Last updateThu, 18 Dec 2014 2pm


Meramec River seeing return of brown trout

    Avid St. James outdoorsman Lyle Staab began my love affair with brown trout over 40 years ago. Staab’s photograph appeared on the front cover of an outdoor magazine. He held a brown trout that weighed in double figures. He caught it from the Meramec River.
    I have been searching for a brown trout of those proportions ever since. I’m still searching.
    The Meramec River became Missouri’s first Trophy Trout area in 1974, shortly after I became superintendent of Maramec Spring Park. The brown trout fishery was a new and exciting idea. There was still much to be learned, however, about managing brown trout.
    Regulations allowed for the use of live bait for those early browns. Most disappeared quickly because the fish swallowed live baits causing release mortality to be high.
    As evidenced by Staab’s colossal catch, a few browns did survive.
    A red Ribbon Trout Area was started on the Meramec River in the 1980s, with more restrictive regulations. Only lures and artificial flies could be used, increasing the number of fish that survived after being caught and released.
    The Missouri Department of Conservation continued releasing brown trout from eight to 12 inches once a year in the fall. Most fly fishermen regard the browns as being rather finicky. Regardless, anglers who knew about brown trout continued to catch them over the years.
    During the summer of 2014, brown trout fishing in the Meramec River took a turn for the better. A one-time supply of browns up to 15 inches were stocked in the river as a result on an experimental program at Maramec Spring Hatchery.
    Brown trout were used to help control parasitic crustaceans called copepods, which attached themselves to the gills of rainbow trout. Brown trout were placed at the heads of raceways and acted as bio-filters. The copepods attached themselves to the brown trout, but could not complete their life cycle on brown trout, like they did on rainbows. The result was fewer parasites to attack the rainbows.
    The brown trout were held in the pools longer than normal and as a result grew larger than normal eight to 12 inches used for stocking. They were subsequently stocked in the Meramec River.
    “The experiments were a success,” said biologist Jen Girondo. “The hatchery will likely continue raising a limited number of browns for the program.”
    Upon learning about the releases of browns into the Meramec, I had to give them a try. I knew browns do not like intense light, so I picked a dark, blustery day to fish. The results were astounding.
    I located a long, deep hole and cast a 1/8-ounce white Road Runner into the cold, clear waters. A jolt reverberated up my rod. A broad fish rolled to the surface and my six-pound line pinged. I was on to something.
    Over the next two hours I caught 560 inches of brown trout in about 40 installments. Only two were shorter than 14 inches. Several were 17-inchers, fat and broad.
    Perhaps a few of these brown trout will survive to reach double digits. I’ll keep hunting them.
    I returned two days later, on a bright, sunny day and caught one brown.
    To view a short video of some of the action I enjoyed, go to: Look under fishing shows.

Winter catch and release at Maramec will hook you

    Two vehicles sat like a pair of big stones on the lower parking lot of Maramec Spring Park. No other cars or trucks decorated the lots, where hundreds had been just weeks ago.

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An odd duck and a weird deer

    Most of you who read this column on a regular basis know I don’t fiddle around much on a computer. If God only gives us a certain amount of hours on this earth and we can still hunt and fish and cut firewood and fix a garden and raise a few chickens, isn’t it a real waste of those precious hours to be sitting in front of one of these little boxes that all of us know is evil and deranged and ruins lives. It is akin to sitting in traffic each day wasting that hour or two when we could be doing something productive with our already too short lives.

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November deer harvest up from last year

    Building on a strong opening weekend harvest, Missouri hunters went on to check a total of 167,205 deer during firearms deer season Nov. 15 through 25. The number exceeds last year’s harvest of 157,273.

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Cowtown USA sponsors Ray Eye Turkey Camp

    Cowtown USA, in Cuba, recently sponsored world famous turkey hunter Ray Eye’s fall media turkey hunt on the Big Piney River in Texas County. Eye brought in outdoor writers and outdoor products representatives from to test products, turkey hunt, gather story material, produce radio shows and video for the outdoor media markets across the country.

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Thank you God for everything, but persimmons

    Hunting deer this week, I came across a persimmon tree loaded with persimmons. I ate several and left the rest for deer and raccoons and possums. Every time I eat a persimmon I get the feeling that God made them for wild creatures and meant for man to leave them alone. The seeds are large, and too many. The skin makes your mouth feel like you ought to drink a quart or so of water. You can eat them, and you can even eat white oak acorns. 

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