Managing lake fits Hudson well

Steve Hudson?s job might be the closest thing to a vacation any man could hope for.

The past four years Hudson has served as superintendent of the Marion County Park and Lake.

?It fits my personality and my lifestyle really well,? Hudson said. ?I really enjoy the outdoors.?

That news should not be surprising, considering that Hudson was born and raised in Idaho Springs, Colo., a small tourist town. His love for fishing and the outdoors was nurtured from an early age.

?I started out with my dad,? Hudson said. ?Sometimes on camping trips we?d travel all over the Western states, fishing different spots.

?Those are some of my fondest memories.?

Hudson said when he was living in Colorado he usually hiked the upper-elevation lakes above timberline in pursuit of fly fishing.

Marion County Lake offers fly fishing as well as other fishing specialities.

?There?s all kinds of great fishing?trout fishing, bass fishing, catfish fishing,? Hudson said.

The lake is home to several varieties of fish, including saugeye, walleye, wipers, channel cat, flathead, white crappie, white bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, drum, perch and bluegill.

?I think that we still own the state record for the largest white bass,? he said, which is a 4.44-pound fish caught in 2008.

?A lot of people still think you have to pay a county permit to fish here, but all you have to have now is a state fishing license?and that?s free,? Hud?son said.

The rule requiring a county fishing permit was lifted in 2005.

The lake does have size limits for the fish that are caught.

?Basically anything over 12 inches you can keep, except for channel catfish, which is 15,? he said.

A unique feature of the lake is its heated dock, which is one of the best in the state, according to Hudson.

?You can fish in the heated dock year-round, 24/7,? he said. ?In the winter you can actually fish here in a t-shirt.?

Every year the lake hosts a crappie tournament at the heated dock, the proceeds of which go to maintain the dock.

?Every hour, we tell everyone to rotate, kind of like musical chairs,? he said. Participants have to move 10 feet from their spot and not return to a place they?ve already fished.

?That way no one just sits on a honeyhole,? he said.

The lake boasts other opportunities as well, if fishing is not your style.

The Civil Conservation Corps, part of Franklin Roosevelt?s jobs initiative during the Great Depression, built Marion County Lake. Many of the original structures remain.

?They were getting paid a dollar a day,? Hudson said of the CCC workers. ?And they worked hard.?

Hudson said the lake has a museum open to the public and a self-guided tour to several of the old buildings and sites.

The lake is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In addition to luring history buffs, Hudson said the lake hosts annual events to benefit lake maintenance.

?The special events we have, the bluegrass festival and the chili cook-off, those are always enjoyable to me,? Hudson said.

This year?s bluegrass festival, from 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. June 18 and is free to the public because sponsors cover the expenses.

Hudson said the festival will be adding a new twist this year: a drawing for lanterns and other camping supplies.

Beyond the occasional special event, area residents find the lake to be a nice spot for a mini-vacation or day away.

At the same time, Hudson said there could be just as many area residents who don?t know about the lake.

?During the major holidays, with the exception of Labor Day, we only get 50 percent capacity as far as our hook-ups go,? he said. ?So it?s kind of the hidden gem.

?I see a lot of people who live out of town who frequent the lake. This is their spot where they go on their holidays and they?ve got their own specific little area they go to. They get set up and they?re there all weekend long.?

Hudson said he takes pride in keeping the lake clean and orderly. He suspects he?s not the only one.

?I think a lot of the lake residents, and even the people who come out here and visit, I think they take pride in it, too.?

Hudson has had good times of his own at the lake.

?The best day of fishing I ever had here, my father and I caught over 100 white bass in two hours,? he said. ?Just one after the other. It was raining white bass, they were just popping out of the water.?

He said the fish were averaging in size from 14 to 18 inches.

?That?s one of my fondest memories out here.?

Hudson said the most unusual part of his job is responding to the strange questions he gets asked.

?Some of the questions I get asked out here are just phenomenal,? he said.

For example, Hudson said a person will call him and ask how much it rained so he knows whether to water his lawn.

?Four o?clock this morning I get a phone call from somebody wanting to make reservations for a cabin spot?and we don?t take reservations,? Hudson said.

Hudson said the caller?s first words were, ?Oh, you?re open.?

His response?

?No, I?m answering because I thought it was an emergency.?

Beyond the early-morning calls, Hudson said he really enjoys his job.

?With this job, I sit here and watch somebody on vacation come through that door with a smile on their face,? he said. ?It makes a world of difference.

It?s like a vacation for me too.?

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