At the gunshot at 6:30 a.m., 1,465 fishing tags had been sold -- 1,230 for adults and 235 for children. The tally compared to 1,518 for the Thursday opening in 1990 and 1,871 for the Thursday opening in 2001.
The pre-dawn gloom quickly cleared as the time to start fishing neared.
Watching the spectacle was Governor Jay Nixon, making his first official visit on opening day to fire the gun. Nixon stood overlooking the water in the gazebo, from which a Missouri flag was hung. The governor fired the gun seven times to send the message loud and clear, in lieu of the siren which eventually sounded.
Quickly, the waters splashed with fish as lines were tossed into the stream. Fishing was fast and furious, and so intense, that no one came to the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce's weighing table for lunkers until after 7 a.m. First to arrive was Tom Balmas, of Monett, with a 4.5-pound catch, his biggest ever on opening day.
Fishing varied along the banks. Joe Rosenbalm, of Monett, an opening day regular, said he caught his limit twice in the first half hour and was working on catch-and-release after that. Fishing downstream, Daniel Beckwith, of Monett, caught only one in the first hour, but he was determined to stay until he had his quota.
A.J. Schroeder, of Monett, was back for his 12th opening. He spoke with the enthusiasm of a veteran fisherman.
"Good fish, beautiful weather, and they're biting great," Schroeder said, pausing briefly before returning to action.
For many, opening day is a family affair. Pam Callaway, a 1998 Monett High School graduate, was visiting from Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband, Scott, to fish with her family from Monett.
Around 2,000 fishing tags are expected to be sold by the end of day.