Opening day of Missouri’s four trout parks – including nearby Montauk State Park – always involves excited anglers and hungry rainbow trout. New features at this year’s event include enhanced fish habitat and improved hatchery facilities.
For more than 70 years, Missourians have been celebrating the arrival – or at least the anticipation – of spring by turning out in large numbers at trout parks on March 1. Although the parks remain open year-round, anglers can catch and keep fish only from March 1 through Oct. 31. They must release fish they catch from the second Friday in November through the second Monday in February.
The opportunity to shake off winter torpor and take home fresh trout attracts more than 10,000 anglers to the parks some years, along with more than a few people who come simply to witness the spectacle.
The Missouri Department of Conservation operates trout hatcheries at all four trout parks. It stocks three trout for every angler expected on opening day. Based on records of past opening days, the Missouri Conservation Department expects 8,000 anglers will attend this year’s trout opener and so will stock 24,000 trout at the four parks.
Weather plays an important role in determining crowd size on opening day. The trout park attendance record occurred in 1992, when 14,947 anglers descended on the parks for a Sunday opener with beautiful weather. Although this year’s opening-day crowd is unlikely to approach that high-water mark, pleasant conditions could boost the total considerably.
This is the 100th consecutive year of trout production at Roaring River State Park near Cassville. Roland Bruner built the first hatchery there in 1910. The state took over the property in 1928 and has operated the hatchery ever since.
By the time anglers arrive March 1, work crews will have finished removing gravel from selected areas of the spring branch at Roaring River. Flooding last year washed excessive gravel into the stream, covering bottom structure that benefits trout. The crews also have been removing excess aquatic vegetation to improve fishing conditions.
Similar habitat work has taken place during the off-season at the other three trout parks. Visitors also may find ongoing renovation work at the conservation department’s trout hatcheries. These include a new production building and major raceway renovations at Bennett Spring Hatchery and a new feed storage building and office renovation at Roaring River.
Anglers who have not visited Montauk State Park since the 2009 trout opener will find a new fish-cleaning station to make their post-fishing chores more convenient and keep the park cleaner.
Three of Missouri’s trout parks – Bennett Spring near Lebanon, Montauk near Salem, and Roaring River – are state parks, owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The fourth – Maramec Spring Park, near St. James – is owned by the James Foundation. The conservation department operates trout hatcheries at all four.
For more information about trout park fishing at Montauk, call 573-548-2585.
Anglers need a daily trout tag to fish in Missouri’s trout parks. Missouri residents 16 through 64 need a fishing permit in addition to the daily tag. Nonresidents 16 and older need a fishing permit.
Trout parks are only one option for Show-Me State anglers. For more about the state’s extensive system of trout streams and winter trout fishing, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/7248.