I recently went to Montauk state park for the first time. I was a little reluctant to go, mostly because my father told me stories of going there with his father and people lining the banks elbow to elbow fishing. I have to say, that was a pretty accurate description, though it was still worth it.
According to the extremely helpful binder of information the park provides to guests in the lodge rooms: the park was acquired in 1926, and the natural cold water springs on the park grounds form the head waters of the Current river. I went to some of these springs, and it is rather amazing to watch the water bubble up from the bottoms and reminded me very much of the Kitch Iti Kipi Springs in the Upper peninsula of Michigan. The springs at Montauk have a several million gallon daily flow of very cold crystal clear water.
This cold water allows for the introduction and now “wild” population of trout, which normally only live in the north. That is what drew us to Montauk. My husband is an avid fly fisherman, and his physical therapist has been encouraging him to fish as much as possible to help his injury heal.
I have tried to fly fish several times over the years. My mother, that is barely 5 feet tall, was an avid fly fisher, as was her father. I recall when I was very young her trying to teach me a very exaggerated cast (when you are that small, you need an exaggerated cast) and I never really got it. I tried again a few years ago when my husband picked up the hobby. I managed to catch my ear, a park bench, my husband, grass, leaves, and the tackle box. I don’t give many things up quickly, but I dropped that like a hot rock the same day I tried. My husband makes it look easy.
Montauk has one of several Missouri trout hatcheries. They regularly release farmed fry into the Current River to go, frolic, live, die, or get caught. I have to say it was rather overwhelming to walk up to the river and see trout hanging out.. like Blue Gill. Just chilling, waiting to steal your bait.
Fishing is divided into sections; some are fly fishing only, some are fishing with artificial lures only, some are artificial or natural lures. The area nearest the springs (which are brutally cold!) are fly fishing only, and I cannot stress this enough, don’t show up with a spin reel unless you want someone to “accidently” cast their fly line right into you. I saw it happen. I may have made it happen. I plead the fifth.
Further downstream are the areas designated for artificial lures, or any of the above. As far as artificial lures, I saw them going after (of all things) neon orange Powerbait worms like crazy. They couldn’t get enough of them! In the way of “natural” lures, they love the hell out of red salmon eggs and cheese bait. Some old guy and his family was catching monsters on really stinky cheese bait. An adorable little boy with the most innocent stream of conscious prattle was using dough bait. He caught a lot less than he lost, but it still worked. Next time, I’m going to try an array of baits to see what they bite on.
The hatchery and rearing tanks are pretty cool to go check out, as are the hiking trails. There is a nice one that goes around the springs, and past the hatchery. If you aren’t into fishing, or you are and your friends/family/children/roommate etc. isn’t, they can go for a walk. I personally have become a trout fishing addict, and it took one whole trip to Montauk.
The park has camping (with basic and RV hookups) as well as a vintage Route 66 style motel. I wonder if it wasn’t built in the late 40’s from the styling. There is a restaurant, an ice cream counter, and a general/tackle store. Some of the items purchased, such as daily tags and the like had to be paid in cash, but not to worry, there was an ATM onsite. It can be an all inclusive trip if you want it to be.
The next few weekends before the end of the catch season (October 31st, then it is catch and release only until spring) I hope to check out some of the other cold water springs that support trout populations. It is a long drive for me, but there is nothing like it in the state I live in. We all make sacrifices for living. I definitely recommend it for a trip!