February, what happened to you?

You've been warm, typically, and I was looking forward to your arrival. But this year, you have been surly. February 2021 is likely to go down as one of the coldest and snowiest on record.

Over the past five years (2016-20) 1 in 3 February days was above 60 degrees, and more than half were above 50 degrees. Just a few years ago (2017), we had 16 of 28 days that were above 60 degrees, nine that were above 70 degrees and one that was above 80 degrees.

That's my kind of February.

How about some good news?

We're a week away from March 1 — Opening Day.

Here's what you need to know:

• Opening Day of catch-and-keep trout season begins at 6:30 a.m. on March 1 and runs through Oct. 31. Spring and summer fishing are great, but Roaring River is at its best in the fall.

• Expect a crowd. Opening Day is one of the busiest days in the park and can draw more than 2,000 anglers, depending on the weather and whether Opening Day falls on a weekend or in the middle of the week. Last year, Roaring River was the most visited of the state's more than 90 parks and historic sites, attracting 1.4 million visitors, and I think that trend will continue as long as COVID-19 lasts.

• The state has three other trout parks — Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Montauk State Park near Licking and Maramec Spring Park near St. James. I have never fished Maramec, but for my money, Roaring River is the best of the other three state parks. Don't get me wrong, the others are great, but I just have more memories tied to Roaring River.

• The Missouri Department of Conservation expects to stock about 20,000 trout — mostly rainbows — for Opening Day.

• Some schools in the region used to let out for Opening Day, but like riding in the back up pickup trucks and eating cookie batter, all good things come to an end.

• You need a fishing permit and a daily trout tag for Missouri's trout parks. The cost of a daily trout tag at Roaring River is $4 for adults and $3 for those 15 years and younger. The daily limit is four trout.

• MDC said in a statement that it also plans to continue a pilot program at Maramec Spring Park where the daily limit has been raised from four to five trout and the cost of a daily trout tag for adults is $5 and $3 for anglers 15 and younger.

• Roaring River has changed some fishing zones and advises trout anglers to check at the park for new information. Changes include changing the lower end of Zone 3 and moving Zone 3 about 545 feet up into Zone Two.

• Online viewing of Opening Day activities at Roaring River and Bennett Spring are available at mostateparks.com/TroutOpening2021. The trout cameras are located near the most popular fishing spots and follow all the fishing action.

Good luck.

Andy Ostmeyer is the editor of The Joplin Globe. His email is aostmeyer@joplinglobe.com.

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