CASSVILLE, Mo. — As many as 2,300 anglers are expected Friday for Opening Day at Roaring River State Park.
March 1 marks the beginning of catch-and-keep trout season at the park south of Cassville, and a larger-than-normal crowd is expected this year.
“With opening day falling on a Friday this year, we expect many avid trout anglers to make a three-day weekend to get the most of their time trying to catch a lunker,” Ben Ellis, director of Missouri state parks and historic sites, said in a statement.
Warm weather could boost the turnout even higher.
Similar numbers are expected at Bennett Spring State Park, near Lebanon, and Montauk State Park, near Salem. A slightly smaller crowd is expected at Maramec Spring Park near St. James, although it is not a state park.
Opening Day is a tradition for many families, going back several generations, as they line the banks shoulder-to-shoulder and elbow-to-elbow for their first chance of the season to put a trout on a stringer. In Missouri, catch-and-keep trout season opens each year on March 1 with a 6:30 a.m. siren and runs through Oct. 31.
More than 21,000 trout are stocked in the four parks for opening day; more than 800,000 trout will be stocked at the parks during the season. The hatcheries also stock a mix of "lunkers" ranging from three to 10 pounds.
The Missouri Department of Conservation operates trout hatcheries at all four parks and uses permit records going back more than 80 years to forecast the Opening Day crowd.
Missouri residents ages 16 through 64 are required to have Missouri fishing licenses, and all must purchase daily trout tags in the park. Trout anglers are limited to four fish per day in state parks. Brown trout must be a minimum of 15 inches to be kept, but there is no size requirement to keep rainbow trout.
On opening day at Roaring River, the Barry County Chamber of Commerce also sponsors a competition for the heaviest fish in men's, women's and youth divisions. Last year's winners were Monte Seidel, of Rogers, Arkansas, in the men's division, with a 9.6-pound fish; Wynnter Shutters, of Joplin, with a 4.35-pound fish in the women's division; and the youth winner was Jayden Carr, of Smithville, with a 3.3-pounder.
Trout anglers are allowed to use only one rod or pole at a time and the use of live bait is prohibited.
Joplin Globe reporter Jordan Larimore will cover Opening Day with a live blog on Friday, featuring video, photos and stories from many of the anglers.