Start of the rainbow

Sunday, November 2, 2003
Ken Minner of Fruitland fly-fished for trout Saturday morning at Jackson Rotary Lake.

The first trout ever caught in Rotary Lake, and quite possibly in Cape Girardeau County, was caught by a retired man with his right arm in a sling.

Lee Roderick of Jackson, still recovering from rotator cuff surgery a little more than a week ago, didn't let that keep him away from his new favorite fishing hole on opening day.

"I've trout-fished for years," Roderick said. "I must have started 30 or 40 years ago. It's really, really nice that I can do this here. I can come over for a few minutes, an hour or all day."

Roderick, a die-hard trout fisherman, was one of about 10 anglers to take advantage of Jackson's new trout program Saturday morning.

Jackson's three-acre Rotary Lake, located at the city park, is now home to about 800 rainbow trout and is the only body of water in Southeast Missouri available to the public for trout fishing.

Area trout fishermen have been accustomed to traveling three hours west to do their trout fishing in rivers and streams in mid-Missouri. Trout have a very limited life span in certain climates because they cannot live in water warmer than 70 degrees. The temperature of Rotary Lake's water will rise into the 70s some time in May, and local officials hope there will be enough interest in trout fishing that most of the fish will be harvested by anglers before then.

Jackson is the first small town in the state to get such a program, and local officials say they believe, even though there was a low turnout Saturday, that trout fishing will become popular here.

The Missouri Conservation Department's Urban Fishing Program has been popular in Kansas City and St. Louis, said department spokesman Chris Kennedy. Since 1989, the program has stocked lakes with trout in those two metropolitan areas.

Along with Jackson, the city of Columbia has a trout-stocked public lake this year.

Louis Barone of Scott City was one of the first to try out his fly rod Saturday morning.

He arrived at about 8:30, and by 10 a.m., he had caught six fish. Barone grew up in Vermont and lived in Idaho before moving to Southeast Missouri six years ago. He hadn't used his trout gear since he moved to this area.

"I'm really into this pond," Barone said. "I'm glad they did it. This gives me my old sport back. I grew up with a fly rod in my hand."

Not everyone had as much luck as Barone.

Rick Hanna and his 11-year-old son, Jay, thought they'd try their hand at trout fishing. Rick caught a trout of about 10 inches early on, but that was all.

Hanna had never fished for trout before, but he said he does go fishing often, particularly in Illinois.

This trout was caught and released by Jim Roach at Jackson Rotary Lake Saturday.

City administrator Jim Roach traded in his tie for his ballcap and fishing gear Saturday morning. Roach was the first to bring the idea of stocking the lake with trout to parks director Shane West Anderson.

Roach reeled in quite a few fish Saturday morning, using a silver spoon lure.

"I like to trout fish, but it's just neat to see folks up here who can't get to the other spots," he said. "I enjoy seeing people fish, especially kids."

The city of Jackson and the Department of Conservation have made a five-year commitment to the program. The program costs $2,500 annually with the two entities splitting the costs. Jackson was able to get a $1,000 donation from Wal-Mart and a $500 from a local trout club to cover its costs.

Anderson said a benefit to this program is creating park-related activities for people to do in the winter season. Roach said there has been some discussion about creating an outdoor ice skating area in the park as well.

Mark Haas with the Department of Conservation said the fishing will really pick up by Feb. 1, when anglers are allowed to use live bait and keep their fish.

"They'll be able to catch them all over the place," he said. "People will be itching to do things outdoors by that time."

Roderick, the sling-wearing trout enthusiast, said he'll be back plenty of times before Feb. 1.

When asked how often he'll fish Rotary Lake, he said, "Every day the weather's decent."


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