Over 1,800 anglers visit RRSP on March 1
Local meteorologists predicted that afternoon temperatures would soar to 70 degrees on March 1, but the 1,839 anglers who gathered along the stream at Roaring River State Park were greeted with a crisp, cool morning on Opening Day.
"Opening Day at Roaring River State Park was a wonderful event," said Dusty Reid, park superintendent. "The weather was beautiful, and visitors to the park stayed around all day, hiking trails, picnicking and watching anglers."
Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce volunteers helped anglers ward off the early morning chill by distributing 100 gallons of hot coffee to over 750 Roaring River visitors. Volunteers began the morning at around 3:30 a.m., and offered complimentary coffee mugs of piping hot coffee until the opening day pistol was fired at 6:30 a.m.
"This is my third Opening Day since starting at the chamber, and I continue to be amazed by our chamber members when it comes to the event," said Mindi Artherton, chamber executive director. "We had around 30 volunteers who were eager to greet our out-of-town guests with warm cups of coffee and smiles. Our community should be proud to have this group of people representing us."
Gov. Jay Nixon took part in this year's festivities by firing the starter pistol from the gazebo located near the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Lodge. Nixon also received Roaring River's first 2012 adult trout tag.
Anglers wasted no time pulling thousands of fish from the Roaring River stream.
Angela Seymour, of Cassville, caught a 5.18-pound fish shortly after the start of the 2012 catch-and-keep season.
"This is the biggest fish I have ever caught at Roaring River," said Seymour. "It took me a while to reel it in, and then it wouldn't fit into the net."
Seymour recruited the assistance of her son, Charlie, and husband, Chris, to help secure the lunker after she had reeled it to the bank.
"Charlie was pushing the back of it in, and Chris the front," said Seymour. "It was very exciting."
Ironically, Seymour was fishing in the spot originally occupied by her mother-in-law, Fran, who was visiting from Kansas. Fran had taken a short break to return to the car.
"I stepped into her spot and caught it," said Seymour.
"She owes me big time," said Fran with a chuckle.
Veteran Opening Day participants Bill Johnson and David Ruark continued their annual tradition of waging $1 on who would catch the first fish of the day. Ruark lost the bet, because Johnson was the first to land a trout on March 1.
"It was small, but I won," said Johnson. "He made me put it on my stringer."
"The rule is that it has to be on the stringer to count," said Ruark, "so I made him keep it."
As they continued fishing, the pair reminisced about past opening events. Ruark said that traditionally when he loses the bet, he catches a lunker later in the day.
Dyllan White, of Aurora, reeled in a 7.12-pound fish on his first cast of the morning. His fish secured the title of big fish for a short period of time but was later topped by a fish weighing a half pound more.
Last Thursday, was the first time White, who moved to Missouri from California four weeks ago, ever fished at Roaring River. He said he planned to filet and eat his big trout.
James Pendergraft, of Washburn, also landed a large fish on opening day. His trout weighed in at 5.14 pounds.
"It took me about five minutes to get it in," said Pendergraft. "This is the biggest fish I've ever caught at Roaring River, and I have been fishing here since I was 15."
Over 300 youngsters sharpened their angling skills at Roaring River on March 1, including Bradley Lueckenhoff, Matthew Popanz and Dylan Garner, who all attend the Cassville School District.
Garner landed the biggest fish in the youth division. His 2.46-pound trout earned a trophy in the Cassville Chamber of Commerce's big fish competition.
The chamber also awarded Cassville Cash to the man and woman who reeled in the largest trout on opening morning. Although Seymour's fish held the top spot in the women's division for several hours, the honor eventually went to Janessa Glaze, of Seligman.
Glaze landed the largest fish of the morning. Her trout weighed in at 8.18 pounds. Bobby Warden, of Grove, Okla., was a close second with a 7.68-pound fish. He earned the cash prize in the men's division.
When compared to Montauk and Bennett Spring state parks, Roaring River claimed the top spot for tag sales on Opening Day. A total of 1,518 adult and 321 youth tags were purchased at Roaring River. Montauk was a close second with 1,829 tags sold, and Bennett Springs sold 1,619 tags on March 1.