Roaring River State Park expects 1,200 children Saturday
Opening Day at Roaring River State Park drew in about 2,000 visitors, and the Missouri Department of Conservation is expecting to blow that number out of the water this weekend during Kids' Fishing Day.
Paul Spurgeon, manager of the Roaring River Trout Hatchery, which is managed by the department, said he expects about 1,200 children to attend the first Kids' Fishing Day of the year, and if the weather is nice, 3,000 to 5,000 total visitors.
"A lot of times, Kids' Fishing Day is bigger than Opening Day," he said. "We look forward to this all year.
"It's great to watch the kids who have never caught a fish before pull one in. They smile and laugh and the parents get really excited, too, and that's the big reward we get."
A tradition twice a year since 1981, Kids' Fishing Day will set off the top half of Zone 1, from the first bridge to the hatchery, especially for children. Trout tags for children will be free, and those who attend need only bring a pole and tackle. There will also be 17 classes offered throughout the day, with the first offered at 9 a.m. and the last offered at 3:30 p.m. Classes include: fly casting, air rifle target shooting, archery, stream table display, your watershed, snakes alive, fly tying and fly casting, critter stamp headbands, fishing Roaring River and tying fishing knots, Dutch oven cooking, taxidermy 101, macro invertebrates, outdoor photography, fish cleaning, fish cooking, fisheries biology and a hatchery tour.
Spurgeon said the photography class is one of the most popular, and this year's class will be instructed by Kerry Hays, superintendent of Roaring River State Park.
"All the classes are pretty well-attended," Spurgeon said. "They are open to the parents, too, and we encourage the parents to get right in there and hands-on with the kids."
Children who attend three classes throughout the day will also be entered into a raffle drawing, the prizes of which have yet to be determined. Spurgeon said last year, any of the prizes were fishing gear and tackle. The prize drawings will be held at 5 p.m., and children must be present to win.
Spurgeon said to prepare for the number of visitors fishing in the park, the hatchery plans to increase its stocking for the day.
"We'll be stocking the river heavily the night before, and we'll be stocking throughout the day, throwing in the fish right in front of the kids," he said. "We'll probably put in at least 2,500 fish throughout the day, and if more people show up, we will stock more."
Spurgeon said Kids' Fishing Day will also feature bluegrass music from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the big tent near the hatchery.
Kids' Fishing Day is open to children ages 15 and under. Children may pick up free trout tags at the hatchery office any time on May 16, or all day on the day of the event.
Volunteers will be available to assist the children, and children are encouraged to bring their own fishing equipment.
Parents are welcome to assist kids, but only one pole may be used between the helper and the child. Adults are not allowed to fish by themselves. Free hotdogs, chips and soda will be available between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Anglers should also be aware that all Zone 1 rules still apply during the event.
Volunteers are still needed to help with the event, and individuals wishing to volunteer do not need to be experienced anglers. Those who would like to help out with Kids' Fishing Day, or would like more information about the event, may call the Roaring River Fish Hatchery at 417-847-2430, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.