Construction project doesn't get in the way of trout fishing at Roaring River

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CASSVILLE, Mo. – It’s been another busy year for trout fishing at Roaring River State Park. Through August, more than, 80,000 people have visited the park to fish for the more than 195,000 trout that Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staff have stocked at this popular Barry County fishing site.

As impressive as those figures seem, Roaring River’s most remarkable number this summer might be zero. That’s the number of trout produced at the MDC hatchery at Roaring River since the hatchery was temporarily shut down last September for a renovation project.

So, despite no trout production from the stream’s normal trout supplier, trout fishing at Roaring River hasn’t missed a beat. The credit for that goes to the connectivity of MDC’s hatcheries system.

“There is a unified effort at MDC’s five trout hatcheries to collectively produce 1.5 million 12-inch fish annually for stocking into the trout parks, Lake Taneycomo, and our spring-fed streams,” said MDC Hatchery Systems Manager James Civiello. “If we are lucky enough not to experience record-setting drought or flooding, we can continue to provide that quality trout-fishing experience.”

Roaring River’s hatchery, which normally raises up to 500,000 trout annually from egg to fingerling size and stocks 260,000 trout in park’s waters each year, went into shut-down mode in September 2018 when trout production was brought to a temporary halt so a $1.9 million renovation project could get underway. Though this construction has removed water from most of the hatchery’s pools and raceways, it has not left Roaring River anglers high and dry. The bulk of the trout for this year’s fishing has come from MDC’s Montauk Hatchery (Dent County) and a few have come from Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery (Taney County).

“It is not unusual for our hatcheries to share fish,” said MDC Roaring River Hatchery Manager Paul Spurgeon. “Quite the opposite – fish, eggs, and fingerlings are routinely transferred between the hatcheries. As the hatcheries are spread around the state, someone will inevitably have flooding and the increased fish mortality that goes with it. In those cases, one or more of the other hatcheries always step up and cover the loss. Our hatchery system has worked well under incredible adversity.”

A wet spring and summer has pushed the completion date of Roaring River’s renovation work to late fall or early winter, but progress is being made. The project involves replacing existing flood control structures at the hatchery’s spring pool with electric, corrosion-proof, stainless-steel gates. The flood control structure at the spring’s entrance will also be replaced and a leak-proof pipeline is being installed (replacing an existing line) to feed water into the hatchery. All water-control valves within the spring pool are being replaced with stainless steel.

The significant economic impact that trout fishing has on Missouri is exemplified at Roaring River. Approximately 110,000 people fish at the park each year. This activity has a large economic ripple effect in the form of money that’s spent in the area on meals, lodging, gas, etc.

However, the lure of Roaring River’s trout isn’t just a fishing thing. Spurgeon has been asked by numerous visitors when trout will again be able to be seen swimming in the rearing pools and the raceways around the hatchery. He said this points out that in addition to trout fishing, trout viewing is also one of the appeals of this popular state park. Spurgeon said this emphasizes something he’s seen throughout his 10 years as hatchery manager at the park – that Roaring River is more than a fishing destination.

“There is something magical and soothing to walk through a hatchery, feeding fish and watching them eagerly jump for pellets,” Spurgeon said. “The smells of the hatchery and the sound of the rushing, clean, spring water teeming with rainbow trout can be tantalizing. Visitors tell us it is one of the major reasons why they visit the park. I, personally cannot wait to have our visitors return and I’d like to thank everyone for their patience.”

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