MISSOURI'S MONTAUK TROUT PARK AND MONTAUK STATE PARK
Montauk State Park near Licking is a favorite of trout fisherman across Missouri. This trout park probably has more variety than any other in the state, with reguation zones for every variety of trout fisherman. There is also a great variety of water types, from slick flowing spring creek to fast riffles and plunge pools. Also, most anglers believe trout numbers are more consistent throughout the season than the other parks.
Montauk is divided into three fishing zones. The first zone is Fly Fishing Only, Catch and Release. In this area, anglers are limited to single hooked artificial flies. A few spinning lures do qualify under the fly category, so check regulations. Also, all trout must be recent unharmed immediately. The second zone is also fly fishing only, but statewide limits apply. The third zone has no lure or bait restrictions, and also has statewide limits. From March 1- October 31, all of this water recieves a daily stocking of several hundred rainbow trout. Some browns also are stocked. During this season, fishing is open every day. The Catch and Release season runs from mid-November- mid February (Actual dates of the opening and closing of catch and release season vary each year), and fishing is open Friday-Monday. Fishing is flies only during this period.
Both fly fishing and spin fishing are effective at Montauk. Not surprisingly, the fly fishing only water is most popular with fly anglers, although other areas of the park provide good fly water as well. Glo-bugs, woolly buggers, nymphs (Copper Johns, Hare's Ear, Pheasant Tail, and Prince), and attractor dries are productive. Fish also often rise to hatches, including Blue Winged Olives, midges, Caddis, and Tricos. Spin fisherman do well we marabou jigs (usually fished under a small bobber or indicator), spinners, and spoons. Bait also works well where legal, with Powerbait and Salmon eggs usually being best.
The catch and release water at Montauk is treasured by fly fisherman. While there is only about 1/4 mile of stream and a 3 acre spring fed pond to fish, some of the largest trout in the park are caught here. Both of the streams rise from the spring water that feeds Montauk Lake. The lake itself is full of crusing rainbows, some of which are very large. These fish rise to hatches when they occur, but most of their diet is composed of underwater forage, particular scuds and small suckers. The pond is relatively deep in its middle, but the weedy water near shore usually produces the most fish. The lake is only open to fishing from the dam side. The areas where you can and cannot fish are well marked.
Montauk Lake has two outlets. The first flows directly through the dam. This flow has no official name, but fisherman refer to it as "the ditch". The pool directly below the dam is deep, and always holds plenty of rainbows. Past this point, the creek flows through a boggy flat, for several hundred yards before meeting the hatchery outflow stream. Below the initial deep pool, the water becomes slow and weedy, and the trout are very spooky. In any case, the brush makes casting extremely difficult. The other outlet flows directly into the park hatchery. After leaving the hatchery, it forms a run of a couple hundred yards. This creek is only 5 to 15 feet wide, and is extremely shallow and weedy. It's location directly below the hatchery, as well as extensive habitat improvement insures excellent fish populations. Every little pool and riffle on this creek is absolutely chalk full of trout, and the fishing looks like it would be easy. Still, these fish are heavily pressured, and they can be maddeningly hard to catch. There are quite a few brood stock fish in the three to five pound range to spice things up. Care should be taken to avoid foul hooking fish; considering the small size of this stream, and the ridiculous trout population, that's easier said than done.
Where the Hatchery Outflow and the "Ditch" come together, Montauk Spring Branch forms. The spring branch flows for several hundred yards before meeting the Current River, and it's open to Catch and Keep fishing with no bait restrictions. The water is reigned in with a series of small rock dams. This is deep water, with a current that varies from slow to non-existant. It's ideal for for anglers wanting to fish on the bottom with Powerbait or Salmon eggs, but it's difficult to fly fish. The spring branch gets pounded by fisherman during the regular season, but it's nearly deserted during the winter catch and release season. It's always produces fish, especially in the early mornings.
The other main stream in Montauk State Park begins at Montauk Springs. This is none other than the headwaters of the famed Current River. The first section of stream flows for a little over a mile from Montauk Spring down to it's confluence with Montauk Spring Branch. The regulations allow fly fishing only, but you can keep four rainbows. This run is formed from a series of totally natural riffles and pools, and it is probably the most appealing water in the park to fly fisherman. Trout numbers are always good, and this water lends itself almost perfectly to fly fisherman. Additonally, this water gets less pressure than the Catch and Release water, or the sections of stream that are open to bait fisherman. This is really classic trout water, and even fisherman who make it a rule not to fish trout parks will sometimes make an exception to fish here. Dry fly fishing can be very good during hatches, but nymph fishing is the rule.
Just above the junction of Montauk Spring Branch with the Current River, the stream flows over a small mill dam. Below the mill dam, downstream for about 2 miles, the river is open to all baits and lures. Like the fly water above, this is a mostly natural profusion of riffles and pools. There is water in this part of the river that lends itself very well to fly fisherman, but most people bait fish. All of this water is stocked heavily, and it usually produces plenty of fish. The stretch of stream at Montauk Campground is especially interesting and productive, with some boulder strewn pocket water and deep pools. Downstream a distance from the campground, the river flows out of Montauk State Park, into Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The water below the park is managed under Blue Ribbon regulations, and it produces plenty of trophy browns and rainbows.
Flys, Baits, and Lures
Descriptions of the successful techniques and baits are also in order. Fly fishing and spin fishing are about equally popular in the park, and we'll discuss both.
Nymph fishing is one of the most popular ways to fish Montauk, especially in the fly- only area. Most people fish nymphs under indicators, and 4-7 feet of leader (preferable flourocarbon tapering to 4x-6x) between the indicator and fly. A leader of 10 feet in total is about right for most situations, although you can get away with significantly less much of the time. Popular nymphs include Prince, Hare's Ear, Pheasant Tails, Scuds, Egg Patterns, San Juan Worms, and Woolly Buggers. Beadhead flies are always preferred. Some may object to me referring to eggs, scuds, San Juans, and Woolly Buggers as nymphs, but they are successfully fished under indicators just like the others, and therefore are fished as nymphs. The regular nymphs and scuds should be #14-#18, while Woollies can be #8 or #10. It seems like the two go to flies at the park are Orange Eggs and Olive Woolly Buggers. When everything else seems to fail, these flies almost always take a few trout.
Fish also rise to dry flies on a regular basis. During winter catch and release, Blue Winged Olives and midges both hatch during the afternoon. During the warm months, it's all about Caddis and tiny Tricos. Fish can also be caught quite often on attractor dries, including Royal Wullfs, and Coachmens. Terrestrials including ants and hoppers are always effective on summer afternoons. The Catch and Release area is especially reknowned for its excellent terrestial fishing.
Spin fishing is popular also. The fly fishing area is popular with spin fisherman who like to use small (1/32 or 1/64 ounce) Marabou jigs in white, black, or olive. Despite what some will tell you, this is perfectly legal. Some fish these under a small bobber or indicator, while others fish them on a free line. Bait fishing is very popular where legal, with Powerbait, corn, and various other grocery store baits doing well most of the time. These are generally fished on the bottom on a very small hook.
Whatever variety of trout fishing you enjoy the most, Montauk State Park can provide you with some enjoyable fishing. This is a very special stream, and its worthy of every anglers attention.