Missouri Trout Hunter

Blog for sharing thoughts, beliefs and opinions on issues affecting the world of trout fishing in the Ozarks.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Trout Hunter to Propose Maramec Spring/Meramec River Regulations Changes


First, my apologies for not responding to emails recently. We've been without power for about a week -- it finally came back on for real Friday 1/19 about mid-day. We had a little burp of electricity earlier in the week, and I managed to check email at that time as well, but the power was fairly short-lived. With the storm coming through tonight (3-6 inches of snow + 30mph winds + broken tree limbs hanging by a thread), I expect we'll be in the dark again come Sunday morning. I'll get emails responded to and fishing reports posted as quickly as possible, and I appreciate your patience.

Now, on to the business at hand. If you're a regular visitor to
Missouri Trout Hunter, you've probably noticed that St. Louis area trout fishermen tend to be much more active contributors of fishing reports than our visitors from the other urban centers of Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia. For this reason, sometimes 75% of our fishing reports come from the St. Louis lakes, Meramec River and Maramec Spring Park. Of course, along with the reports come emails with comments, questions and complaints, and I've noticed something over the last few years. The Meramec River gets its fair share of complaints, and Maramec Spring Park gets a LOT of complaints -- at least I hear a lot of complaints.

The primary complaints about the park and the Red Ribbon area can be summed up in this manner:

(a) There are only 5 or 6 decent fishing spots along the entire length of the park's spring branch, because the river's been channelized. What this means is that the normal transition of riffle-pool-run-riffle-pool-run has been eliminated. This causes the 5 or 6 decent spots to be over-crowded with fish and fishermen, and this causes
increased frustration and appears to be deterring fishermen from wanting to return the park. I base this judgment on fishermen simply telling me they won't return to the park. In all fairness, MDC is trying to address this issue by planting a large number of 1/2-ton bouders throughout the park as structure designed to develop new fishing holes. We're all anxious to see how well this works. The next complaint is related but slightly different.

(b) The dams discourage fish movement between different areas of the river. Now while this can be good if you get "the spot" where the trout are crowded together, the main complaint is that crowds of fish cause crowds of fishermen. There's a second complaint about the dam at the bottom of the park, which some believe is meant to keep fish from escaping to the Meramec River downstream. The original intent of the dam may have been to slow the water flow, however. This effects the Red Ribbon area downstream from the park by decreasing the numbers of rainbow trout in the Meramec River, and it effects the park by decreasing the numbers of brown trout in the park's spring branch (rainbows are only stocked in the park, and browns are only stocked in the Red Ribbon section). The other three Missouri trout parks are wide open at their lower boundary, allowing free migration of trout into and out of the park, giving both park and river fishermen greater access to both species of trout.

(c) Not having bait vs. lure vs. fly zones can be a problem, because the different styles of fishing are not always compatible with one another. For example, if a bait fisherman casts out dough bait and lets it sit on the bottom, it cuts off a wide lane of fishing for those that cast to allow their baits to drift, whether it be someone fishing dough under a bobber or fly fisherman drifting a nymph. It also causes problems when other fishermen want to cast and retrieve spinners or streamers, as crossed and tangled lines become troublesome. We're not blaming bait fishermen for these problems. Afterall, its spin and fly fishermen that are cutting off fishing lanes for bait fishermen as well. Having seperate zones like the other parks would seem to be a possible solution. HOWEVER, with only a handful of decent fishing spots, how would you divide up the river into zones without banishing a group of fishermen to a less productive area?

(d) The fish sanctuary makes fishermen wimper and whine with desire. It's understood that the fish sanctuary is part of the deal struck with the James Foundation. They own the property, so they get to call the shots. Of course, it's completely understandable that they don't want people fishing from the sidewalk that meanders around the hatcheries and the spring pool. But, the water downstream from the spring pool dam is absolutely the best looking fly fishing water in the entire park. Also, when the water temperature makes the fish feel good, they swim upstream. Therefore, it's only a matter of time before the rainbows stocked in the fishable areas move up into the sanctuary. Those that move back down generally only do so in the hottest times of the year. This loss of catchable trout is also frustrating to the MDC -- they are raising trout to be caught, after all.

I think that pretty much sums up the gripes that have been passed on to me. I've spoken to the MDC about these issues, really just to pass on your concerns. At that time, I was encouraged to submit a proposal of regulation changes for consideration by MDC officials. Before I make the move to do this, though, I want to hear from you. What are your opinions of the complaints I've summarized above? Do you have another complaint that you'd like to share? What regulation changes would you like to see? I only ask that you be realistic. Remember, the MDC's goal for the trout parks is to get as many people fishing as possible. Any suggestions that will decrease the number of fishermen will not be taken seriously.

So, to clarify, here's what I need your help with. My plan is to submit a paper that outlines (1) what trout fishermen DO NOT like about the Meramec River and Maramec Spring fishing experiences, and (2) specific recommendations for solving those problems. If I can submit this paper with a few hundred signatures attached, it would certainly add some weight to it.

Lastly, if you would like to see any other changes made at any other Missouri trout areas, feel free to share your opinion.

Thanks folks. Stay warm out there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fish Meramec Spring 5-10 times a year during the Winter Catch-and-release season. It is a 110-mile drive from my front door to the the park.

Point a) I agree the layout of the park has a very unnatural feel, but there are unproductive areas on all streams. I guess what I am saying is that you can do only so much with 1/4-mile of stream. Secondly, this season the water level in the spring branch has been so high it is difficult to asses the improvement that the state has made. Yesterday, 1/20/07, I did notice that the island near the wire had been chopped in half. I do not know if this was caused by the high water levels or if it had been dug out.

