MONROE CITY, Mo. -- Fishing and outdoor activities at Mark Twain Lake have been going strong this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic that has limited indoor entertainment.
"Outdoor activities have probably had a boost due to COVID-19," said Cannon Dam General Store and Cabins owner Kurt Meyer. "Fishing, camping and boating have been very strong. People are coming to outdoor activities since a lot of indoor activities are canceled."
Boat ramps operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Mark Twain Lake opened up in early May and the lake has seen an increase in visitors fishing since then. Boat ramps operated by Missouri State Parks have not closed at any point during the pandemic.
Indian Creek Marina operations manager and owner Suzanne Quigley said weekday traffic has picked up and there have been quite a few people out on the weekends. Quigley, whose family opened Indian Creek Marina more than 35 years ago, said recreational boaters represent the majority of visitors to Mark Twain Lake as the summer ?season gets into full swing.
"The catfish has been good and the crappie are kind of hit and miss, but they are much bigger than I've seen in the past as far as quality of fish coming out of this lake," Quigley said.
Besides fishing, Indian Creek Marina has seen an increase in rental boats and recreational boating, such as tubing and wave-boarding.
"I don't see quite as many fishermen as we do in the spring or the fall, but that's kind of typical," Quigley said. "Our rental business is way up for those who don't have a boat. They can't go on vacation because of the virus, so they are renting boats and going out for the day."
Although Mark Twain Lake has avoided flooding issues this year, the lake level sits at 617.8 feet, about 7 feet above the normal pool.
The elevated lake level has also delayed the opening of the public beach area at Mark Twain Lake.
"The lake level being down does not affect the fishing, the lake level changing affects the fishing," Meyer said. "So when you get a heavy rain at Mark Twain Lake, for every foot of water it goes up, it takes two days to take about one foot of water off the lake."
Meyer said the lake level has still been lower than it has been in previous years.
"The primary purpose of Mark Twain Lake is flood control, so we are going to hold that water back at Mark Twain to avoid flooding on the Mississippi River and also on the lower Salt River basin around New London and Louisiana," Meyer said. "There's lots of farmland that would be impacted if it wasn't for the presence of the dam and the lake to hold back the water."
Despite all of this, Meyer has seen an increase in cabin rentals and purchases from Cabin Dam General Store & Cabins this year.
He sees quite a few fishermen come into store on an everyday basis.
"Primarily crappie fishing is what people do here and many crappie fishermen still have quite a bit of success," Meyer said. "Usually they fish with minnows. Crappie this year have been larger than average, so that's one of the positive aspects of 2020."
Quigley said she also has seen an increase in visitors of all ages, especially families.
"We draw mostly from the St. Louis area and we have seen a lot of Illinois folks coming over," she said.