Opening Day of Trout Season in Missouri
Finally, it has arrived. I do not know which is more a anticipated day in Missouri: Opening Day of Trout Season or Opening Day of Deer Hunting. Both have their staunch advocates, those who plan for weeks and months in order to be on site at the appropriate time in order to harvest the biggest, baddest trophy of them all.
I have been a participant in the Deer Season Opening Day for more years than I care to think about, but with the continuing rise in W.M.D. (Weapons of Mass Destruction) that more and more people seem to need to shoot a deer with, I have stopped going during this season for the most part. If I do go, it is only on land set aside for Archery or Muzzle Loading (black powder) hunting. Yet even that might not be safe, as I have run into those who completely disregard that requirement and still hunt with a 30.06 or an AR-15 even here.
But on Trout Opening Day, about the worst one might get is a hook in an earlobe or something similar. Rarely will something be life threatening, although I do know a gentleman who repeatedly took the opening day off as a "sick day" until he caught the Lunker of the Day at Roaring River one year. His smiling face was displayed prominently on the front page of the paper the next day, complete with his 9 pound Rainbow Trout; and his boss saw it. When confronted by said boss regarding his calling in sick, he was fired for lying about it. Had he just taken a vacation day, he would have been okay; but those were being saved for Deer season!
Trout Opening day goes like this in Missouri: March 1st, at 6:30 AM in the Trout Parks of Roaring River, Bennett Springs, Maramec Springs, and Montauk they become host to anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 people each all standing expectantly with their rods and reels cocked and ready in their arms, waiting, waiting, waiting. Then, a local personage fires off a starter's pistol and they're off! Thousands of casts all at exactly the same time out across the previously calm waters. Within seconds, fish are on and being hauled in to the banks. Of course, the normal amount of line tangling and upset feelings occur, but most take it in stride.
At Roaring River, they expected around 2,300 anglers today. They stocked an additional 7,000 trout into the river, plus about 100 "lunkers" that exceed 3 pounds or so. Sometimes the lunker of the day might hit 9 or 10 pounds. The other parks have around the same numbers of fisherman for the most part, so while the number of participants is much smaller than those at Deer Season opening, the feeling and excitement may even be higher.
I myself have never attended an opening day of Trout Season, preferring to give it a couple of weeks before going. I just don't like sharing my riverbank with that many people all at once. Roaring River for example will be shoulder to shoulder people trying to cast with grandparents and toddlers alike, fly rods and Zebcos and even Spongebob Squarepants rod and reels. There is just too much opportunity for something irritating to occur, so I wait. When I go for the first time that year, I will usually go around mid March, during Spring Break. I have been known to camp out in a tent, on the cold ground, when an ice storm complete with freezing rain lays a coating of ice across the thin ceiling and walls of the tent. Getting out of a semi-warm sleeping bag rated for 50 degrees that is laid upon a frozen tundra of ground isn't easy, and it just doesn't get any easier knowing the outside temperature is even colder than the below freezing temperature of the tent!
But we caught our limit of trout that day, and cooked them with lemon pepper seasoning, a slice of lemon, a little bit of oil and wrapped in some tin foil before being laid in the coals of the fire and they were go-o-o-o-o-o-d-d-d-d!!! Everything tastes better cooked in the outdoors!
Roaring River has about a mile of stream flowing through it before is exits the park and flows along on both private and state land until it empties in Table Rock Lake. Trout live all along the river, and I have caught them from the spring that creates the river to the point where it enters the lake and becomes dead water. The Missouri Department of Conservation does a fantastic job of raising trout and stocking them throughout the year. In addition to the Trout Parks, there are also ponds in the Kansas City and St Louis area which receive stockings and are available to fish in. Throughout the state there are scattered rivers and creeks which are designated as Blue Ribbon, Red Ribbon, and White Ribbon streams. Each receive their share of fishing and traffic, with Blue Ribbon being stocked less often, but having significantly less pressure and you are only able to keep one trout of 18 inches or better. Red Ribbon areas have a bit more pressure, are stocked more often than Blue, and receive an annual stocking of Brown Trout. White Ribbon streams are fishable year round, so there are no opening day crowds here. Daily limits are 4 trout, only one of which can be a Brown and it must be over 15 inches. All of these streams are open to any type of bait, be it garden hackle (worms), plastic baits, spinners, or fly fishing.
Personally, I enjoy the White Ribbon streams, especially during the spring and summer. Most people go to the parks as they are the easiest to fish, you can always feed the young trout if you can't catch any in the river, and the trout are always easy to see (maybe not to catch, though). Easing along in the cold, clear water working a fly rod back and forth is a comfort like no other. One can become lost in the cadence of back and forth, back and forth. Watching as a trout glides up so effortlessly to view the offering, holding your breath as the fish inspects it, then joy when the trout gently sips it under. I have yet to see a freshwater fish, even the mighty Smallmouth, that jumps as high as a Rainbow Trout will when attached to a fly rod.
The added benefit of solitude, of listening to the gently murmuring waters, and a beautiful blue sky will do wonders for my soul. A couple of weeks, and I will be in the water probing the pockets and holes of the river, seeking to capture enough to provide a dinner for my family. Hurry along, you 14 days or so; you cannot move quick enough.