freezing but they seem colder once the wind picks up.

The winter spawn for browns is just over last month. But the rainbows are just entering theirs.  We actually catch fish full of eggs and sperm in the pre-spawn.

Trout have a lateral line like all fish. They respond to movement, vibration and sound.  The lateral line allows them to pinpoint a direction from which those things emanate.  They move toward that sound and then use their sight to zero in on it.

Trout have tiny scales because they live often times in a moving water environment. This coupled with their slime coat allows them to go nose into the current with less energy.  They are also very slippery to handle while landing.

Lake Taneycomo contains both rainbow trout and brown trout.  Rainbow is the prominent stocking fish.  That is because they are the easiest trout to grow.  They take to the food and the overcrowding better than a brown trout.  Although the water here is quite clear they take to polluted water a bit better than brown trout

Some anglers prefer to use dry flys because it is more fun but it is not the only way. We are using artificial lures cast from spinning gear.  The jigs suspend about 4 feet below a small float.  Their eyes are mid-range.  That means they are comfortable looking up for food as well as down.  They are multi-directional feeders.

Trout in the wild like cold moving water with a rocky bottom. This describes much of the lake bottom here.  Out best success comes in water flowing over gravel.  They can survive in pond water but on a more limited basis.  Trout prefer water in the 40 to 55-degree range.  This can vary by sub-species.

On rivers where water levels change during the day, they will survive through adaptation. When the current is fast, they will be near the edges of the river system.  As water levels lower and current decreases they will go more toward the middle or anywhere.  They will range the river system.

Trout relate to structure only to conserve energy and preserve calories.

We hook into several brown trout but only landed one. The rainbows are numerous and we landed a number of them.

Toward the end of our 4 hour trip fingers get numb but it is a trip well worth the effort. To paraphrase a famous World War II general, I shall return.




Trout in the wild prefer water around 50-degrees with a rocky bottom. Missouri springs emanating in the limestone of the Ozark Mountains provide a very suitable habitat for trout.  On rivers with changing water levels the fish survive through adaptation.  As the water level lowers and the current decreases, they move toward the middle or anywhere with deeper, cooler water.  When the current is fast, they will move to the edge of the river.  They need to move to structure to conserve energy and preserve calories.

Trout with their tiny scales are able to live in moving water. This coupled with their slime coat allows them to go nose into the current expending less energy than other fish.

The major other factor that affects trout fishing is food. The trout’s eyes are located mid-range on their heads allowing them to feed either up or down from their position.  Ninety percent of their food crawls on the bottom of the river.  Much of it is immature insects and aquatic creatures.  As they grow and mature, the creatures move up in the water column eventually reaching the surface.

The basic casting procedure for all river run trout fishing is to keep your wrist stiff and below your shoulder. Learn to relax and not force your cast.  Hold the rod with the reel down and your thumb on the top of the rod.  You are casting the line and not the lure.  Using the clock face as a reference, keep your rod position between 10 and 2 o’clock.  Avoid the urge to cast hard in the forward position and drop you rod tip in an effort to gain distance.

Fly fishing anglers need to adjust they type of presentation they throw to the water level in which the trout are fishing at the moment.

If on the bottom, the best fly is one that is darker in color such as black or brown. They should be small in size and weighted to keep it off the bottom a few inches.  In the mid-range he can turn to Wooly bugger in a size 10 that is black, tan, and olive or even occasionally white.  This is probably the easiest level to master trout fishing with flys.  On the surface, the trout will take dry flys sizes 10 to 20, but are difficult to catch.  Trout eating on this level slurp down the fly gently as they approach without notification of their presence.

River run fly casters need to master the process of “mending.” Flys are cast up-stream and allowed to drift down.  Whether using a float or not, there is a tendency for the line to move down stream faster than the fly.  This pulls the fly up to a level higher than intended.  Point the tip of the rod toward the fly with a little slack.  Rotate your wrist in a small looping action which causes the slack in the line to land upstream from the fly.  This is mending.

