Opening Day is family tradition
The night before Opening Day at Roaring River State Park is a lot like Christmas Eve at the Amanda and Steven Smith home in Cassville.
This year, 5-year-old Alex Smith jumped out of bed on March 1, gathered up his fishing gear and waited in the living room until his family was ready to leave for the park.
"He was more excited than dad was," said Steven Smith.
"Alex was definitely ready to go this morning," added Amanda Smith.
This year's Opening Day was a first for Alex and big sister, Katelynn, age 4. It was older brother Corey's second March 1 experience.
The Smith family found their spot along the river bank just above the bridge where the opening gun was fired at 6:30 a.m. by Doug Eiken, Missouri State Parks director. The local family accounted for five of the 2,107 trout tags sold on Opening Day.
Jerry Dean, hatchery manager, said there were 1,658 adult trout tags sold and 449 kids tags. The 2,107 sold was slightly less than the 2,340 tags sold the last time Opening Day fell on a Wednesday.
Although the number of anglers was down slightly, Opening Day temperatures set records and attracted a huge crowd of sightseers.
Volunteers with the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce didn't re-fill as many coffee cups this year due to warmer-than-normal temperatures but did run out of souvenir mugs before 6 a.m.
The coffee was donated by Wal-Mart and brewed by Joe Schnabl and Darrin Jacobs. This year's cups were sponsored by 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 also presented trophies to anglers who caught the largest lunkers in the men's, women's and children's divisions.
Steven Stillian, of Bartlesville, Okla., won the men's division with his catch that weighed in at 6.85 pounds. This proved to be the biggest catch of the day overall.
Winners of the women's division were Addie Still, of Rocky Comfort, and Jayne Wilson, of Dittmer, who both landed 3.25-pound trout. In the children's division, Calee Houlihan, of Carthage, had an impressive catch with a 5.2-pound trophy fish.
In addition to receiving a trophy from the chamber, the winners received half-off certificates from Visions of Wildlife Taxidermy. Over 50 trout were brought to the Chamber weigh station throughout the morning. This year, the station was manned by Dick Sanders and Bill Lee.