Anglers pack themselves in for winter trout fishing at Montauk State Park. Tuesday is the statewide opening day. 

Missourians who have been snowed in too often this winter can shrug off winter’s icy shackles at the Show-Me State’s four trout parks.

Saturday marks the opening of catch-and-keep trout fishing at Bennett Spring State Park, nearby Montauk State Park, Roaring River State Park and Maramec Spring Park. That day, in the gray light of dawn, thousands of people clad in down jackets and chest waders will find their spots along the parks’ spring-fed streams, ready to tempt rainbow trout with everything from dry flies to dough bait.

Opening-day weather often is cold and sometimes wet, but it never dampens the spirits of anglers who think nothing of standing up to their bellybuttons in chilly water. No doubt they are warmed by the knowledge that more than 30,000 trout, averaging around 12 inches, are stocked for opening day, with a few hundred “lunkers,” ranging from three to 10 pounds, thrown in for good measure.

Another influence on opening-day attendance is the day of the week March 1 falls on. Weekends draw crowds that can top 10,000. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) operates hatcheries at all four trout parks. To predict turnout on a particular day, MDC hatchery managers rely on records going back more than 70 years. Montauk Hatchery Manager Tom Whelan and Bennett Spring Hatchery Manager Mike Mitchell both are expecting approximately 3,000 anglers and plan to stock 9,000 trout at each park for opening day. Paul Spurgeon, who manages the hatchery at Roaring River, says he expects approximately 2,600 anglers on opening day and will stock 8,000 trout for the event. At Maramec Spring Park, hatchery manager Wesley Swee is planning for 2,000 anglers on March 1 and will stock 6,000 trout.

Gov. Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon and Conservation Department Director Robert L. Ziehmer are expected to attend the opener at Bennett Spring.

Three of Missouri’s trout parks – Bennett Spring, Montauk, and Roaring River– are owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Maramec Spring Park is owned by the James Foundation.

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 also need a fishing permit.

For more about opening day at Missouri’s trout parks, check out the photo feature article

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