Missouri governor Jay Nixon joins other anglers on opening day of trout season last year at Montauk State Park.

Visitors are expected to flood into the area next week when trout season opens on Thursday.

More than 1.7 million visitors from Missouri and beyond flock to the Show-Me State’s four trout parks each year, relishing the chance to leave their troubles behind and to lose themselves in the beauty of nature and the pursuit of rainbow trout. Along the way, they also leave more than $100 million, which supports thousands of jobs and sustains local economies.

Montauk State Park near Licking is expecting about 2,000 anglers.

Three of Missouri’s trout parks – Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Montauk and Roaring River State Park near Cassville – are owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, while Maramec Spring Park near St. James belongs to the James Foundation. All four include campgrounds, hiking trails, historic buildings and other amenities, but trout stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation is the main attraction.

The number of anglers present on opening day depends partly on weather, but equally important is the day of the week on which March 1 falls. Total attendance at all four parks has topped 14,000 in years when the weather was good and opening day fell on a weekend. This year’s Thursday opener promises a moderate turnout, even with good weather.

Retired science teacher Barry Reynolds of Licking will fire the opening gun at Montauk. Reynolds has fished every opening day there since 1973.

Hatchery managers use estimates to determine how many trout to stock each day. Throughout most of the season, they stock 2.25 fish per expected angler. On opening day, however, they put three fish in the water for every angler they expect to attend, which translates into 6,000 at Montauk. Stocked fish average around 12 inches in length, but the MDC also mixes in dozens of “lunkers,” surplus hatchery brood fish weighing upwards of three pounds. A few tip the scales at more than 10 pounds.

This year, opening-day anglers will get more than a chance to catch big fish. They will receive lapel buttons designed to raise awareness of didymo, an invasive algae also known as “rock snot,” thanks to its unsavory appearance. Didymo blankets the beds of cold-water streams with unattractive mats that choke out native plants, degrading fish habitat. It reduces natural food sources and fouls hooks, making fishing nearly impossible.

In an attempt to keep didymo out of Missouri, the conservation commission has banned the use of felt or other porous-soled waders, which can harbor didymo cells. More information on the ban and instructions for converting porous-soled waders for legal use is available atwww.mdc.mo.gov/node/16927.

 

 

For more information about trout-park fishing at Montauk, call 573-548-2585.

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