By Tom Uhlenbrock Missouri State Parks
Temperatures nearing 40 were melting the weekend snow as Charles and Cindy Maledy unloaded their fishing gear near Missouri’s premier Ozark stream on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
“You get cabin fever, and a day like this is perfect for getting out,” said Charles Maledy. “We normally fish regularly seven to 15 times a winter.”
The Maledys are retired; he was a bank vice president and she was superintendent of schools in Salem, where they live. Their home is a short drive from Montauk State Park, one of the Missouri State Parks’ three popular trout parks, and the headwaters of the sparkling Current River, which the Maledys had all to themselves on this day.
The Maledys are among the anglers who know that fishing doesn’t stop with the close of the regular season at the end of October. The catch-and-release season opens the second Friday in November and goes to the second Monday in February. Fishing is allowed on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.
Winter is a good time to work on your fly fishing skills before the opening of the regular trout season on March 1, when thousands show up at the three parks and line the best fishing holes, elbow to elbow, in what has become a family tradition.
“Winter is just like the regular season,” Charles Maledy said. “Sometimes you catch fish, sometimes you get skunked.”
“But there’s nobody right beside you,” added his wife. “Out here, you can look downriver and not see another person.”
The staff at Montauk State Park, Roaring River State Park near Cassville and Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon agreed that the three trout parks are special places in winter. All are located in deep wooded Ozark valleys where azure springs pump out millions of gallons of cold, clear water each day, creating the streams that are stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“The last few weeks, we’ve had snow on the ground,” said Dusty Reid, superintendent at Roaring River. “You may be surrounded by fog. It’s like you’re in a different world, very quiet. You can hear the bald eagles calling out, it echoes up the valley.”
“It’s just a nicer time of the year,” said J.D. Muschany, superintendent at Bennett Spring. “There’s less fishing pressure. The water is usually very clear. You can see all the animals, the deer walking around. It’s a good time to be in the park.”
Steve Bost, the naturalist at Montauk, welcomed the snow that was melting when the Maledys arrived.
“It looked like a postcard,” Bost said. “It’s peaceful, relaxing. You can feel your blood pressure drop as you drive into the valley. It’s hard to put a price on something like that.”
WINTER TROUT – Charles Maledy of Salem has the Current River to himself as he trout fishes at Montauk State Park. Tom Uhlenbrock/Missouri State Parks
WINTER PEACE – Stark images appear on the winter landscape at Montauk State Park. Tom Uhlenbrock/Missouri State Parks