Missouri has become a home away from home for us. Seems like I think about it often and my heart is better when I do. Over spring break Vickie and I once again traveled to the “show-me” state in search of tranquility and trout….and we found both. I might add that it was one rough start as late Sunday afternoon it started to rain and didn’t quit until about 4am Monday morning and at that time it turned to snow. I fished Monday in water that was murky, elevated and flowing at rates that I had never experienced before; in addition I was being ‘slapped’ in the face by snowflakes as big as a saucer. To say the fishing was tough would have been a major understatement; I managed to catch 10 fish during the snowstorm and each one was very labor intensive.
Missouri is home to many springs and thus cold water is abundant. The state has four Trout Parks…meaning they are managed by the state and ran just like one of our state parks would be, but they tend to serve trout fisherman. I have been to three of the four and what follows is a short synopsis….I hope that someday you might string up the fly-rod and give one or all a try.
Bennet Spring: Located just 11 miles west of Lebanon, Missouri which is just off of I-44 about 50 miles northeast of Springfield. Picture 100 million gallons of 56 degree water flowing gently, meandering through limestone bluffs…and all teaming with rainbow and brown trout. This is our favorite of the trout parks and where we tend to stay the most. There are five campgrounds; while all are nice, campground #1 is on the bottom level and has water, electric and sewer available and is less than 100 yards from the stream. Bennet is zoned into three areas with the upper two areas being for fly-fisherman only…no bait. Area 3 is zoned for bait or bait like materials and no use of fly or artificial lures is allowed. The spring flows about ¾ mile into the Niangua River which is also full of tasty trout.
Montauk: Located about 20 miles south and east of Salem, just off of Missouri 32, Montauk is yet another Missouri masterpiece. Not quite as big as Bennet; Montauk offers some excellent fishing and camping. Much like Bennet there are different zones for different baits…a daily fee of $3 dollars per fisherman will get you the privilege to keep 4 trout. Juniors can fish for a nominal $2 dollars and can also keep 4 trout. I have had very good luck fishing in the park at Montauk but love to go just past the park boundary and fish the Current River. The summer of 2010 found us hitched up in the campground; one morning I set off early and fished about ¾ mile below the park boundary…catching about a dozen nice trout; several of which were over 16 inches…in flowing water which makes for a lively return.
Roaring River: located southeast of Gassville and less than an hour from Branson, just off of Missouri 37; Roaring River is yet another favorite of mine. Now a disclaimer up front…only a small portion of the park is actually open to wading and for me that is a big drawback as I love to have my rod tip in the water while streamer fishing. However…just below the park is about 4 miles of the most pristine and beautiful trout water I have ever fished. I got started there this past summer while camping at Table Rock State Park in Branson. There were a few mornings when electric generation at Table Rock kept me from fishing Taneycomo and that had me making the 45 minute drive to Roaring River….and I am so glad that I did for it is one of my all-time favorite haunts. Just like the other parks, there is camping available; we have camped there before and the facilities are nice, the spots are close to the water. One neat feature at Roaring River State Park is their camp dining area…if you take them one of your trout, they will prepare it for you for a mere $7 dollars.
Merrimac Spring: located southeast of St. Louis near the town of Sullivan; is the last of the trout parks. I have never fished inside the park itself but have fished below the park where it flows into the river. There is no camping at the park and a daily fee of 4 dollars gets you inside (additionally you will pay $3 dollars for your trout stamp).
www.mostateparks.com is the web address that will get you started. I have used their online reservation system a number of times and have found it to be easy and for sure a savings of time once you get to the campground. A Missouri fishing license is $40 dollars per year or $7 dollars per day and you will need a $7 dollar trout stamp to possess trout. (NOTE: Prices stated above may have changed since the writing of this article.)
I hope that any of you that are interested….and certainly if you are in the area, will give these majestic trout parks a try. I think you will find that the people are down home friendly and the fishing is fantastic. I hope to bump into you there as we all Enjoy the Great Outdoors.