1,900 anglers fish on Opening Day
Lower-than-expected turnout meant lots of fish for visitors
"Go get 'em, guys," was the call from 92-year-old Leo Steinbrecher, of Holiday Island, Ark., after firing the 6:30 a.m. gun to allow more than 1,900 anglers cast their lines and reel in thousands of trout at Roaring River State Park's Opening Day.
A total of 1,974 anglers hit the river banks on opening day, well under the 2,600 anglers anticipated by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Paul Spurgeon, manager of the Roaring River State Park Trout Hatchery and employee of the department, said 1,615 adults and 359 children purchased trout tags on Opening Day, leading to $5,563 in daily trout tag revenue, which is $1,017 more that Opening Day tag revenues in 2013. The last Opening Day on a Saturday was in 2008 and netted 2,295 anglers, and Opening Day record of 3,178 anglers in 1986 is still standing.
"I assume we lost out on a lot of the out-of-state crowd, because we usually have a few people that come from Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas," Spurgeon said. "With the storm coming in [late Saturday and on Sunday], I think a lot of them cancelled out. But, 1,974 is still a pretty good, respectable number for the weather we had.
Kerry Hays, acting superintendent of Roaring River State Park, said he was pleased with the turnout on Saturday.
"We had a great Opening Day," he said. "The weather was beautiful and there were a lot of people in the park, several of which said how pleased they were with the park and very complimentary of the number and size of the fish, which is a great compliment to the Missouri Department of Conservation and all the work they do."
Spurgeon said the lower-than-expected turnout boded well for the anglers who attended Opening Day festivities, as the hatchery still stocked the river for the 2,600 expected.
"There was plenty of fish out there because we stocked for 2,600 people," he said. And, all of them were running 13 inches plus. We still had a little over 200 fishermen out here on Sunday."
The largest catch of Opening Day went to Cody Parks, 13, of Wheaton, who reeled in a 4.44-pound trout with an Uncle Josh's Power Bait lure, good enough to win the men's division.
"I was very excited to win," he said. "I just caught the one fish, but it was a good one."
Parks was awarded $50 in Cassville cash, redeemable at many Cassville businesses, an Opening Day T-shirt and a lunker pin.
The winner of the women's division was Lania Lowe, hometown unknown, who nabbed a 2.72-pound trout.
The winner of the children's division was Alex Williams, 9, of Aurora, who caught a 2.92-pound fish using a yellow rooster-tail.
Other local people who placed in the competition included: Leslie Smith, of Cassville, third in the women's division with a 1.62-pound catch; Cayden Smith, of Cassville, who placed in the children's division with a 1.72-pound trout; and Katie Tucker, of Cassville, who placed in the children's division with a 1.20-pounder.
Hays said despite the winter weather that arrived late Saturday night and all day Sunday, many campers are still taking advantage of the park being open.
"People were weather-aware and made the decision to stay or leave based on their personal experiences," he said. "We still had about 25 campers on Sunday, and they were still taking advantage of what the park has to offer and were fishing along the river."
Steinbrecher, who has fished at the park for over 33 years and used to tie his own scuds with dental floss, was given the No. 1 trout tag and was honored to be chosen to fire the gun to start the season.
"It was great," he said. "I think it makes me a VIP person now. Opening Day usually means winter is over, but we've got [cold] weather today. But, it's spectacular fishing and a great atmosphere."
To see winners of the Roaring River Trout Hatchery Essay Contest, click here: http://www.cassville-democrat.com/story/2057649.html