Crowds gather for trout opener

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Anglers stood shoulder to shoulder along the banks of Roaring River State Park on Tuesday to try their luck at landing one of over 50 big lunkers stocked just for Opening Day. The river will be stocked daily for the eight-month fishing season. Photo by Kerry Hays/Missouri State Parks

A clear sky and temperatures around 23 degrees greeted anglers who gathered in the valley at Roaring River State Park for the opening of trout season early Tuesday morning.

Temperatures impacted the early turnout. The sale of fishing tags at 6:30 a.m. when the opening gun was fired stood at around 1,200 for adults and 250 for children. On the last Tuesday opening in 2005, temperatures were also in the low 20s and tag sales totalled 1,544 for children and adults.

Despite the chilly early morning temperatures, the promise of 60 degree weather by the afternoon kept the crowds strong.

"The park means so much to the community," said Jon Horner, of Cassville. "It's important to be here for the community to have a great experience."

Angela Seymour, of Cassville, was at the park with her husband, Chris, her 12-year-old son, Charlie, her 7-year-old daughter, Sharayah, Charlie's friend, Levi, and Angela's mother-in-law, Fran, from Kansas. Chris got them up at 3 a.m. so the family could reach the park by 4 a.m. to take cups of hot coffee to the fishermen along the banks of the river, staking out their spots. Having finished serving coffee, the Seymour family went off to fish.

Luann Lawrence, of Kansas City, and Linda Schwarting, of Joplin, were among the spectators walking the sidewalks and the banks as the fishing began.

"It's exciting," Lawrence said. "The opening's got its own energy. We come in and watch. We'll fish later. Now there's too much going on."

By 6:30 a.m. the valley was unusually light due to the lack of cloud cover. The duty of firing the starting pistol to begin fishing this year was given to Jimmy Hopkins, the two-term Barry County sheriff who worked as a park ranger for the past 21 years, retiring this past September.

"It was a good job," Hopkins said. "I got to meet lots of nice people. People come to Roaring River from all over the world.

"I was surprised to be asked to fire the gun," Hopkins said. "It's quite an honor, one that's usually reserved for dignitaries. It's a good way to end my career at the park."

When the big moment came, Hopkins was all smiles, joking about how this may have been the only time he had fired his gun at the park. With the crack of the gunshot, fishermen tossed their lines into the water and trout season was underway.

Within seconds fish were pulled to shore, and stringers filled quickly. At the Cassville Chamber's weigh-in station at the old CCC Lodge, Josh Greer, of Carthage, had the day's biggest catch. His trout, which was caught by 6:45 a.m. weighed 10 pounds and one ounce and earned him a trophy and some Cassville Cash. In the youth division, Trey Hughes, of Purdy, landed the largest trout with his 3.58-pound catch. He also claimed a trophy for his accomplishment.

Opening Day also provided sights that even veteran fishermen may not have seen before. Courtney Bradley, of Liberty, was curled up in a sleeping bag on the rocky bank while her father, Ron, a native of Diamond, tossed his line in the water. Ron said when the gunshot sounded, he told Courtney it was time to fish. She responded that she was warm and preferred to fish later.

"All in all, the day went really well," said Dusty Reid, Roaring River State Park superintendent. "The crowds were nice and big. I saw a lot of big fish being caught and lots of families were out spending quality time together.

"Everything went very smoothly, just like we planned," added Reid. "It was an exciting day."

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