Frolicking and Fishing in the Ozarks
Frolicking and Fishing in the Ozarks
By Tom Lester II
On April Fool’s Day, I left home headed for the third of four B.A.S.S. Central Invitational bass tournaments at Table Rock Lake, just outside of Branson, Missouri. With a nine-hour drive ahead of me, I had plenty of time for thinking, reflecting and developing my game plan for the bass tournament.
A few miles north of Dallas, as the sun was peaking over the horizon, it dawned on me that I would have an extra day to kill following my tournament before meeting with a potential sponsor in Tulsa on Monday. I picked up the car phone and called my father in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I told him about my extra time and we agreed to meet on Saturday evening at one of my favorite places in the world, Roaring River State Park in southwest Missouri for a bit of rainbow trout fishing.
We met around 7:00 p.m., and to no one’s surprise, I found my folks on the bank of the river, fishing. As the sun slipped behind the horizon, we headed into town for a steak dinner, on dad of course, and went back to our cabin where I collapsed in my bed. I had been fishing hard for the past six days was give completely out.
The alarm rang at 6:00 a.m. and I pounced out of bed. It had been almost two years since I trout fished and I was ready to go. We spent the whole morning fishing and walking the river together. It was a great time, and the fishing was pretty good, too.
Roaring River is a spring branch that has been a source of entertainment and fishing for more than 100 years. In 1910 a resort and trout hatchery was built. In 1928 the owners went into bankruptcy, and the resort was sold to Thomas Sayman, who donated it to the State of Missouri.
During the mid to late 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps used native stone to build the dam to the hatchery, the hatchery pools, buildings, and the old hotel, giving the park a real natural appearance. All of the structures are still in place today.
The park has 139 electric hook up camp sites, primitive campsites, and 26 rustic cabins. It also has a new motel right next to the river.
The parks department stocks over 270,000 rainbow trout and thousands of brown trout in the river throughout the fishing season, which begins March 1 and ends on October 31. The daily limit is five trout. There is also a catch and release season during the winter for those folks willing to brave the cold to go trout fishing.
The trout are released from the hatchery into the river each night with 2.5 trout being released for each daily tag sold on that date the year before. Daily trout tags cost $3 for adults and $2 for children along with a Missouri fishing license. Well worth the price of admission.
My daughters, Tatum and Megan, are the fifth generation of my family to fish at Roaring River state park. In my family’s archive of photographs, there is a picture of my great-grandmother, "Little granny", fishing on the bank of the river. Talk about family history. Maybe that’s where I get it.
Roaring River is a great place to take the entire family, even if they don’t enjoy fishing. There are several miles of hiking trails, caverns, unique rock formations, wildlife and your smack dab in the middle of the Ozark Mountains. As a good friend of mine would say, " if that ain’t living, you can throw me out".
My family and I enjoy staying in the cabins best of all. Over the years, we have hauled campers, stayed in the motel and stayed in nearby Cassville, Missouri, but our favorite is the cabins. They are equipped with a stove, refrigerator, cooking utensils and most importantly during the summer months, an air conditioner. There’s nothing like fishing in the early morning, going to the restaurant for fresh blueberry pancakes then heading up to the ole’ cabin for a short nap. Heavenly!
If you choose to make the trip to Roaring River, you’ll need to carry ultra light fishing gear with 2#-4# test P-line. As for the tackle, I recommend you wait until you get to the park and visit the park store or take the short drive up to Tim’s Fly Shop. Both places can help you with exactly what you need and show you how to use it, if necessary. If you happen to be a fly fishing enthusiast, which I am not, you can fly fish the river or go down to the special fly fishing only zone.
Lastly, you’ll need to take along some grease and your fish cooker, if you have one. There’s nothing better than fresh trout, cooked right outside your cabin or camper. Oh yea, don’t forget the marshmallows. When you are cooking your fish, you’ll attract a few of the resident raccoons, and they love marshmallows. Just ask Tatum and Megan.
I can’t remember how old I was when I made my first trip to Roaring River, but I do remember the trip. For several years in a row, I never missed a year of trout fishing. At 37, it still brings out the kid in me. If you’re looking for a change of scenery without loosing your ability to indulge yourself in your favorite past-time, head up to Roaring River state park just outside of Cassville, Missouri. Maybe the girls and I will see you on the river.
Until next time, enjoy the Texas or Missouri outdoors.