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The Missouri Trout Opener  at Cabela's

The Missouri Trout Opener

Author: Bill Cooper

March 1 is the beginning of the outdoor year for many Missourians when trout season opens.

Anglers line up last year for Missouri's spring trout opener.
March 1 is the beginning of the outdoor year for many Missourians. Trout season opens in the state's four trout parks.

Long, cold winters keep a lot of outdoorsmen indoors, glued to the TV. By the time the NFL season ends, thousands of backsides are broader and brains are addled. However, as spring approaches inner urges to fish begin to rise like the sap in a sugar maple. The Missouri trout opener on March 1 is just the tonic needed for winter time maladies.

Thousands of anglers turn out on opening day every year at Missouri's four trout parks. The atmosphere is lively. Lines of traffic back up at park entrances as early as three a.m. as prospective fishermen vie for the best spots on the streams.

Laughter and chatter ring clear through the cold air up and down the stream banks as old fishing buddies meet again for another opening day. Thousands of stories are retold, and everyone catches up on the lives of folks they only see once a year, streamside.

Regardless of how loud the conversation becomes, a distinct hush falls over the fishing crowds as whistle time approaches. With hooks baited, bails cocked, and casting arms at the ready, thousands of fishermen stand shoulder to shoulder in 55-degree water poised for the moment to make the first cast of the trout season.

At the sound of the morning whistle, dozens of fishermen cast into a pool of cold, clear water in hopes of quickly catching a rainbow trout. Many fishermen, however, will spend the first few minutes of the trout opener untangling lines.
Amid swirling eddies and anxious anglers, a trout succumbs to a rod and reel.
The trout parks were established to give anglers the opportunity to catch rainbow trout in the scenic environs of Missouri parks. At the center of each trout park is a beautiful valley graced by a bubbling spring and a run of cold, clear water that provides the habitat for the popular trout fishing programs.

Because water temperatures are not cold enough to support much natural reproduction, the trout parks operate on daily put-and-take stocking programs.

Missouri Department of Conservation personnel stock the various spring branches after fishing ends each day. Watching the process is great fun, too. Trout are stocked for the next day at the rate of 2.25 fish per expected angler. An average is derived from attendance records from previous years. The average stocker fish is 10 inches long. On opening day, however, anglers can expect to find lunkers up to 10 pounds!

A fishing license and daily trout tag are required. Both can be bought at the parks. Limits are the same in all four trout parks: five rainbows per person per day and 10 in possession.

Bennett Spring State Park
Native Americans called the spring "The Eye of the Sacred One". Settlers found the area ideal for grist and flour mills. Peter Bennett earned much respect for the grain and flour he distributed to area families during the Civil War. Bennett Spring became one of Missouri's first state parks in 1924. Today it is the most heavily used park in the system.

There are three fishing zones on the 1 1/2 miles of spring branch at Bennett. The zones help to separate various preferences for fishing style. In Zone 1, fishermen may use only artificial flies. A fly is defined as a single hook covered with tinsel, chenille, yarn, fur, rayon, nylon, silk or floss, with or without a spinner. Zone 2 is for selected artificial lures.

All flies used in Zone 1 are allowed in Zone 2, as are lures that have treble hooks. Rubber lures and bait are not allowed in Zone 2. Zone 3 is the bait area. Anything exempt from Zone 1 and Zone 2 is allowed in Zone 3. Primary baits are soft plastics, salmon eggs, corn, cheese and minnows.

Some campsites may be reserved by calling 417-532-4338. Cabins and motel rooms are available by calling the park concessionaire at 417-532-4307.
Once the whistle blows, all trout anglers commit themselves to the task at hand.
Montauk State Park
Montauk has been one of the most popular vacation spots in Missouri since its acquisition in 1926. An Indian word, Montauk is believed to mean "hilly" or "fort country". Homesick settlers in the early 1800s named the first post office after their former New York home, Montauk, in Long Island. Montauk has three fishing zones.

Catch-and-release fishing only is available from the east bank of Montauk Lake into its overflow into the spring branch. Fly-fishing is permitted from the dam above the White Oak Hole to the northern boundary of the park. Artificial lures and natural baits are allowed from the dam above the White Oak Hole to the south boundary of the park and up the spring branch to the Montauk Lake overflow.

Most campsites are on a first come basis. Cabins and motel are available.

Call 573-548-2434.

Roaring River State Park

Roaring River State Park is located in southwest Missouri in the rugged beauty of the White River basin. A colorful setting stimulates fascinating folklore and history associated with the Ozark hills.

There are three miles of stream and three fishing zones in the park. Zone 1 runs from the hatchery to Dry Hollow. Flies, artificials, and soft plastics are allowed. Zone 2 runs from Dry Hollow to the old dam at the lower campgrounds. Zone 2 is limited to flies only. Catch-and-release fishing takes place inside Zone 2 from Dry Hollow to the bridge at Hwy. F. Zone 3 in Roaring River is different from anything in the other parks.

The 1.4 miles of stream from the old dam at the lower campground to the park boundary are only stocked twice a week. Natural and artificials are allowed. Zone 3 may be fished with either a daily trout tag or an annual trout stamp.

Reservations at the park can be made by calling 417-847-2330.

Maramec Spring Park
Maramec Spring Park is located south of St. James on Hwy. 8. The 1,600-acre park is owned and operated by The James Foundation, a cooperative agreement with the Missouri Department of Conservation has provided trout fishing since the 1950s.

There are no designated fishing zones on Maramec Spring branch. Any legal bait or lure is allowed throughout the fishing area. For further information, call the park office at 573-265-7387.

Spending opening day of trout season at one of Missouri's four trout parks is a sure-fire way to shake the cobwebs loose in the old gray matter. So pack your ultra-light gear and get ready for some 'in your face' cold water trout fishing!

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