Starting next weekend, anglers will begin to trickle and then pour into Cassville with one day and one destination in mind: Opening Day of the 2011 trout season at Roaring River State Park.
In the early morning hours of March 1 well before dawn, anglers will begin to line the banks of Roaring River with rods and reels at the ready, hoping to catch one of the 50 or so lunkers lurking under the surface of the chilly water.
Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce volunteers will be on hand to offer fishermen a warm cup of complimentary coffee beginning at 5 a.m. Coffee, donated by Walmart, will be served and brewed under the Les Jacobs tent across from the historic CCC Lodge.
At 6:30 a.m., honored guest Jimmy Hopkins, a retired Missouri parks ranger, will fire the opening gun signaling the official start of another trout season. Hopkins retired this fall after serving for 21 years as park ranger at Roaring River. He will also be honored by receiving the first trout tag of 2011.
"We are expecting about 2,000 anglers on Opening Day," said Roaring River Park Superintendent Dusty Reid. "We'll probably have an additional 2,000 spectators."
With reservations for campsites, cabins and RV slots filling quickly, workers are spending the last few days before the opener making sure the park is at its best. Park employees have spent the winter months busily clearing trails, repairing camping accommodations, painting, refurbishing and making a multitude of park improvements.
"I'm excited every year at Opening Day," Reid said. "I'm waiting for people to show back up. Some folks haven't missed an opening in 40 or 50 years. I love hearing their stories of memories and the traditions they and their families have in connection with the park and trout opening."
Until recently, one area of concern was the river's water level. Until the recent snow melt, levels were down on the river, which could have posed a few problems with oxygenation.
According to Hatchery Manager Paul Spurgeon, the winter storm of 2011 helped restore much needed moisture to the spring-fed river that is home to approximately 265,000 trout a year.
"The fish are doing well," Spurgeon continued. "They're up to size and ready to go. We plan to release about 6,000 for Opening Day."
The Cassville Chamber will be running a weigh-in station at the CCC Lodge, giving anglers a chance to gauge the size of their catch and compete for largest fish honors.
Cassville Cash will be awarded for the largest fish in the men's and women's division. A trophy will be awarded in the youth division. Anglers can weigh their fish until noon when awards will be announced.
Sponsors of the 2011 souvenir coffee cups that will be handed out to fishermen with the free coffee are: Barry County Abstract and Title; Baywash car wash; Country Comforts Salon and Spa; Cozy Acres Family Campground; Crowder College; Deer Run Cabins; Freedom Bank; Gussied Up Boutique; Heritage Medical Clinic; Hutchens Construction; Jim Rogers and Roaring River Concessions; Ken's Collision Center; Les Jacobs Ford; Oak Hill Court and RV Park; Office Concepts; Rock Village Court & RV Park; Runnels Chiropractic; Security Bank; Sonic; and Tim's Fly Shop.