COLUMBIA — It was overcast and 40 degrees. The wind howling out of the northwest made it feel even colder.
It didn't keep Tony Schmidt out of the water. He waded nearly waist deep into Cosmo-Bethel Lake, trying his luck for one of about 2,400 rainbow trout stocked in the lake on Nov. 1.
"The only reason I came out of the water was so my feet would get a chance to warm up," Schmidt said.
While other anglers aren't as committed as Schmidt, there are plenty of people who have taken advantage of Columbia's winter trout fishing program in the past month and a half — not to mention previous years.
Cosmo-Bethel Lake, against the background of tennis courts, Rock Bridge High School and a shopping center, gives fishermen a place to practice their fly-casting technique and experiment with new artificial lures in the city limits.
Others said they chose Cosmo-Bethel Lake as a place to relax and find peace close to where they live.
"We're a funky lot," said Kent King, one of eight people fishing early Tuesday afternoon.
King said he likes fishing because it relaxes him.
Anglers are required to have a state fishing license. Until Feb. 1, anyone fishing in Cosmo-Bethel Lake is required to use artificial lures and release any trout they catch.
Even if it wasn't a rule, King said, he always releases the fish he catches. Because of the restrictions, on Tuesday he was using store-bought lures usually used for bass fishing. If there were no restrictions, he would use corn and sometimes mini-marshmallows as bait.
One 10-inch trout swallowed the lure King was using. Once the trout was on shore, King took the hook out and placed the trout back into the lake.
It didn't swim away. Instead, the trout lay bleeding, upside down, in the water.
"C'mon, sweetheart," King said to the seemingly helpless creature.
Eventually, the trout splashed around, flipped over and swam away.
"You've seen the best part about fishing, and the worst part," King said.
Even though King said he fishes regularly, he doesn't consider himself a true angler. He said he's just someone who likes to fish, and Cosmo-Bethel is close to home.
Fifty yards away on the west bank of the lake, Ken Midkiff was wearing a flannel shirt underneath a fisherman's vest as he cast with a forest green rod. His technique was smooth.
"That's a fisherman," King said. "Every time I look over there, he's catching something."
Midkiff said he was practicing at Cosmo-Bethel for a fishing trip to Montauk State Park he was taking on Sunday. He was catching a trout about every five minutes.
"I like fly fishing because it requires more finesse," Midkiff said.
Midkiff said he also goes fishing at nearby Philips Park Lake and Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area but likes Cosmo-Bethel because it is the closest fishing spot to his home.
There are plenty others who chose to fish at Cosmo-Bethel for a similar reason.
"Here, you get a chance to test equipment and practice," Chuck Freidricks said.
Freidricks makes his own lures, and fishing at Cosmo-BethelLake is a cost- and time-effective way for him to test lures. He frequents Cosmo-Bethel Lake two or three times a week and was with John Larson on Tuesday.
Doug Oncken caught more than 12 fish on Tuesday, including one rainbow trout that was a whopping 20 inches.
"If I wasn't doing this," Schmidt said, "I'd be cleaning gutters."
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