March 1 marks the opener of Missouri's catch-and-keep trout season. Bennett Spring State Park, Montauk State Park, Roaring River State Park and Maramec Spring Park, are the four Missouri trout parks. They're called trout parks because, simply put, they're parks that are home to heavily stocked trout waters. It makes sense, right? Bennett Spring, Montauk and Roaring River are Missouri State Parks, while Maramec is privately owned and operated by the not-for-profit James Foundation.
All the trout parks are heavily stocked with trout. These "stockers" are hatchery raised and released into the parks' waters under the assumption anglers are going to catch and keep most of them. Some trout elude anglers and make it to waters where they can hide and grow larger, and both Roaring River and Montauk have catch and release only areas, so the possibility of catching a large trout remains. For the most part though, trout anglers visiting the parks are there to catch and keep, then clean and cook.
Opening day at any given trout park can be quite crowded. To predict opening day turnouts, hatchery managers rely on records going back more than 70 years. Montauk Hatchery Manager Tom Whelan is expecting 2,500 anglers on opening day and plans to stock 7,500 trout, including 50 lunkers. Amongst those in the crowd will be one very special visitor, as Gov. Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon is expected to fire the pistol to kick off the season there.
Paul Spurgeon, who manages the hatchery at Roaring River, says he expects approximately 2,300 anglers on opening day and will stock 7,000 trout, including 100 lunkers.
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. A trout permit ($7 for adults, $3.50 for anglers under age 16) is required to possess trout on waters outside trout parks. A fishing permit also is required, unless the angler is exempt.
Anglers are all reminded to leave their felt-soled wading boots at home, because Missouri has outlawed their use do to the possible spread of "Didymo."
Didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) or "rock snot," is the main reason why Missouri has banned felt soles. This invasive alga forms large, thick mats on the bottoms of cold-water streams and rivers, reducing the quality and quantity of food vital to fish such as trout. Didymo also clogs water intakes and boat motors. It interferes with fishing gear and eventually makes fishing nearly impossible.
According to Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries Biologist Mark VanPatten, "Didymo is kept in check naturally in other parts of the country and world by lower pH, or acidity, levels in the water. Missouri's wealth of limestone creates higher pH levels in the water. These higher pH levels can allow Didymo to spread unchecked."
Rubber soled waders are the answer. Although wearing the old fashion rubber soles meant there was a good chance you were going to slip and fall in the water, today's technology has greatly improved the gripping power of certain soles. Also, screws in studs have become a popular answer to the question of how to maintain stability while protecting the resource. Many wader manufactures are now producing boots with soles specifically designed to ensure stability without rubber soles.
See you down the trail ...