Snow slightly slows Opening Day

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Tim Homesley, right, holds up his gun and prepares to fire it to kick of catch-and-keep season at Roaring River State Park on Sunday morning. Looking on, at left, is Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks. Kyle Troutman/

869 cast lines at Roaring River opening gun

Justin Hilburn of Cassville pulls out one of his catches on Opening Day at Roaring River on Sunday. Kyle Troutman/

If Opening Day of fishing Season at Roaring River State Park falls on a Sunday, history says there is likely to be some snow on the ground.

The last Sunday Opening Day at Roaring River in 2009 was a snowy one, and this year's Opening Day was the same, leading to less tags sold by the gun, but a high angler-to-fish ratio.

According to staff at the Park Store, 869 has bought tags by 6:30 a.m., including 740 adults and 129 children. By the end of the day, that number had jumped to 1185, including 996 adults and 189 children.

The number was second-best of the state's three trout parks, and had the most youth anglers casting lines. Mountauk State Park recorded 1368 anglers, including 1242 adults and 126 children. Bennet Spring State Park recorded 1178 anglers, including 1079

adults and 99 children.

It was only the third time in 25 years that snow has been on the ground for Opening Day. In 2009, the last Sunday opening and a snow day, there had been 1,547 adult tags sold and 287 for children by the gunshot. In 1990, the total by 6:30 a.m. was 1,172, a fourth more, on a Thursday.

Paul Spurgeon, manager of the Roaring River Hatchery, said it stocked the river in preparations for 2,600 visitors. The 8,000 trout and 50 lunkers put the angler-to-fish ratio at 9.26 at the opening gun.

Kelly Mills, second from right, nets a trout while fishing at Roaring River State Park on Sunday. Kyle Troutman/

Tim Homesley, owner of Tim's Fly Shop just outside the park, kicked off festivities with eight shots from his pistol. Also in attendance for the opening gun was Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks, and Lewis Ledford, executive director of the National Association of State Parks, who made his first trip to Roaring River on Sunday.

Bryan, who attended the festivities for the first time in two years, said although the slick roads kept many from attending, as Spurgeon projected 2,600 to be in attendance, the tradition of Opening Day still rang through as a success.

"There is a great family atmosphere here and the support from the Cassville community is remarkable," he said. "There are similar parks like this in the state, but this is the only one where the [Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce] comes out and gives out free coffee and mugs, and that's very special.

"There are also more kids that come out here, and it's practically a holiday in this area The biggest challenge today was just getting people to the park, and fortunately, [the Missouri Department of Transportation] has been a great friend and partner to southwest Missouri and Missouri State Parks."

Bryan said also with the weather came more work for park staff.

"Staff started clearing the walkways on Friday, and I got here Friday evening," he said. "I'd be surprised if [Park Manager] Kerry Hays and his staff got any sleep in the past few days."

Since Friday, Bryan stayed in one of the cabins at the park and after the firing of the gun, he pointed out a cabin near the spring where he and his family stayed when he was a child.

Ledford, who was formerly the director of North Carolina State Parks and now runs an organization with 8,000 state parks as members and 2,200 traditional parks like Roaring River, spent his weekend at the Emory Melton Inn and Conference Center and said his experience at the park was a great one.

"I flew into Springfield and came down and saw all the accommodations, and the way the state agencies [like Missouri State Parks, MoDOT and the Missouri Department of Conservation] can all come together with the local community is an inspiration to all of us," he said. "We have 2,200 traditional parks like this, the classic CCC parks, and this one is a great example."

Ledford said along with the cooperation between organizations on Opening Day, the tradition of the event rang loud and clear.

"The tradition has been here for so long, and to see the spring-fed Roaring River and the natural beauty is great," he said. "Bill invited me down, and we would have had a lot more people here if not for the weather and transportation issues. We look forward to coming back in the future to experience the natural resources and hospitality of Roaring River State Park."

Weather across the southeast United States also kept away STIHL's Reel in the Outdoors with Joe Thomas, an Outdoor Channel TV show that had planned to film on-site on Opening Day. Bryan said he is working with the show to come back to the park on the first Kids' Fishing Day of the year, set for May 16.

Bryan said the Parks Department is moving forward on the CCC Lodge as well, aiming to renovate the building to allow lodging directly on the river.

"We are about 90 percent done with the design and as soon as we have all those details, we'll put them out to bid," he said. "It will probably take about six to nine months to get the bids out and get the work done. We're looking at next spring, but we're hoping to get it done this fall.

"I remember going into that lodge to get toys and ice cream, and we are really excited about getting it back to its original use."

Click here for more photos from Opening Day.

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