Fishing Missouri's trout parks takes a mental vacation and a few friends . . .
“Insane. I would never do that.”
The above words still ring in my ears each time I witness opening day of trout season at one Missouri’s four trout parks. I made the statement the very first time I witnessed opening dayof trout season at the James Foundation's Maramec Spring Park in the early 1970’s.
I assisted Dr. Ken Chilman, from the University of Missouri School of Forestry, as he filmed the event to show to students in an outdoor recreation class which he taught. “How do people tolerate being so close together while they fish?” I quizzed Dr. Chilman.
I still remember Chilman’s response. “Fishermen have to prepare themselves mentally for this type of crowding,” he said.
A new trout season never approaches that I don’t go through the mental processes of reminding myself why and how anglers go about the annual rituals associated with opening day.
After my nerves settled a bit, Dr. Chilman talked me into conducting my graduate research at Maramec Spring Park to help determine the factors which influence the quality of visitors’ trout fishing experience.
Sixty-five percent of the people I interviewed had traveled from the St. Louis area, about an hour and a half away. Their fishing trips were a one day event. The most common factor mentioned which affected the quality of the experience for this Attitude the opportunity to get into open spaces. Yet, they re-entered a crowded scenario along Adjustmets Necessary for Opening of Trout Season copy 2.pages of anglers was the stream while fishing.
Other common factors affecting the quality of the overall trout fishing experience included: the beauty of the park, colors found in the outdoors and the opportunity to spend time with family and friends outdoors. Fishing, itself, came in fifth in importance to the quality of the experience.
When asked specifically about being crowded while trout fishing, the vast majority of the anglers did not perceive crowding as a problem. Most felt it was simply a part of trout fishing. The majority mentioned, however, that they participated in other forms of fishing to avoid crowds.
I eventually became the superintendent of Maramec Spring Park. While I still prefer to fish alone , or in remote areas, I developed an understanding of why people like to fish in trout parks. For many it is a social sport. They can enjoy fishing while in the company of friends.
Hundreds of times over the years, I listened in on conversations of small groups of anglers whom I had observed at the park numerous times. Their outings took on a party atmosphere. They laughed, joked, ribbed one another and appeared extremely relaxed and happy. Taking home a limit of fish was definitely not their highest priority.
Lone anglers appeared to be more serious about fishing. They often concentrated on fishing technique and numbers of fish caught. Crowding became more of an issue with them. Yet, they accept the crowded conditions to enjoy their sport and be outside.
My best advice, if you are thinking about trying trout park fishing for the first time on opening day, is to go with a group of friends. They will adjust your mental attitude rather quickly.
I eventually became an avid trout fisherman myself. It took years for me to become comfortable in the large crowds of people. I had been reared in the swamps of southeast Missouri and had been accustomed to going fishing all day long without encountering another person.
To say it took an attitude adjustment for me to take to trout fishing is an understatement. My initial thoughts were that trout fishermen were insane. I figured that was where I drew the line with fishing. Trout fishing would not be for me.
Curiosity eventually got the best of me, however. I had to find out what made trout fishermen tick. As a child on the farm, I had listened to a city slicker uncle talk about the clear water streams of Montauk State Park and how he could see trout finning. I couldn’t imagine a fish you could see being worth catching.
I had pretty much forgotten about trout until Dr. Chilman’s invitation to join him for opening day at Maramec Spring Park. I discovered it was indeed mesmerizing to watch beautifully colored rainbow trout swimming in crystal clear water. Too, I couldn’t understand how people could enjoy fishing while being so crowded.
I spent most of my time watching people on my first few trout fishing trips. Then I caught my first trout. Pretty amazing. Soon, I forgot about the people and concentrated on the fish.
Since those first trout trips to Maramec Spring Park in the early 1970’s, I have chased trout from the Smokies to the Rockies and from Canada to New Mexico. However, no trout fishing spot will ever mean more to me than Maramec Spring Park, where it all began. My mental attitude definitely changed because of this very special place. Hope to see you there.