As with anything self-taught, fly fishing without previous instruction can lead to errors. If you have not already done so it is advisable to attend a fly fishing school or hire a competent fly fishing guide.  There is a great deal of knowledge gleaned by doing so.  One learns the science of studying the food sources, tying knots, casting procedures and the tackle itself.



The spring catchable trout season in upon us.

These fish are stocked into the bodies of water where natural reproduction is not possible. As such they do not tend to be as likely to respond to fly fishing equipment.  The 10 or 11 inch fish are fierce battlers just the same. You just have to know how to entice them.  One way is to Give Them Groceries.

The trout are stocked into the waters several days prior to the opening of the season and are hatchery raised. As such they are not skilled in finding the natural forage in the lake.  But, they do become accustomed to the waters prior to the anglers trying to entice them to bite.

Success for anglers varies from one individual to another. Often lined up elbow to elbow along the shore, some will immediately catch their fish limit.  Others will not catch a thing.  The first day or two the trout receive some heavy pressure.  Soon the numbers of fishermen thin out as do the number of fish taken.

So what is the perfect bait for those trout? Well my friend, Vern Summerlin says it is to give them groceries.  His theory is that since hatchery raised trout are fed pellets, once released into a lake, they are one the least selective feeders.

Biologists tell us that rainbow trout can taste salt, sweet, bitter, and sour as do humans. They are the only game fish that will respond to sugar and only when it is in high concentrations.  That explains why they will respond to marshmallows.

Tastes that are commonly found in living tissue cause trout to respond. That explains why they like minnows, maggots, mealworms, nightcrawlers and worms.

As we know the colors of red, orange and pink appeal to trout, says Vern.  A these are the colors of one of their favorite foods, fish eggs.  In his experiments, Summerlin tried pimentos as a sight food since they are red.  But, they did not prove to catch fish.

Among the baits found in grocery stores are such things as marshmallows, corn, and shrimp that have been frozen, and then thawed. Cheese is a proven fish catcher.  The other three items did catch fish.  Some other foods sometimes recommended that do not produce fish with regularity are: canned shrimp, oysters, clams and Beenee Weenies.

Summerlin recommends using a Number 6 hook with a size seven split shot on four-pound test line. The terminal tackle is suspended under a float for deep pools in calm water.  In more active waters Vern uses a modified Carolina rig.  It has a hook tied to one end of 18 inches of four-pound line with a barrel swivel at the other end.  A 1/8th-ounce egg sinker placed on the line above the barrel swivel.  This allows a fish to take the bait without feeling the resistance.

Corn seems to be the best of the groceries for stocked rainbow trout. A small piece of marshmallow can be added to the hook to keep it off the bottom of the lake.

When you go out this spring in search of those catchable trout remember some groceries in addition to your worms, nightcrawlers and artificial lures. And when you catch your limit on corn with a marshmallow remember that you read it here first.


Digital Camera

Pulling into the state park 12 miles west of Lebanon, MO, all appears normal. Then the amount of vegetation in the stream appears excessive.  There is the sound of an outboard motor.  It is an unusual situation because the Missouri Department of Conservation does not allow boats in the trout fishing area.  This is going to be a strange day of trout fishing.

The Department of Conservation releases Rainbow Trout into the stream daily during the months of March through October and anglers flock to take part in the excellent opportunity to catch good sized fish. Today the anglers are leaving as they meet in the parking lot and discuss the situation.

The stream divides into three zones for fishing. Zone 1 runs from the Hatchery Dam upstream to the end of the trout fishing area.  Anglers who are fishing with flys only are permitted in this zone.  Zone 2 runs from the Hatchery Dam downstream to the Whistle Bridge.  Only flys and artificial lures are allowed in this zone.  Zone 3 runs from Whistle Bridge downstream to the Niangua River.  Only unscented soft plastic baits and natural and scented bait is permitted in this section of the stream.  All flys and artificial lures are not permitted in Zone 3 even if natural or scent is added.

