Trout season near

Catch-and-keep starts March 1

Missourians who have been snowed in too often this winter can shrug off winter’s icy shackles March 1 at the Show-Me State’s four trout parks.

Saturday, March 1, marks the opening of catch-and-keep trout fishing at Bennett Spring State Park (SP) near Lebanon, Montauk SP near Licking, Roaring River SP near Cassville, and Maramec Spring Park near St. James. 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 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 manager Tom Whelan and Bennett Spring 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 at Roaring River, said he expects approximately 2,600 anglers on opening day and will stock 8,000 trout for the event. At Maramec Spring Park, manager Wesley Swee is planning for 2,000 anglers March 1 and will stock 6,000 trout.

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 age 16-64 need a fishing permit in addition to the daily tag. Nonresidents 16 and older also need a fishing permit.

Trout hatcheries are just one way that conservation pays in Missouri. The Conservation Department stocks more than 800,000 trout annually at the state’s four trout parks and approximately 1.5 million annually statewide.

A survey conducted in 2011 showed that trout anglers’ expenditures that year totaled almost $105 million. These expenditures generated more than $187 million in business activity, supporting more than 2,300 jobs and creating more than $73 million in wages. Thirty percent of Missouri’s trout anglers come from other states, so a substantial portion of trout fishing expenditures is “new money” for the state’s economy.

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