Hatchery preps for 1,800 on Opening Day
Department of Conservation completes flood repairs
If Department of Conservation predictions are correct, there may be a little more elbow room on the banks of Roaring River for Opening Day festivities on March 1.
Paul Spurgeon, manager of the Roaring River Hatchery, which is overseen by the department, said he expects 1,800 to converge at the park for the annual fishing fiesta.
"Smaller crowds have been the trend the past few years," he said. "But, if it's 70 degrees like it was [a couple weeks ago], we could have a big crowd."
A snowy Sunday opening in 2015 slowed crowds, as only 1,185 had bought tags by the end of the day. Last year, drizzly and chilly conditions cleared out on a Tuesday Opening Day, and 1,578 partook in the March 1 event. Typical attendance predictions fall in the 2,000 to 2,600 range, depending on the day of the week March 1 falls on.
While the number of anglers may vary from year to year, the number of fish being stocked in the river stays consistent.
"We'll be stocking 6,000 trout and 100 lunkers," Spurgeon said. "I have heard some people worried about the drought conditions, but the fish have held the winter over well. The spring has been really low, so we had to move some fish to other hatcheries to put some size on them, but we have brought them back. We'd always rather finish out their growth here, but there will always be fish. We make sure of that.."
Spurgeon said some fish are even bigger than expected.
"Many are well over 12.5 inches," he said. "People will be really pleased in the first two or three months of the season, and we hope to keep them that happy all summer."
Those coming to Roaring River for the first time in a while may notice some changes, as Spurgeon said his staff has completed repairs the stream and banks damaged in the July and December 2015 floods.
"The stream has been completely rebuilt from what happened during the floods, and pretty much all the damage has been erased" he said. "That was a year-long process, and we're really pleased about it. Our excavators and dump truck crews did a great job. The dams have been rebuilt, the banks stabilized, and we finished it all up in October and November [of 2016]."
Spurgeon said the most noticeable differences will be far down the stream, in Zone 3.
"Zone 3 hadn't been cleaned out for years, but we cleaned it out," he said. "Anyone who likes to fish in Zone 3 will see it's deeper and has much easier access than in the past. We are also working on some more bank stabilization and access work there."
Following tradition, the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce will be on the scene on March 1, passing out coffee and commemorative mugs to early risers coming to the park.