Opening Day could be a record breaker
Sunday openers always have the potential to set records, and this Sunday, March 1, Roaring River State Park is ready for record crowds.
In 1981, Opening Day fell on a Sunday and the park set a new record for trout tags with 3,504 sold. Since that record-setting year, other Sunday openers have come close to beating the record. On Opening Day in 1998, there were 3,059 tags sold, and in 1992, the opener attracted 3,358 anglers.
Roaring River Hatchery Manager Jerry Dean said his crews are planning for around 3,300 anglers this Sunday. The hatchery staff is stocking the river this week to maximize the chance of landing a trout on March 1.
"Our goal is to have three fish per expected angler stocked for Opening Day, so we will add an additional 7,200 fish to the stream," said Dean.
Of that total, at least 50 will be lunkers that weigh about three pounds and are 18 inches or longer. This stocking plan means there should be around 280 fish per hole in the tag area, which runs from the hatchery to the bridge located next to the ballfield downstream from the old dam.
In addition, there were 2,000 rainbow trout and 776 brown trout stocked for the winter catch and release season and those fish remain in the stream.
The opening gun will be fired at 6:30 a.m. sharp on March 1 by Junior and Clarice Stephens, of Olathe, Kan. The couple, who have been fishing and mentoring young anglers at Roaring River since 1974, will also have the honor of receiving the first and second trout tag of the 2009 season.
The Stephenses are frequent visitors to Roaring River and faithful volunteers of the park's Kids' Fishing Days. A feature story detailing the Stephens' commitment to the program and their love of Roaring River is published in this week's Trout Times.
"Both Junior and Clarice are very warm and giving people who have spent many hours helping kids and others fish in the park," said Dean.
The first and second youth tags of the season will be awarded to the winners of the annual art contest, which is open to all Cassville Middle School students. The young artists will be asked to design a transfer suitable for Kids' Fishing Day T-shirts. The winners will not only have the thrill of seeing their design on the T-shirts but they will also receive $50 savings bonds.
This year, the Roaring River Hatchery will be celebrating its 70th anniversary. The hatchery became a state park in 1928 when its owner donated it to the Missouri Game and Fish Department. A flood destroyed the facility and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped build a new hatchery that went into service in 1939.
Roaring River State Park is one of three Missouri trout parks owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The other state-owned trout parks are Bennett Spring near Lebanon and Montauk near Salem. The trout hatcheries are operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce will continue its long-standing tradition of serving piping hot coffee to the thousands of anglers who line the banks of Roaring River on opening morning.
Darrin Jacobs and Jeremy Marple will be brewing their signature river-bank coffee, and chamber volunteers will be walking along the stream distributing the coffee in keepsake mugs beginning at 5:30 a.m. This year, the Opening Day mugs are sponsored by Cassville Democrat, Crowder College Cassville Campus, Les Jacobs Ford-Mercury, Oakhill Court and RV Park, Tim's Fly Shop, Rock Village Court and RV Park, Runnels Chiropractic, Jim Rogers and Roaring River State Park, Hutchens Construction, Baywash car wash, Sports World and AAA Trophies.
The chamber will also be operating a weigh-in station at the lower level of the historic CCC Lodge. Anglers can bring their lunkers to be weighed, and trophies will be awarded for the biggest fish caught in the men's, women's and children's divisions.