There are some things you truly have to see to believe. The opening day of trout season at Missouri’s trout parks is among them.
“It is an event,” says Scott Pauley, a professional fisherman and the Missouri Division of Tourism’s outdoors expert. “I’ve met people who have been at every opening Trout Day for the past 50 years and families who pass down the tradition of fishing on opening (day) for generations.”
While March 1 marks the beginning of trout season in Missouri State Parks, the annual migration of anglers to both publicly owned and privately held trout parks, conservation areas, and lakes around the Show-Me State is in full swing. March 1 fell on a Friday in 2013, making opening weekend the ideal time to plan on a three-day getaway to Missouri.
The Missouri Division of Tourism’s website, VisitMO.com
, can help you plan that getaway by offering information about lodging, dining and recreational options to enjoy while you’re in the Show-Me State.
Regardless of your getaway’s duration – whether it’s a day, a weekend, or just a few hours – Pauley says it’s important to experience Trout Day for yourself.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” says Pauley, who this year planned to hit both Montauk State Park
and Bennett Spring State Park
on Trout Day. “The important part is to be patient and have fun.”
While opening day generates lots of excitement, fishing conditions are excellent year-round in Missouri. And in Missouri’s trout parks, where the season runs March 1-Oct. 31, the Department of Natural Resources Division of State Parks
hosts Trout-A-Palooza, a season-long series of special events. They have a live TROUT CAM
where you can watch the action.
Pauley says he’s experienced opening day at several of Missouri’s trout-laden waterways, with Roaring River State Park
in Cassville being one of the more memorable stops. Trout Day is so significant in that community, the school stands in recess for the day.
“You will see, literally, hundreds of school-aged children fishing on opening day,” Pauley notes.
The tradition of a day off from school dates back to the 1980s, according to Cassville Schools Superintendent Richard Asbill. Before that, students who went fishing on opening day could submit their trout tag as an excuse for being tardy.
The decision to dismiss school on Trout Day helps showcase the community’s support for the day-long event, and it is recognition of Roaring River State Park’s year-round benefits.
“Having that opportunity for our students and teachers to network with visitors is good PR; it gets people thinking, ‘I wouldn’t mind living in Cassville,’” says Asbill. “And it’s one of those good, old-fashioned traditions. We need a few more of those in today’s busy world.”
The Cassville Chamber of Commerce spreads good will by providing free coffee mugs filled with hot coffee for those who arrive early. Chamber Director Mindi Artherton says her organization traditionally distributes 750 insulated coffee mugs, beginning at 5 a.m.
“By 6 a.m., they’re all gone,” she laughs.
Artherton says the chamber is hosted a weigh-in station until noon on Trout Day; prizes were awarded for the biggest catch in men’s, women’s and children’s (ages 12 and younger) divisions.
Like many areas around Missouri, Trout Day provides benefits for Cassville’s economy. Area retail shops and restaurants are open and welcoming to the influx of visitors, while lodging establishments fill up – many with guests booking multi-night stays.
“Having an opening day toward the end of the week or over the weekend is great,” Artherton says.
While the state’s trout parks are teeming with anglers on opening day, many hot spots for trout fishing are wide open.
Among those hot spots is Lake Taneycomo
, one of Missouri’s top trout-fishing destinations. The lake is stocked with nearly 750,000 rainbows and browns annually; the water temperature averages 58 degrees year-round.
Brett Rader, who operates Chartered Waters Trout Shop and Guide Service
in Hollister, says March 1 doesn’t necessarily bring an influx of anglers to Lake Taneycomo, since the season there is year-round. So, those looking for a more peaceful retreat may choose that waterway for their opening-day outing.
“It’s like any other day here,” Rader says of Lake Taneycomo. “The fishing is always good here, the water is always cold. The bite is good any time of year.”
Although he’s partial to trout fishing on Taneycomo and nearby Crane Creek, Rader has been to Trout Day at state parks and he understands why it’s a significant happening.
“I’ve got customers who are hard-core fly fisherman,” Rader says, “and they’ll still have annual opening-day get-togethers with their buddies. It’s as much about getting together and having fun as it is fishing.”
If you’d like to know about other trout-fishing areas around the Show-Me State, the Missouri Department of Conservation maintains a list of public areas for trout fishing
on its website.
Missouri has a host of privately-held areas for trout fishing. Among them are Little Indian Creek at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
in Lampe; Spring Creek at Rockbridge Rainbow Trout and Game Ranch
in Rockbridge; and Dry Creek at Westover Farms
near Steelville, to name just a few.
Regardless of where you fish, Pauley offers one final piece of advice: “Go out there and enjoy the show.”