Roaring River preps for 2,600 anglers
Saturday's Opening Day to bring more visitors than normal
Roaring River State Park is making its last round of preparations for Saturday's Opening Day, when about 2,600 anglers are expected to line the river banks in hopes of catching some trout.
Kerry Hays, acting superintendent of the park, said the staff has been busy all offseason, and even busier in the last couple weeks, getting ready for the incoming visitors.
"Each year when the season ends, the staff winterize the cabins, restrooms and other buildings in the park in an effort to save money," he said. "The staff has been de-winterizing the structures in the park to have everything ready for the campground opening, which was Feb. 25, and opening day of trout season on March 1. During the offseason, staff replaced several fire rings and electrical pedestals in the campgrounds."
The National Weather Service has forecasted Saturday to be partly sunny with a high of 37 degrees and a low of 24, but Hays said cold temperatures will not keep anyone from baiting their lines.
"We anticipate a large number of anglers due to the fact that Opening Day falls on a Saturday this year," he said. "Current weather forecasts are calling for normal temperatures for this time of year. For many anglers, Opening Day is a long-standing tradition, and they will plan to enjoy the day no matter the weather conditions."
The 2,600 anticipated anglers is a big jump from last year, according to Paul Spurgeon, manager of the Roaring River Trout Hatchery. The Missouri Department of Conservation, which manages the hatchery, reported 1,609 trout tags sold on Opening Day in 2013, 1,328 of which were adult tags and 281 of which were children's tags. Spurgeon said that number was a little lower than expected, but this year should bring in much more.
"We are expecting 2,600 this year because Opening Day is on a Saturday, meaning we'll have a few more than normal," he said.
Accounting for the differences in price between adult tags and children's tags, the department reeled in $4,546 in daily tag sales alone in 2013.
"There are three separate entities that operate at Roaring River State Park," Hays said. "The Missouri Department of Conservation receives revenue from trout tags, and the concession operation is responsible for the inn, store, restaurant and cabins. Missouri State Parks handles the campgrounds.
"Nearly all reservable campsites have been sold for Friday and Saturday nights, and we anticipate that first-come, first-served sites will also be sold out for the weekend as well.
David Waugh, Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center general manager for concessions, owned by Jim and Carmen Rogers, said the 26 cabins and 26 hotel rooms have been booked since Opening Day of 2013, as the concessionaire has a rollover list and waiting list that keeps it full.
"Opening Day is always a good day for us," he said. "It is always weather-dependent as to how long they'll stay, but we are full throughout the summer, too.
"It's a good day, but it's not about the money. It's about seeing who came back, because Opening Day is really a social event."
According to Mindi Artherton, director of the Cassville Area Chamber of commerce, the eight chamber-member lodges along Highway 112 near the park are mostly full, with many visitors booking cabins for the entire weekend instead of only one night.
"A good percentage are full, but some still have RV spots available," she said. "But, there may be some cancellations, and there is additional lodging still available in town."
Hays said visitors may begin to arrive at 5 a.m., and park staff will be available to assist with parking. The gun-firing to start the season will go off at 6:30 a.m., and the final siren for the day will sound at 6 p.m. Artherton said chamber volunteers will also be on hand in the early-morning hours, passing out 1,000 cups of free coffee in mugs visitors will get to keep for free.
The man firing the gun this year is Leo Steinbrecher, of Holiday Island, Ark., a 50-year fisherman who has spent 35 years fishing on Roaring River. Steinbrecher will be turning 93 on the day he is tabbed to start the season.
He has also volunteered at Roaring River State Park for more than 20 years on Kids Fishing Day, Opening Day, and he has also spent many hours mentoring children on the art of fly fishing.
Hays said no matter the weather, number of tags sold, number of cabins booked or number of campsites filled, Opening Day is always a success.
"Opening Day is always an exciting event at the park," he said. "We hope to see a lot of people in the park throughout the year enjoying the fishing, trails and programming that we offer at Roaring River State Park. As long as people continue to look forward to this day and visit the park while taking advantage of all it has to offer, it is a success."