Winter can mean gray skies and cabin fever, but for trout anglers, the stretch between November and March is full of bright spots.
Catch-and-release fishing for trout at Missouri's four trout parks runs through the second Sunday in February. This "no-creel" season is a weekend affair.
The parks are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
On those days, anglers can catch trout after the warm-season crowds disappear from Montauk, Roaring River and Bennett Spring state parks and Maramec Spring Park.
All you need to participate is a fishing permit and a statewide trout permit ($7), which is valid throughout the winter season. The same permits allow anglers to catch and keep trout in many public trout streams outside the parks all year.
Trout fanatics also can pursue their favorite fish at Stone Mill Spring Branch on the Big Piney River. The area has been a trout management area for decades. Anglers there routinely catch and release dozens of fish a day.
The area is open to catch-and-release fishing from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. through Feb. 28. Unlike the trout parks, Stone Mill is open to fishing every day of the week.
As with other catch-and-release areas, only flies and artificial lures may be used during the catch-and-release season at Stone Mill Spring Branch.
The best fishing is generally before noon or on cloudy, snowy or rainy days.