Cold opening day for 2019 Trout Season

Photo by Shari Harris
Fishermen reserved their spots before daybreak, ready to try for a lunker.

By Shari Harris,

Co-Publisher
  The vehicle thermometer read 23 degrees at 6 a.m. at Montauk State Park on March 1st, opening day of trout season. It was 38 minutes before sunrise and the darkness helped disguise the light freezing drizzle that was still descending on vehicles, people and the roads. Drivers eased along, watching for pedestrians in the dark and searching for parking places. Trout fishers, men, women and children made their way to the river to await the signal for the opening of the 2019 Trout Season.
Photo by Shari Harris
David Nichols, left, had the honor of marking the opening of trout season. Tom Whelan, Hatchery Manager, is pictured with Nichols.
  As the predawn light filtered into the valley, final preparations were made to fishing gear and Park Staff gathered on the bridge for the traditional ceremony. David Nichols, retired Dent County conservation agent of 28 years, had the honor of heralding the start of the season by firing the opening gunshot. Fishermen wasted no time and the race was on to snag a lunker.
 
Photo by Shari Harris
Brock Harrison, Bonne Terre, is on his way to 
the lodge to weigh this 5 lb. 12 oz. beauty.
Brock Harrison of Bonne Terre was the third to get his name on the lunker board, with his 5 lb. 12 oz. rainbow trout. Harrison transported his trout to the lodge at a brisk walk or run, obviously excited with his catch. The largest lunker of the early morning hours was a 10 lb. 2 oz. rainbow trout caught by Erick Lawing of O’Fallon.
  By 7:15 a.m., 1369 adult trout tags had been sold, and 147 children’s tags. Most of those fishing were from Missouri or Illinois, but one New York license plate was spotted in the parking lot. Greg Mendenhall, operation manager at Dorman L. Steelman Lodge, reported the 48 lodging sites and 154 campsites at the park were full.
  Whether people were fishing or just watching, they seemed to withstand the freezing temperatures well. The steam rose off the water and mingled with people’s breath when they exhaled. Vehicles iced over more on the side next to the river. Children complained of being unable to move in their bundles of coats and clothing. But the smiles on faces and the stringers of trout proudly displayed were proof of the success of the day.
  Beginning in 1927, this annual tradition has only grown in size and in its impact on the surrounding economy. The Park boasts half a million attendance a year now, and 95,000 fishermen. Three campgrounds near the park, other lodging a short drive away, stores near the park and further away, and other businesses benefit both directly from those coming to the park and indirectly from those employed by the lodge, the Conservation Dept. and the Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources (roughly 80 workers).
 
Photo by Shari Harris
The steam rose off the water on this cold morning.
The popularity of the trout fishing remains strong, but other programs have gained in popularity, including the Old Mill Days, bald eagle viewing, making maple syrup, a Haunting at the Mill, and more. March 9 is the Men’s Trout Fishing Tournament and March 16 is the Ladies’ Trout Fishing Tournament. Old Mill Days are May 10-11 this year, following the Senior Citizen Trout Fishing Tournament May 9. There are events for all ages spread throughout the year, so mark your calendars now.

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