Point b) I am not sure how much fish movement into and out of the spring branch effects the quality of the fishery. We need to remember it is a, with the exception of the Winter season, a put-and-take fishery. Having said that, I can say that each year I catch fewer and fewer brown trout in the spring branch. A few years ago I would catch one or two browns a trip, last year I caught one and this year I have not seen any browns in the stream.

Point c) As a fly fisherman I would like to see the area become a catch and release area all year. Of course this would eliminate the bait and plastic bait fisherman, but I am being honest. That is why I go elsewhere when the put-and-take season opens. However, I am willing to share the resource with families. They need a place to take the kids fishing over the Summer and I get the area all Winter. It seems fair to me.

Point d) This is the most worry some part of the discussion. I'm not sure how many fisherman know that the city is in great danger of losing the James Foundation. A fanatical lawyer back East who receives two-hundred-thousand dollars a year to manage the foundation has begun to with drawl funds from the city. Last year it had to closed the swimming pool because the foundation had with drawn support. Heck, the park it self could be in danger.

Mike, Belleville, IL

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard about any funding issues related to Maramec Springs or the James Foundation. I certainly hope any problems they encounter are solved, so they can continue to thrive and do what they do best. However, I'd hazard a guess that the state of Missouri wouldn't allow Maramec Spring to simply close. The James Foundation went out of their way to make the park available to the public, so I can't imagine they'd sell it to a private interest, either -- it would go directly against their stated purpose. If it came right down to it, I'd assume that the MDC and James Foundation would be able to come to some sort of terms to keep the park publicly accessible. The state may not be able to make an outright purchase, but creative finance and complicated agreements are both something all governments (and rich people!) are very good at.

Regarding migration into and out of the park, everytime the spring branch floods, the volume of water over the dams allows for a certain level of movement. If the water is warm, it pushes trout downstream over the dams. If the water is in the proper comfort zone, they'll swim upstream over the dams. However, water levels have been historically low over the last 5 years or so, which has really cut into this exchange of fish between the Red Ribbon area and the park.

I would agree that this doesn't hurt the park as a fishery, except that park fishermen want to catch the occasional brownie. It does, however, hurt the success rate of most fishermen fishing the red ribbon area. Brown trout outnumber rainbows in the Meramec River by at least 3:1, but rainbows account for about 85% of the catch. With a more even mix of rainbows and browns, the river fishing success would improve for the average trout fisherman.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Mark Fred said...

Zones like the other parks would be nice, but Maramec Springs is just to small to make that a reality. This park is desined to bring in money for the foundation and provide easy access for put and take trout fishing. Its has conservation in mind, but in a form not like the other parks. They are keyed into a "forest nature" preservation and not keyed into the "natural river" conservation. The James foundation makes a great effort conservation effort, but it seems to be focused on animal protection and refuge, than a "realistic" trout stream. The James foundation does a great job of this. The trout stream funds their refuge and maintains thier property. (I have done no research on this topic, and my statements are soley my opinion and personal observations)

However, If MDC did ocassional stocking of rainbows outside of the park and occasional stockings of browns inside the park once or twice a year, both issues of rainbows outside and browns inside the park would be addressed. Now the question is how many do you stock, and when do you stock them. How many is an answer best solved by the MDC bio. agents. I would love to see 10,000 stoked every year, but that is most likely too many. As far as when, I would suggest brown in the spring branch durring the winter season (give them a chance to hide or move around) and rainbows any time, but before or after the floaters make their annual runs wouls give the fish somw quite time to "settle in."

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Mark Fred said...

I think I need to proof read things before I post them. Luckly you are not my English Professor, or I would be failing.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea about cross-stocking between the park and the river. We wouldn't be asking for extra fish, just a bit of variety. They only stock brown trout in the Meramec 1x per year, dropping about 5,000 or so in the river. They could go to the park raceways right before spring stocking and trade about 1,000 browns from their truck for a 1,000 rainbows from the raceway and simply stock the rainbows and browns side by side. Of course, I don't know the logistics of such an effort. It would certainly take some additional time and manpower. If they'd be willing to do this, it would solve two complaints. It would improve fishing results in the river, and it would increase the odds of park fishermen catching browns.

Thanks Mark. BTW, you would absolutely not fail if I were your English professor. I'd give you a minimum of a D+!

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Seth Turner said...

I fish Maramec Springs quite often as it is much closer than Bennett or Montauk. The problem about only having 5 or 6 good holes to fish is true, but I manage to catch my share of fish, even with the fly rod. There are always a few pods of fish that aren't getting touched between the Lacy Hole and the Bridge Hole everytime I am there.

The only thing that I would really love to see would be making the area from the cable up to the falls below the spring pool open for fly only catch and release year around. As somebody already said, that is some amazing looking fly fishing water and there are a lot of BIG trout up there. This would help out with the zone issue a little bit. There aren't many fly fisherman that I see in the park once catch and keep season starts anyhow so I don't think it would be over fished or anything.

The winter catch and release season is awesome down there. The fish are plentiful, as well as quite a few lunkers, and always seem to be hungry. It's probably my favorite time to be down there.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Sam Johnson said...

the main problem i see at maramec is the channelization. there really isn't anything between the end of th eparking lot and the area a few hundered yards upstream from the bridge. it is frustrating to walk past all that water where there could be trout.
although it would take a huge effort on the part of the james foundation and the MDC, i think this should be a prioroty.
i dont know much about the red ribbon area. ive only fished it once and i think most of the browns were downstream of where i was, but it is a beautiful area and i see no problem with allowing people to keep fish. after all, fishing started as a form of sustinance. part of the fun of a day in the ozarks is eating fresh rainbow trout. we don't get much fresh seafood in missouri, so fresh trout is like candy.

6:12 PM  

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