Sometimes it's amazing where one can find quality trout fishing without having to load up the fishing mobile and head out for a week. Its even more amazing how some of the people living near such a region can often overlook these spots. Within a 2 hour drive of St. Louis anglers of all skill levels can be pleasantly surprised at the quality of fishing right in their own backyard. No need to worry about missing the Cardinals run for the pennant either, head out in the early morning and you can be sitting in Busch Stadium just in time for first pitch.
Meramec Spring Trout Park, the Meramec River, Mill Creek and Windrush Farms are just 4 options for those looking for a quick weekend fix of trout fishing. Explore a couple over a long weekend or spend a weekend getting to know one of these fine trout fisheries.
MERAMEC SPRING TROUT PARK (573-265-7801)
Meramec Spring Trout Park is one of four state trout parks in Missouri, located on Highway 8 roughly halfway between Steelville and St. James. Being just a couple of hours west of St. Louis this spring creek can provide a quick fix for anglers. The park is owned by the James Foundation but the trout fishery is managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, who stocks 170,000 10-14' rainbows per year.
The creek is a major tributary to the Meramec River. The spring itslef is Missouri's 5th largest pumping an average of 100 million gallons of 56 degrees of water daily down its 1 mile length where it feeds into the main branch of the Meramec River.
Meramec Spring is open daily from March 1 through October 31, there are no restrictions to tackle during this season. Opening day and summer weekends are a complete cluster, wiser anglers should wait unitl the special winter season. The winter catch-and-release season is restricted to artificial flies and opens on the 2nd Friday of November through the 2nd Sunday of February on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The Meramec River has approximately 8-9 miles of good trout water. The upper stretch, approximately 1 mile, begins at the boat access point at the Highway 8 bridge east of the trout park. The best trout waters are located from below the mouth of Meramec Spring Park downstream 7 miles to Scott's Ford. Anglers have public access at the Highway 8 boat launch, Meramec Spring Park, Scott's Ford, and Cardiac Hill/Suicide Hill trails in the Woodson K. Woods Wildlife Area. The river ranges between 50-100 feet wide with forested banks of oaks and sycamores. Wading is an option with chest waders but there are some deep pools, to cover more water you can rent a canoe, locally.
The Missouri Department of Conservation manages this stretch as Trophy Trout Waters, with artificials only regulations being the legal means to fool the many wily browns and spunky rainbows. The daily creel limit is 3 trout over 15'. Most of the browns and bows landed are in the 10-16 inch range, but it isn't uncommon to hook into a couple of 20 inchers on a good day. Reports of 7-9 pounders have been spread but don't expect to find one on the end of your line.
Timing is a big key to success on this picturesque river. The Meramec is a popular floaters river during the hot humid Missouri summers. During summer fish early mornings till about 10am, take a long lunch near an AC and return to the waters around 3pm. Spring time provides lots of fun shortly after the stocking trucks leave. Fall is the best time to fish this mighty stream, autumn colors in the trees, the browns on their annual spawning rituals, air temps in the upper 70s/low 80's and lots of bugs on the water including mayflies and caddisflies. The big #12 White Drakes (locally known as Whiteflies) usually hatch during the evenings in September and October, dont look for any of the big boys to be rising though. This river has a healthy population of bait fish.
Mill Creek is a rarity for the state of Missouri, a cold spring fed stream teeming with wild rainbows-yes wild trout in the Show Me State. The rainbows were first stocked over a 100 years ago by the Frisco Railroad, the last stockings were 50 years ago. Several miles of public water are available, most of which lies in the Mark Twain National Forest for exact information on public and private water contact the USFS Ranger Station (573-341-7475) in nearby Rolla, MO.
This little jewel is only 5-20 feet wide and canopied with thick brush and trees, backcasting can be tricky be ready to roll cast. In stretches featuring faster water anglers can work up the middle making short little casts to the edges, underneath branches and along the undercut banks. Most of the wild rainbows are in the 6-10 inch range, a few smaller and every once in a while a bigger. On a couple of rare occasions a 20 incher has been landed. These little wild trout seem to be aggressive feeders when not spooked, eager to take a well presented dry fly.
Volunteers really do make a difference. In 1994 a 1 mile stretch of Mill Creek was acquired from a private owner and transferred to the Mark Twain National Forest. Thanks to the River Network, TU and FFF clubs of Missouri and a host of private donors for generating funding for this purchase. The main springs feeding Mill Creek are now protected from grazing, and development, helping to maintain this beautiful little wild rainbow trout fishery.
WINDRUSH FARMS (573-743-6555)
Windrush Farms is a private fishery located near St. James, MO. The farm offers superb fishing for rainbow trout in the 1.5 mile long Benton Creek, a spring fed creek canopied with oak and sycamore trees. The stream is approximately 40 feet wide. The tightly lined backs often requires anglers to wade up the middle making roll casts to the many pools and riffles that provides excellent habitat for the average 12-16' rainbows and the occasional lunker.
Most of the rainbows are hatchery raised but there are some wild rainbows in the lower stretch of the creek. The aquatic insect life is that of a typical Missouri spring creek; heavy caddisflies, mayflies and even stoneflies. Other trout food includes crustaceans and forage fish such as minnows and sculpins. Spring and Fall provide for the best dry fly opportunities, while during the heat of summer anglers should plan on nymph or streamer tactics. The farm also features a 1.5 acre pond teemingwith healthy bluegills.
Lodging is available in two beautifully restored 1840's log cabins. Each unit has a bath and kitchenette. Managers, Quint and Cicely Drennan are accomplished fly fishers whose wealth of knowledge on Missouri trout fishing is impeccable. They both enjoy sharing advice on how to fish Windrush and near by Meramec River. The farm opens February 1 and closes December 15, day fishing is available for a nominal fee.
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