The opening day of the 2008 trout season at Roaring River State Park drew a huge crowd on Saturday but angler expectations fell a little bit short with 2,923 tags sold on March 1. Park officials had predicted that over 3,000 fishermen would gather at the stream banks for the weekend opener.
Anglers and park visitors did enjoy a warmer-than-normal opening day with temperatures reaching 71 degrees at the park by the afternoon after a chilly 27 degrees in the morning.
Bill Ash, long-time assistant park superintendent, kicked off the catch-and-keep season by firing the opening gun at 6:30 a.m. Within seconds, anxious anglers were reeling in trout and a large number reported catching their limit within 10 minutes of the first cast.
The biggest catch of the day was landed by Justin Hilburn, of Cassville, who won the Biggest Fish trophy in the men's division with a 10.3-pound trout.
Other winners in the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce lunker contest were Samantha King, of Independence. who caught a 7.08-pound trout to win the women's division, and 10-year-old Wyatt Groves, of Billings, who won the youth division with his 5.44-pound catch.
In all, chamber volunteers recorded 49 fish that weighed over three pounds. These trout were the ones anglers took to the chamber weigh-in station before noon on opening day.
According to Jerry Dean, hatchery manager, there were 2,295 adult tags and 628 youth tags sold on March 1. On Sunday, March 2, there were a total of 1,332 tags (1,064 adult and 268 youth) sold to bring the weekend total to 4,255.
The opening day angler tally far exceeded the last Saturday opener in 2003 when 2,276 tags were sold but fell short of the 3,501 tag record set in 1981.