The normally pristine stream is choked with what appears to be coontail.  It is great cover for trout but a mess for the angler.  And what about that outboard motor?  It only takes a few casts before anglers give up and head for the lodge for lunch and some explanation.

On the way to the lodge parking lot the answer to some of the problem is on display for all to see at the dam and below it.

The Department of Conservation employee was going back and forth across the stream on a small boat equipped with a cutting blade on the front, below the water. The rig was chopping up the vegetation which then washed over the dam.  The noise of an outboard on the back of the boat was stirring up any fish in the water.  Below the dam anglers were also giving up as the vegetation washing toward them was getting entangled in their lines.

The water that is clear of vegetation is a different shade of green but does not amount to a lot of fishing area at this time. Later after lunch more area is open and the fishing picks up.  The work done by the Department of Conservation has kind of ruined the fishing for today.  But, there will be others.

As the sun sets it is time to pack up and head for St. Louis.


The season for Missouri trout park fishing opens in early spring. River banks are wall to wall anglers for the first few days.  Then the crowds of opening day gradually disappear.  Still fishing for these little torpedoes remains excellent.

Classic trout fishermen typically throw very small flys. The reason they can do that is that the fish’s vision is very acute.  Certain environmental conditions call for the use of certain flys.    Trout are sight feeders.

Using dry flys is not the only way. Their eyes are mid-range.  That means they are comfortable looking up for food as well as down.  They are multi-directional feeders.

Simple is good when trout fishing. Try natural bait.  It is never too big.  Trout have an amazing ability to consume large baits when it comes to natural ones.  They are little Billy goats.  If they are hungry they are going to eat it.  They do often prefer only very tiny offerings but it they are hungry they will take almost anything in the tackle box.

Trout in the wild moving water in the 40 to 55-degree range with a rocky bottom. They can survive in pond water but on a more limited basis.

On rivers where water levels change during the day, they survive through adaptation. When the current is fast, they move near the edges of the river system.  As water levels lower and current decreases they go more toward the middle or anywhere.  They will range most of the river system relating to structure to conserve energy and preserve calories.

Trout have a lateral line like all fish. He will respond to movement, vibration and sound.  The lateral allows him to pinpoint a direction from which those things emanate.  They move toward that sound and use their sight to zero in on it.

Trout have tiny scales because they live often in a moving water environment. This coupled with their slime coat allows them to go nose into the current with less energy.  They are also very slippery to handle while landing them.

Southern Missouri has rainbow and brown trout. Rainbows are the prominent stocking fish.  That is because they are the easiest trout to grow.  They take to the food, they take to the overcrowding and they take any polluted water a little bit better than a brown trout.

Taken from a hatchery and placed in any body of water there are two things to remember about trout. Where did that truck back up to? And what do you have a lot of in your tackle box?  For about 3 days trout are stupid.  They spend some time where they are released trying to get acclimated.  They will bite anything.  They do not have the instincts and intuition of a wild trout because they have never had to do anything for their meals.

Stocked lakes do not usually have a trout kill. Anglers remove most of the trout.  Every once in a while someone catches a whopper in a lake where they have been stocking them for a number of years.

Spin tackle is the main mid-western tackle for trout fishing. Out west there is more fly fishing.

Use a relatively light rod to match to your style of fishing. Light to medium-light action is best because it is very soft and very limber.  You can throw very small lures with it.  The reason you might like the open spinning reel for trout is that you can use lighter line.   It works well with 4 to 6 pound test line.

Most of the time trout are going to respond to lures of 1 1/2 inch or less. In stained water you might want to use something a little larger.

You can also get away with a little bigger line of 6 to 8-pound test in camo-green. You might use the bigger line with a 2 foot leader of 4-pound monofilament.

For lures use anything from micro jigs up. Rainbow trout and the color pink seem to go together.  Red, brown and orange are good colors for brown trout.  You can dress a jig by putting a bobber six or eight feet above it.  It is not as much as a strike indicator but to give the line weight for casting.  In clear water a clear bobber is best.  If you need to cast a long way you can put some water in the bobber or add split shot.

