COLUMBIA — Columbia’s winter trout fishing program doesn’t have the funding it needs to stay afloat.
The program, which had been funded by the city and the state, has been cut completely because of city budget cuts.
David McGowan has fished at Bethel Lake since the trout program began seven years ago. Last year, he fished there more than a dozen times.
“Even though we used to kid around about fishing for trout in a lake it was an experience that we (trout anglers) all enjoyed,” McGowan said.
He introduced new people to the sport, and the Mid-Missouri Chapter of Trout Unlimited used the lake as an educational tool for the community.
“It was kind of like a gift,” McGowan said.
After the city eliminated winter trout fishing from the budget in 2008, trout anglers have been struggling to fund the program.
Last year, the trout fishing group replaced the city’s half of the funding with the help of private donors. However, the nonprofit group can't afford the city's share this year, at about $2,500, said Dean Rapp, president of the group.
The city and the trout fishing group asked the Missouri Department of Conservation to implement the fishing program at Cosmo-Bethel Park in 2003, said Mike Griggs, city park services manager.
The state department supplied the fish from a private hatchery and the other half of the money as part of a Community Assistance Program agreement between the city and the department.
The annual cost of the program ranged from $4,500 to $5,000, according to Craig Gemming, a department fisheries management biologist. Until the fall of 2008, the city set aside $2,600 for the program, Griggs said.
Both the city and the state are willing to reinstate the program in the future if it becomes financially viable. Griggs said cutting the program was “purely a budget situation.” He said the city supports any program that allows young people to get outdoors.
“It was just a very educational, conservation-friendly program,” Griggs said. “And Mid-Mo Trout Unlimited was great to work with.”
Griggs said the program's fate is a City Council decision, but the economy would have to show significant improvements before any changes are likely to be made. The council will start work on next year's budget in May.
“It is going to take significant interest from the community to help push this program to the forefront,” he said.