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Missouri hatchery fishing program bags Governor’s Award

January 31, 2020  By Hatchery International staff

MDC director Sara Parker Pauley (far right) poses with Governor Mike Parson (center), Drew Erdmann with the Missouri Office of Administration (behind Pauley), and the staff of Roaring River Fish Hatchery after receiving their Award for Innovation for the hatchery’s unique fishing program.

The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Roaring River Fish Hatchery, near Cassville, Missouri, has received the Governor’s Award for Quality and Productivity for its “unique” fishing initiative called the First Hole Program.

The program won in the Innovation category. Roaring River staff started the First Hole Program to give veterans, children, the elderly, and those with disabilities a chance to discover nature through fishing. Staff wanted to provide an opportunity for those who don’t typically fish the chance to do so. Roaring River is the only facility in Missouri to offer such a program.

“Our Roaring River team helps thousands of new anglers discover nature each year through this special and unique offering,” said MDC Roaring River hatchery manager Paul Spurgeon. Participants are taught fishing basics at the first of 33 fishing holes that comprise Roaring River State Park’s trout fishing area.

“The ‘First Hole’ is located immediately below the fish hatchery, so it’s an ideal place to fish for first-time anglers because the trout congregate in the pool of water,” explained Spurgeon. “The hole also features a ramped fishing pier, making it accessible for a wide variety of anglers. And hatchery staff and volunteers are readily available and eager to teach groups about trout fishing.”


The daily trout tag and fishing permits for First Hole Program participants are waived. All equipment, including poles, bait and nets, are provided free of charge. Participants can work on casting, line tying, baiting, and safe fish handling with the instruction of Roaring River staff and volunteers. Anglers can even keep up to four trout they catch.

“I am so proud of this MDC team for their innovation in connecting people of all ages and abilities with the outdoors,” said MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley. “This is the heart of our conservation story and success in Missouri – that we are all on the same team working together to push conservation forward and connect people with nature.”

The First Hole Program has reached more than 4,000 people annually. Participants as far away as Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield travel to Cassville to wet a line and discover the joy of trout fishing.





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