"Opening day went extremely well," said Dusty Reid, park superintendent. "We had nice, big crowds, and we didn't have any problems or issues. We had really good numbers, and there were a lot of big fish caught."
Although temperatures hovered close to freezing, many dedicated anglers were on the banks of the stream before 5 a.m. Park staff members positioned barrels along the banks to give visitors a place to warm numb fingers and faces.
As in previous years, Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce members and volunteers delivered coffee to the anglers gathered at the stream. Visitors expressed gratitude for both the hot coffee and the complimentary souvenir travel mugs. Around 20 volunteers distributed mugs at Roaring River this year.
"The coffee and mugs were a hit," said Mindi Artherton, chamber executive director. "The chamber gave away 800 coffee mugs and countless cups of coffee."
The chamber's souvenir mugs were sponsored by the following local businesses: Cassville Democrat; Baywash Carwash; Crowder College Cassville Campus; Deer Run Cabins; Freedom Bank; Jim Rogers and Roaring River State Park Concessions; Ken's Collision Center; Les Jacobs Ford-Mercury; Oak Hill Court and RV Park; Rock Village Court; Runnels Chiropractic; Security Bank of Southwest Missouri; and Tim's Fly Shop.
At around 6:15 a.m., Roaring River State Park staff members escorted Betty Bruner Layton to the bridge near the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Lodge.
Layton, granddaughter of Roland Bruner, who founded the Roaring River Hatchery in 1910, received the first trout tag of the 2010 season. Sen. Jack Goodman attended the opening festivities to present Layton with a proclamation in honor of the hatchery's centennial anniversary.
Prior to joining her family and park staff members at the center of the bridge, Layton took a few minutes to answer questions from numerous reporters who attending the opening ceremony.
"Everything went really well," said Dean. "Mrs. Layton did a great job, and we got a lot of attention."
At precisely 6:30 a.m., Layton fired the shot that opened the trout fishing season at Roaring River. Several anglers reeled in lunkers from the stream as the shot echoed though the valley. Sarah Beckwith, of Aurora, caught a 5.22-pound trout on her first cast.
"This is the second big fish I have caught at Roaring River," said Beckwith. "Two years ago, my husband and I came and I caught a fish that was almost four pounds. The only fish he caught was around seven inches long and weighed less than a pound. He didn't catch any this year. He said he isn't going to bring me with him anymore."
Anglers from Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and northern Missouri also reeled in big fish within the first hour. Although many men and a handful of women weighed in lunkers early, the youth division had no contenders by 9 a.m.
"I don't want to enter anything," Bradley Lueckenhoff, of Cassville, said as he approached the Cassville Chamber's weighing station. "I just want to see how much my fish weighs."
Lueckenhoff was surprised and excited to learn that his trout weighed in at 1.76 pounds. He promised chamber volunteers that he would return to the weigh station at noon to hear the outcome of the big fish competition.
Volunteers weighed 25 lunkers at the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce weighing station, which was located on the lower level of the CCC Lodge. The Chamber recognized the anglers who caught the biggest fish in men's, women's and youth's divisions.
Stephen Gocelijak, of Olathe, Kan., won the men's division with an 8-pound trout. Beckwith's 5.22-pound fish earned the top prize in the women's division, and Zachary Bishop, of Seligman, won the youth division with a 2.28-pound trout. Each winner received Cassville Cash and the youth winner received a trophy.
"We had much better weather this year than last year," said Reid. "This offered a lot more pleasant experience for the anglers, and the crowd stuck around a lot longer.
"Last year, they caught their fish and went home," continued Reid. "This year, they stayed and fished all day. We had a lot of family picnics and a lot more activity in the park."
Roaring River State Park sold more trout tags than Bennett Springs State Park (1,944) and Maramec State Park (1,382), and came in second to Montauk State Park, which sold 2,041 tags on opening day.
Roaring River sold nearly as many kids tags as all of Missouri's other parks combined. Bennett Springs sold 124 kids tags, and 97 kids fished at Maramec. Montauk sold the second highest number of kids tags, which was 165.