Opening Day on its way

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
With the big projects happening at the Roaring River Hatchery, the fish have been raised and held in Mountauk State Park and will return today (Wednesday). Caleb Beuterbaugh smooths out the concrete mixture that is being laid down by Justin Ballard in an opportunity to fix the old concrete while the pools are dry. Jordan Privett/

6,000 fish to be stocked for event

With Opening Day on a Friday this year, staff at Roaring River State Park are hoping for big numbers, estimating about 2,000 visitors making their way to the park.

Paul Spurgeon, manager of the Roaring River Hatchery, which is managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the stream is in good shape this winter.

As part of the renovation at Roaring River Hatchery, the water has been turned off and the pool drained and dried. This offers the opportunity for Charles Brewer, with Martin General Contractors to update the valves in the hatchery that can only be worked on while the water is off. These valves were installed in the 1930s and were freezing up and not working properly. Jordan Privett/

“We didn’t have any big weather events, so the stream is in good shape, and we haven’t had to do any repair work yet,” he said. “Zone 3 is still closed where the stream cut a new channel and the banks are steep, but everywhere else is good.”

Spurgeon said MDC and the Department of Natural Resources are still working to determine what should be done in Zone 3 and how to fund it.

It is partially open from the back end, as Spurgeon said the daily tag-required area in Zone 3 is inaccessible, but people may go below that to the non-tag-required area, which is stocked less often.

Stocking for Opening Day will be at a 3:1 ratio, Spurgeon said, meaning about 6,000 fish will make their way into the river for anglers.

“In March, April and May, the fish will come from Montauk State Park [due to the ongoing Hatchery project], and we should have some pools open to hold and stock as normal,” Spurgeon said. “We are estimating about 2,000 people, and we do three fish per tag, so about 6,000 fish. We always estimate on the high side, and it depends on the weather, like if it’s sunny and 70s or if we have a foot of snow. We’ll adjust the numbers as we get closer to March 1.”

As usual, Spurgeon said 100 lunkers will be let loose, but anglers may also have better lunker luck this year due to the Hatchery project.

“We left all the big fish in the spring pool, but with the gates wide open, some of them may have escaped into the river,” he said. “The mortality rate would have been high if we tried to move them, so we just left them there, and they could get into the river if they wanted.”

One big change Spurgeon is hoping won’t stress too many visitors is in regards to a tree — the Osage orange by the first hole — which fell over the winter.

“That’s probably one of the most photographed trees in Missouri,” Spurgeon said. “Those trees get heavy as they age, and one of the limbs started coming down. We were looking at what it was doing and trying to figure out what to do, but the tree experts didn’t think there was much that could be done. Then, one day, it uprooted itself. It looked like an explosion.

“It’s a historic tree. There was an iron bar in the middle of the trunk, and it’s said people used to tie their horses to it in the 1800s. That’s not verifiable, but that tree has been there forever. We are probably sadder about it here than anyone.”

Fishing on March 1 will start at 6:30 a.m., signifying the start of catch-and-keep season, which runs through Oct. 31.

Hatchery project

The $1.9 million project at the Roaring River Hatchery is ongoing, with major work aiming for completion in May and loose ends being tied up by the end of summer.

Spurgeon said in late January, the lower structure, a key to the project that will divert water, was poured, allowing the Hatchery to recirculate water into its top six holding pools.

After the recirculation pump was turned back on, crews turned their attention to finishing the spring pool by April.

“At the spring head, a 24-inch PVC pipe is being installed to the first structure, which then pumps water to the lower structure,” Spurgeon said. “There’s still work to do in the flume with stop logs being installed. They are basically a dam in the flume, which is a box that feeds the pools. One side is built up with dam boards, and we’re replacing those boards with stainless steel. If all goes well, we’ll have quite a bit of the project done by May 1.”

Spurgeon said past that point, the work will focus on pouring the concrete for the parking lot, replacing valves and adding the flood gates at the falls and spring head.

“A lot of that stuff has to be custom-built, so it takes two or three months to get it out of the factory,” he said. “The target date for finishing the spring pool is May, and other work will probably go into June, but, all that depends on the weather and if the water comes up or not.”

Spurgeon said the Hatchery project will not affect fishing on Opening Day, as all holes near the Hatchery will still be open.

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