Standing shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of fellow fisherman casting into a small section of stream may not sound like a relaxing and enjoyable experience to some, but to many Missourians the annual tradition of the Trout Opener is one of the sporting highlights of the year.
March 1 is the first day of the catch-and-keep season. This year it falls on a Wednesday.
Three of the “Trout Parks” are part of Missouri’s incredible State Park System. Those are Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Montauk State Park near Licking and Roaring River State Park near Cassville. Maramec Spring Park near St. James is privately owned and operated by the James Foundation. Each of the four Missouri Trout Parks are unique in their own way, yet all offer exceptional trout fishing along with many other outdoors recreational opportunities.
Ryan Verkamp, president of Mid-MO Trout Unlimited said, “Opening day at Missouri Trout Parks is much more than catching fish and wetting a line. It gives anglers a chance to surround themselves with like-minded individuals that have a passion for the outdoors and trout fishing. Through conversations and camaraderie, I always leave opening day thinking I have learned something from someone on how to catch more fish on my next outing.”
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) operates trout hatcheries at all four parks, and stocks more than 800,000 trout annually at the state’s four trout parks. There are always fresh fish being stocked, so anglers can head to these parks with confidence knowing there will be hungry fish awaiting their offerings.
“Trout fishing in Missouri is phenomenal due to the amount of resources our state puts towards making it successful. In return, the individual anglers in our state do a great job of respecting the regulations while always take care of the resources,” Verkamp said.
The Trout Parks can be quite crowded and most of the fish are kept. But this is the culture and what makes the parks special. Crowds of approximately 2,000 people are expected to be at Montauk, Bennett Spring, and Roaring River on opening day. Maramec Spring is expecting about 1,000. MDC stocks three trout for each expected angler, so on opening day more than 21,000 trout will be stocked at the four parks. Most will be about 12-inches long, but some “lunkers” will also be released in to the waters.
Jim Washabaugh is the author of a book titled, “Fishing the Missouri Trout Parks,” and serves as a sort of public ambassador for the parks.
“There is nothing else like the trout parks we have here in Missouri. Generations of families become attached to these parks, building lasting memories through trout fishing,” he said.
When fishing the trout parks, anglers must purchase a daily trout tag in addition to having a fishing permit. The daily limit is four fish, and you must stop fishing after have 4 trout in your possession. For more information on trout fishing in Missouri, visit https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing/where-fish/trout-areas. To book a cabin or campsite at one of the three State Park Trout Parks, visit https://mostateparks.com.
“All of the parks are family oriented and offer much more than just fishing for trout. You can spend the entire trip fishing, or walk around each unique park and play or educate yourself with various offerings. The parks are a all inclusive trip that always leave you with wanting more time to partake in additional activities,” Verkamp said.
Whether you are an experienced opening day angler or someone who has never attended before, I hope this year you consider heading to one of the Trout Parks and experiencing this unique and exciting Missouri sporting tradition.