FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood’s annual Kids’ Trout Fishing Derby is scheduled to take place Feb. 26 at Stone Mill Spring Recreation Area, located off of FLW 26, near Piney Valley Golf Course.
The derby — organized each year by the Directorate of Public Works’ Natural Resources Branch and the Outdoor Adventure Center, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation — provides the opportunity for anglers ages 15 and younger to earn prizes by catching any of the tagged rainbow trout the MDC adds to the spring prior to the event, said John Brant, an aquatic biologist with the NRB here.
Registration begins at 9 a.m., and the derby will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Brant said the event is free and no pre-registration is required, although an adult must accompany the participants. Parking will be available at the trailhead for the recreation area, and along FLW 26 — volunteers will be on hand to direct traffic.
Brant said all fishing permit requirements are waived for this special youth-only event, and up to four trout may be kept. Any natural, prepared or artificial bait may be used during the derby, but only one fishing pole per angler is allowed to help minimize crowding along the shoreline.
Due to the size of the expected crowd, Brant said participants are asked to follow social distancing protocols and keep at least six feet of distance from others.
Participants are also reminded to bring their own fishing poles, tackle and bait, Brant said.
“A small number of poles and some basic tackle will be available for loan on a first-come-first-serve basis, but the supply runs out fast each year,” he said.
Adults are welcome to give young anglers fishing tips and encouragement, but they will not be allowed to fish themselves, Brant added.
“Parents and guardians can help youngsters bait hooks and cast, but they must allow the child the fun and thrill of reeling in the trout by themselves,” he said.
Brant said the MDC is adding 500 rainbow trout to the spring for the derby this year, and any young angler who catches one with a special tag will get to choose a prize.
As in years past, the OAC will provide free hot dogs and sodas, said Sai Simram, supervisory recreation specialist at the OAC, and a privy and hand-washing station will be available.
“Everybody is welcome to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages, and use the limited number of picnic tables and grills at the recreation area,” Simram said.
Participants are reminded to dress for the weather.
“February weather can be quite cold or warm on any given day — or a range of both extremes in the same day — so please dress accordingly,” Brant said.
In addition to weather concerns, participants should plan for a half-mile walk from the parking area to the fishing spot. Brant said no shuttle service is available this year, due to COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place.
Children and adults will be allowed to fish after the derby ends, Brant added. However, the area will revert back to the normal Missouri Wildlife Code regulations. Both Missouri and trout permits will be required after the derby and the daily limit per person stays at four.