The 2016 Missouri Trout Opener was March 1. I took part in this special celebration of fishing at Roaring River State Park near Cassville. Some people question why you would want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others and fish. It’s because “The Opener” is an annual cultural experience that brings anglers together statewide to celebrate Missouri’s love of fishing. It was great to share the experience with Governor Jay Nixon, State Parks Director Bill Bryan, DNR Deputy Director Todd Sampsell and many others.
The night before the opener, a select group of individuals met for dinner with Governor Nixon. We were treated to being witness to Missouri State Park Ranger, Corporal Brandon Bartz receiving an award as 2015 Park Ranger of the Year by ServiceWear Apparel.
Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks, said, “Corporal Bartz is very deserving of this honor. His selfless actions represent the best of Missouri State Park Rangers, who work hard every day protecting parks and ensuring visitors’ safety.”
Corporal Bartz rescued a woman 65 feet from the top of a cliff she had jumped off and heroically climbed to the woman, and worked to calm and stabilizer before being airlifted to stay. Missouri’s Park Rangers work exceptional hard to keep our parks and us safe. We owe them a debt of gratitude.
After the ceremony and a wonderful dinner, a number of us gathered around a campfire. We talked about past trout openers and the many different places all across Missouri where fishermen would be filling stringers in the morning. We set expectations of the coming morning high and complimented the incredible quality of the Missouri State Parks system.
Around 6:25 a.m., I stepped onto an observation platform above the river along with Governor Nixon and the rest of his entourage. We anxiously counted down the last few minutes before the 6:30 start time. On both sides of the river, anglers were lined up shoulder-to-shoulder as far as you could see. Wood fires were blazing in 55-gallon drums. Strangers were offering strangers free coffee. The smell of bacon frying filled the air.
The moment the Governor fired the starter pistol, anglers of all ages cast their lines. By the time he had fired the sixth and final shot fish were already being landed. Each night, trout are stocked into the water of three State Trout Parks. The parks offer a high-likelihood of catching fish, which makes them appealing to many anglers. The fish may not be wild, but they can be challenging to catch.
The three Missouri State Trout Parks are Roaring River, Bennett Spring and Montauk. Maramec Spring, near St. James, is the only Trout Park that isn’t a State Park. It’s built on the site of the historic Maramec Iron Works and is operated by the James Foundation.
Roaring River State Park is located in the southwest corner of the state near Cassville. There is two and a half miles of trout fishing. Wading is limited to a small area. Roaring River is an excellent State Park to take children fishing at, because they can fish safely from the shore.
Bennett Spring is the most popular Trout Park. The spring from which the park derives its name is the third largest in the state, producing an average of 100,000,000 gallons of water a day. Located near Lebanon, Bennett Spring runs into the Niangua River.
Located at the headwaters of the Current River, Montauk State Park is the most naturally scenic of the Trout Parks. It just has more of a wilderness feel to it. There’s a stretch of river there that when shaded in the middle of the day, the trout stacked up against an undercut bank. This secret spot is one of my favorite fishing holes.
With the Trout Opener behind us, spring has officially sprung for this sportsman. It’s time to find deer sheds, pattern my turkey gun, catch some cold-water crappie, work on treestand shooting lanes and more. Oh yeah, it won’t be long until the mushrooms start popping.