Joel Topham couldn’t have asked for a better day to kick off trout season.
With the high in the 60s and a clear morning, Topham said Sunday was one of the best days he’s seen for the anglers who bought 1,700 tags — 1,400 adult and 300 children — to fish along Roaring River State Park on March 1, 2020.
“We’ve already exceeded what we had last year,” Topham said. “With it being on a Sunday and beautiful weather, we expect the numbers to be higher this year.”
Topham, natural resource manager of the state park going on two years, said he’s no stranger to Roaring River.
“My parents brought me here in ’76 and I have pictures of me actually learning how to fly fish right on this bank,” Topham said, gesturing to the embankment a few feet away. “My grandmother, she’s 98 years old, still kicking and she loves coming down here to see all the different changes going on.”
Roaring River is primarily stocked with rainbow trout, Topham said. With its own hatchery under construction, rainbow trout and 100 lunkers — fish weighing three pounds or more — were brought in from Montauk State Fish Hatchery in Salem.
“Every day, from here on out, they’ll be stocking trout,” Topham said.
Michael Knight loves driving the few hours it takes to get to Roaring River State Park from Kansas City, Kansas.
Knight said his family roots are in Barry County and it’s a tradition to stop by his family’s plots in a cemetery in Pierce City before fishing at Roaring River State Park.
It’s a trip that “rejuvenates my soul,” he said.
Plus, Knight said he loves bringing along his 8-year-old cocker spaniel, Bailey, along for the ride. Before Knight packed up his car, Bailey took a sniff of the rainbow trout he caught before hiding between Knight’s legs.
Father-son duo Eric and Jace Still started their day off early. Eric Still said he grew up fishing at Roaring River with his dad, and he wanted to continue the tradition with his 4-year-old son.
“We’re staying out until we get hungry,” Eric Still said. “Or until we run out of doughnuts.”
Topham and his team prepared for opening day by focusing this winter on cleaning up the river of invasive species and debris. Some of those invasive plants include mimosa, Japanese honeysuckle and tree of heaven.
“We’re trying to get all that stuff cleaned up to try to go back to more of the natural flora and fauna that’s around here,” Topham said. “This year was a hard push. It’s always been our stance to go after the invasive species that are here in all state parks and really focus on stewardship and getting back to taking care of what we actually have inside those parks.”
Both sides of the banks were opened due to their concerted efforts, he said.
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As trout season continues through to Oct. 31, Topham said the best way anglers can continue helping the river is to pick up after themselves.
“Our biggest problem is fishing line,” Topham said. “That is trash.”
Volunteers are welcome year-round at Roaring River State Park. Topham said those interested can just stop by the park office and fill out an application.
“We would love for them to walk the banks, pick up trash and fishing line,” Topham said. “The more, the merrier.”
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