I get it. How you fish is not how I fish. And that's swell. Really, it is. I like to fish with a fly rod. You don't? That's fine. I prefer to chase wild fish instead of stocked fish but if you don't care you won't hear any complaints from me. I like to hike away from the parking lots and trailheads and find solitude on the river, but maybe you prefer cajoling with your buddies right by the put in with a cooler of beer. Sometimes, I do too. However you like to fish, by and large, that's how you should fish. I'm a big defender of this simple concept and a staunch advocate against snobbery on the river, lake, pond or wherever. But, there's fishing, and then there's whatever this is.
Yesterday, March 1st, marked the opening of trout season in the state of Missouri. As is evidently the tradition, Missouri kicks off its trout opener at four state parks across the state, including Bennett Springs State Park near Lebanon, MO. And the Missouri of Department of Conservation has put together a short video of clips from previous year's openers, to promote fishing this year's kickoff, as opposed to showcasing the vast other array of angling opportunities in the state.
The video kicks off with the soft, soothing sound of an air raid siren which signals the "all clear" for Missouri's waiting trout anglers to have at it, and from that point, the video is a relentless highlight reel of trouty goodness: crowds of immense and almost unbelievable proportions, anglers standing ass-to-ass in an interminable line along the edge of a spillway dam, trout being transferred in one swift motion directly from the water to white plastic construction buckets, and fishermen pulling drab, snub-nosed, dog-food fed, frankenstein-sized rainbows from a river that could never possibly produce such a fish, just to name a few.
At first, the video seems like a farce—perhaps a bit of sketch comedy pulled from an old Saturday Night Live episode. But then you realize it's real. Not just the crowds or the air raid siren, but the you've-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me banjo music and the endless array of glory shots of stringers loaded with fresh-from-the-truck trout.
On a typical year, the four parks see crowds that swell as high as 10,000 anglers, with over 25,000 trout dumped into the river just in time for the opener—including several hundred "lunkers" (those aforementioned frankenstein bows).
This spectacle in which these trout-seekers are just short of literally shooting fish in a barrel isn't just anathema to elitist masochists that like to chase native fish in wild places with bits of deer hair and chicken feathers lashed to a tiny hook, it contradicts the idea of fishing being a sporting pursuit and it is, most certainly, an offense to the cornerstones of our fishing heritage which demand that object of our chase be treated with some degree of reverence or measure of respect.
How you spend your time with your friends and family is your prerogative. And the kids in the video all seem to be having a great time. I'm not here to degrade anyone's traditions. I keep trout from time to time. They're delicious. And I have, many times, tried to pull a big, fat invasive fish from the shoulder-to-shoulder shitshow that is the town pools during chinook season on New York's Salmon River. I'm not here to throw stones, just perhaps to give a vocabulary lesson.
So, if standing on the edge of a spillway dam pulling trout out of a glorified arcade crane machine is the way you and your buddies like to spend the first day of March, then have at it. Just don't call it fishing.
Enjoy the video below.