Opening Day expected to lure 2,300 anglers to the river banks
By Lisa Schlichtman
Hatchery crews at Roaring River State Park are expecting about 2,300 anglers to line up streamside on March 1, the opening day of trout season. The last time opening day fell on a Wednesday, there were 2,340 trout tags sold. Last year, opening day attracted 1,827 fishermen.
According to Jerry Dean, hatchery manager, a total of 4,500 rainbow trout will be stocked in the river. That number equates to approximately three-fish per angler. Dean also plans to add 50 lunkers. A lunker is a fish that typically weighs between 2- and 6 pounds.
"There should be more big fish in the stream than normal," said Dean, hatchery manager. "When we drained down the spring pool this winter, some of the lunkers in the pool and some of our brood stock ended up in the river.
"There are a good number of good-sized fish out there," said Dean. "It should make opening day exciting."
Anglers should also benefit from winter stocking. For the catch and release season, the hatchery added about 2,500 trout to the river.
Opening day attendance at Roaring River is expected to surpass projected trout tag sales at the state's other four trout parks. Bennett Spring is anticipating the arrival of 2,000 anglers on March 1 while Montauk is preparing for 1,600 to 2,000 anglers. Attendance numbers are expected to be 1,400 at Maramec Springs.
Roaring River will give Charlie and Ramonna Stock, of Boonville, the honor of receiving the first trout tags of the 2006 season. The recognition comes as a result of the pair's contributions to Kids Fishing Day events held twice a year at the park.
Charlie Stock owns Midwest Flies and has donated fly rods and reels, valued at $300 each, to be given away as prizes at Kids Fishing Days. Since the program began, Charlie has donated 10 complete rod and reel outfits.
"Charlie likes our program and that's why he likes to help us," said Dean. "In addition to donating equipment, he and his wife also teach classes during Kids Day."
The first, second and third kids tags of the season will be awarded to the winners of a poster contest sponsored by the Cassville Middle School "Hooked on Fishing" program.
In a break from tradition, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan will not fire the starting gun on opening day. According to a spokesman from Carnahan's office, Carnahan has "a previous commitment that will not allow her to travel to Cassville on that day." By missing opening day at Roaring River, Carnahan ends a 35-year tradition that was started by Secretary of State James Kirkpatrick.
One tradition that will continue is the serving of hot coffee by volunteers from the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce. Coffee service will begin at 5 a.m. and will continue until the starting gun is fired.
Joe Schnabl and Darren Jacobs will be in charge of making the coffee this year, and as always, there will be about 30 to 40 volunteers serving coffee along the river banks.
Coffee cups this year are being sponsored by the Cassville Democrat, Hutchens Construction, Les Jacobs Ford-Mercury, Inc., Fisherman's Den, McDonald's of Cassville, Jim Rogers & Roaring River State Park, Rock Village Court & RV Park and Visions of Wildlife Taxidermy.
The Chamber will present trophies and Visions of Wildlife Taxidermy will give 50 percent off certificates to the person landing the largest fish in men's, women's and youth divisions. The fish must be weighed at the chamber's weigh-in station located in the lower level of the historic lodge.
The park is expected to be in excellent shape on March 1. Maintenance crews have been busy preparing Roaring River for the onslaught of visitors expected next week.
"The maintenance crew did an excellent job," said Park Superintendent Kevin Bolling. "They've gotten a lot done, a lot of the little clean-up type repairs that people will notice."
An indepth look at park improvement projects completed during the off-season can be found in this week's "Trout Times," a special tabloid published this week by the Cassville Democrat.
The Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center, including the park's full-service restaurant, will open to the public on Feb. 28. The historic CCC Lodge will open at 9 a.m. on Feb. 28 to begin selling trout tags. The lodge will remain open all night.
At 6:15 a.m. on March 1, Boy Scout Troop 76 will host a ceremony to raise a flag over the Inn and Conference Center, which once flew over the U.S. Capitol.