Spring is not far behind

With all the cold weather we have had recently, it is a little warming to know the Missouri trout parks will be open in less than two weeks. Having opened the March first for more than 50 years, I have seen all kinds of weather from heavy snow to temperatures in the 70s.

However, knowing the trout parks opening means the good fishing, for spawning crappie, tom turkeys gobbling and mushrooms popping helps to warm your thoughts as spring is not too far behind.

The winter catch and release trout fishing in the parks closed Feb. 8 and will run through October. The winter catch and release fishing at the parks started on Nov. 13 as many anglers hit the streams, including an angler from Oak Grove, who told me he had hooked some big rainbows while using some fly he had made.

“I will be at Bennett Spring March to see if I can hook another big brown or rainbow,” the angler said. “I have fished at Bennett for more than 20 years and the largest fish I caught was a six pound rainbow. I know I have hooked larger fish, but never landed most of them.."

One winter angler from Aurora, Bob McKenzie, who I met several years ago, said he has fished at Roaring River for more than 20 years, but never kept a fish because he is all catch-and-release.

“I enjoy fishing for the trout in the winter program,” McKenzie said. “There are no big crowds on opening day or summer weekends. It is not too far from home and it's a great way to spend a winter day, especially on some of the better winter days."

This catch and release angler likes to "sight" fish and in the clear of the stream an angler may see a lot of trout swimming around, being a fly fisherman who ties some of the flies he uses. One of his favorite flies is a brown fly that has produced many rainbows

Another angler I met at Roaring River was Harold Pitts, Joplin.

“This was the first time I have been to the stream in winter, but after watching all the action the anglers were having, I plan on coming back next winter,” Pitts said. “I am a big believer in catch and release, so it's right up my alley. I have been here on opening day before, but this winter fishing is different. I will dig out my long johns and insulated boots … and be ready next year. It's a good way to beat cabin fever. Besides, in Missouri, you never know what the weather will be like, but here will be some days to enjoy trout fishing.”

Prior to the start of the catch and keep season, March 1, the hatchery staff will stock around 20,000 trout in the four trout parks After this, the daily stocking number will use data on trout tags the previous day.

Daily trout tags at three parks, Bennett Spring, Roaring River and Montauk is 44 for adults and 43 for those age 15 and younger. At Maramec Springs the Missouri Department of Conservation has a program where the daily tag for adults is $5 and $3 for anglers 15 and younger. The daily limit is four trout in the three parks, but has been raised to five trout daily at Maramec Springs.

Although trout fishing on various rivers and streams support reproducing trout is available, but you can bet when the siren signals the start of the season on Monday, March 1, there will be lots of anglers waiting to make their first cast at the four trout parks no matter what the weather is like.

White, a Stockton resident, has a versatile background in sports, both as a journalist and participant. His column appears weekly.

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