If you are getting short strikes because the fish is attacking the feather portion of the jig presentation, trim the tail a little making the whole presentation shorter and closer to the hook.

Adjust the bobber according to the water depth you are wanting to fish.

Spinners catch more fish than any other class of lure. It is basically a piece of metal that goes round and round.  It creates a visual flash and a good deal of vibration.  Fish pick up the vibration through the lateral line and come from a long way away.  In clear water the flash is a big advertisement.

The best way to handle a trout if you plan to release it is to grab the lure without touching the fish and with the fish still in the water. If you use a net, get one that is very fine mesh.  Large mess will damage the fish.  Dunk the net before using it to hold the fish.  Leave the net in the water as you remove the lure.  Forceps are best for removing the lure.





The classic approach to trout fishing is with a fly rod and small fly. That is not the only way to catch trout in the Midwest.  Trout can be caught in almost the same manner as most other predator species.

Natural reproduction of trout in the Midwest is somewhat limited but they do reproduce well in a hatchery situation making them easy to stock for recreational purposes. Illinois does two stockings annually in April and October at a number of locations throughout the state. Missouri has trout parks across the state where fish are raised and stocked on site. Iowa does numerous stockings in the northeastern part of the state and has some natural reproduction success. Arkansas it the place to find river run trout, especially in the White River.

Trout are very active fish. They are very accurate sight feeders that also use their sense of smell and lateral line to zero in on the prey.  They are most active when water temperatures are in the 40 to 55-degree range.  Like other finny predators living in water with current, they will find the edge of the current and wait just out of it for prey to be washed to them.

Trout are a fish with very small scales. It makes them slippery to the touch and sometimes difficult to hold on to while removing hooks.

Probably the most often rig used to catch trout in the Midwestern states is lure/bait on the end of light line from a bait casting or spinning reel. Many anglers who use this rig are not avid trout anglers but rather are taking advantage of a supplemental fishing opportunity.

These anglers use a variety of baits including such items as cheese, Velveeta cheese spread, worms, bits of nightcrawler and even small minnows. Gold hooks in the size 6 to 8 are the most popular.

Often children will use a small float or bobber in the pursuit of trout. Trout recreational programs will often recommend such a rig as it makes a bit easier to identify for both the child and companion supervisors.

With more active trout anglers, the spinning rig is the most popular. A 6-foot light to medium light rod is a good place to start.  Lures should be limited to an inch and one half or shorter.  The open face reel can be spooled with camo green line of 4 to 6 pound test.  The lighter 4-pound line for is good.

When using jigs to catch trout, pink or rainbow colors are a primary choice. A second choice is red and orange combined with brown.  The lighter colors are for stained water and the later in clean water.  Crappie type jigs are best and the hook end should remain covered.

One can also use some of the mico-crankbaits with a split shot to help keep them down in the water. Billed crankbaits like those made by Rapala in sliver for cloudy water and gold for clear water work well.

Less common in trout fishing are the use of plastic worms. They should not be over one inch in length.  Most common colors are pink and white as they tend to resemble live bait when threaded onto a hook.  Again the point should not be exposed.  The worm can be threaded so as to cover the knot on the other end.  Split shot added about 2-feet above the worm and hook helps suspend them just off the bottom.

Because trout are so scent sensitive use unscented soap when handling terminal tackle. It helps to keep his scent off the tackle.  Apply a few drops and later rinses it off with water.

During times of muddy water conditions stalk trout and fool them into biting with a lures with big profiles, vibration or with scent applied to lures/baits. In river conditions the best hours are the last ones at dusk and early dawn.  In high water, they will be found behind structure out of the current.

Finally, when you think you have a fish hooked do not try to rip him out of the water with a jerk over your head. The best way to land the fish is with a sideways swing of the rod to set the hook.  Then you can elevate the rod to allow the fish to fight the rod and not your muscles.

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