MU student Andrew Hippert still recalls the first time he went fishing for trout.
"I remember when I was about three years old, and I went with my grandfather to fish for my first time at Tilles Park in Brentwood," said Hippert, a parks, recreation and tourism major.
As trout season opened throughout Missouri on Monday, Hippert didn’t have to travel nearly as far. While some fishermen spent the day at popular trout parks like Tilles Park or Bennett Spring State Park, Hippert chose to stay in Columbia and fish at Cosmo-Bethel Park because of the convenience.
"On Monday, I went fishing and it took me just 15 minutes to get there," he said. "Before, I had to travel much farther."
Despite the proximity to Columbia, the overall turnout at Cosmo-Bethel Park Lake was down on Monday. Tim Grace, fisheries regional supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the low turnout was due to the opening of other trout fishing facilities.
"There may be less fishermen in Cosmo-Bethel Park because some are going to the trout parks to fish," Grace said. Even so, he is confident that some anglers will still find fun at Cosmo-Bethel.
Earlier this winter, Cosmo-Bethel Lake was a popular spot because it was one of the few lakes open for fishing. Patrons of other parks, who have natural trout lakes and streams, must wait until trout season begins in order to fish. Cosmo-Bethel Park, however, has a private lake. Any time the weather was suitable this the winter, the lake drew a large crowd.
"There was a lot of interest during the winter when the ice was safe," Grace said. "We counted over 30 fisherman on weekend days. The fishing interest will continue in Cosmo-Bethel Park because it is close to home fishing. It is easy to take a short trip if you live in or around Columbia"
Since last year, Columbia fishermen haven’t had to drive to Bennett Springs or other similar locations to fish for trout. Even as trout season officially opened Monday, some fishermen like Hippert chose to go to Cosmo-Bethel Park as they have for the past four months. They have been able to fish there since the first week of November, thanks to the cooperative agreement of the Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia Parks and Recreation and the Mid-Missouri Chapter of Trout Unlimited, which stocked 2,400 rainbow trout into Cosmo-Bethel Lake.
"From November 1 to January 31, the anglers could not keep the fish," Grace said. "But since February 1, they can keep them with a daily limit of five fish and possession limit of 10."
While Hippert enjoyed his time at the lake Monday, he said he wouldn’t be bothered if the crowd was larger.
"I don’t mind fishing with a lot of people, as long as everyone respects each other’s space," Hippert said.
To participate in the winter trout program of the Cosmo-Bethel Park, anglers ages 16 to 64 must possess a valid Missouri fishing permit. Anglers wanting to keep trout must possess a trout permit. Catch-and-release anglers do not need a trout permit.