Columbians, starting Nov. 1, will have the opportunity to fish for trout without leaving the city.
The Missouri Department of Conservation, the Mid-Missouri Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the city of Columbia are stocking Cosmo-Bethel Lake with 2,400 rainbow trout. They are sharing the costs, which will be between $4,000 and $5,000.
“It will provide a unique recreational opportunity in Missouri during the winter,” said Jon L. Deal, secretary of Trout Unlimited, a private organization that works to preserve and expand cold-water fishing locations.
The lake’s cold temperatures in winter can sustain the trout population. Because rainbow trout cannot survive in water hotter than 70 degrees, however, the opportunity will end in spring, when the remaining trout will die.
“This is basically a winter time fishery, and by spring, most all trout will be caught,” said Craig Gemming of the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Gemming said similar urban fishing programs in St. Louis and Kansas City have been successful.
“Once people were allowed to keep the trout, 95 percent were caught in eight weeks in St. Louis,” he said.
The season will be catch-and-release until February, when people can keep up to five trout a day, while supplies last.
“It will help to promote a catch-and-release ethic,” Deal said.
He said releasing the trout will give everyone more opportunity to fish.
The idea started when Trout Unlimited contacted the Department of Conservation and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“Our participation in the program will give us an opportunity to be more a part of the community,” Deal said. “Our expectation and hope is that by next year everyone will have enjoyed the chance to fish for trout and have learned about catch-and-release.”
Deal said the fish will not reproduce in the lake because rainbow trout spawn in the spring, when the water will be too warm. If the program succeeds, he said, the lake might be stocked again next fall.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said the city supports the project because it will encourage people to use the park in winter.
“We’re always looking for different options for recreation,” Hood said. “People would normally have had to travel many miles to fish for trout, but now they have the opportunity in their own home town.”
The conservation department chose Cosmo-Bethel Lake because it’s small and will give each angler a high catch rate. The trout will be supplied by Wind Rush Farms hatchery in Crawford County. Gemming said the trout will not harm the lake’s ecosystem.
Local fly fisherman Mike Lowry isn’t opposed to stocking the lake with trout, but he isn’t overly excited either.
“It’s not a novel idea to take a static body of water and stock it with fish, but I support it,” Lowry said, during a recent visit to Clearwater Fly Shop. “I think there will be very few people out there fishing between November and February, except maybe on very warm days.”
Wade Brown, another local fisherman at the store, said stocking the lake is a good idea.
“I usually fish for bass or catfish, but if I catch a trout, that doesn’t bother me,” Brown said.
He doesn’t fish at Cosmo-Bethel Lake now but said he probably will after it’s stocked.