The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 22, 2014

VIDEO: Science, nature and luck needed to raise 250,000 trout for season

CASSVILLE, Mo. — It begins with a bucket full of eggs the color of a school bus and ends with a quick tug on the line and a flash of silver beneath the surface.

In between is nature, science, math, a bit of luck and a human-led process that is as cyclical as the seasons.

For Missouri Department of Conservation hatchery manager Paul Spurgeon, assistant manager Brad Farwell and resource assistant Dustin Back, raising rainbow trout at Roaring River State Park is as routine for them as writing stories is for a journalist.

Last year, they invited me to join them in raising the fish that will be released for anglers this year.

“We produce 250,000 trout per season,” said Spurgeon. “It’s a conveyor belt of fish, and there are a lot of variables that can get in the way and shut the whole thing down.”

Spurgeon has been with the Missouri Department of Conservation for 28 years, the past four at Roaring River.

Farwell, a native of Cassville, grew up fishing at Roaring River from the time he was knee-high. He started working at the hatchery full time in 2010.

“I fish here whenever I can. When I hook one I think it’s pretty funny that I’ve probably handled that same fish 10 or 12 times over its lifetime,” he said.

Back, a resource assistant who started at the hatchery in 2011, is from Galena, Kan., and frequently fishes in bass tournaments on nearby Table Rock Lake. He also serves as the volunteer coordinator at Roaring River.

As for me, I had been angling at the park with my family each year going on 14 years when one day a trout ended up on my dinner plate and I wondered aloud, “How did that get here? I mean, how did it really get there?”

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