Sunday, February 21, 2016

How's Fishing?

Opening day is expected to be one of the best we have seen for many years.  It's anticipated that there will be 2200 anglers competing for the 7500 stocked rainbows.  All of the stocked fish are to be at least the minimum legal size of 11 inches, and most will be larger.  During the flood in December there were fish that 'self stocked' the stream.  These fish are mixed in, of course, and you may see fish of any size for a while.  This includes not only smaller than normal fish, but larger than normal fish as well. Also, because 4000 browns are mixed in, both in the stream and in the hatchery pools, please remember that a brown needs to be 15" to be kept as one of the four that can keep in a day.

The 2016 siren honor goes to a long time Bennett Spring angler, Vic Eckmann.

The pre-season meeting was held last Tuesday, the 16th of February.  I'll share some of the notes from that meeting.
The take away from the meeting is that there will be fish.  The flood was devastating, but hard work and creative management have put the stream back in business. As a result of the statewide Christmas Flood of 2015, several strategies have been put in place.  Statewide stocking of streams will be reduced by 20% in parks and 26% in urban areas.  Although there are brown trout mixed in with the rainbows, there won't be any brown trout deliberately stocked in streams for this year.  The Niangua won't be stocked at all for the first three months of the year to adjust numbers for that area.  This shouldn't noticeably affect anglers since the river was stocked with 5000 browns in November of 2015.  That, and the fish that were pushed into the river,  make it the place where a lot of fish are now.
The hatchery fingerlings and eggs were totally washed out of the hatchery building.  At the time of the flood there were approximately 400,000 potential stocking trout. These have been replaced with 750,000 from Roaring River Hatchery and Hatcheries in Wyoming and Montana. If all goes well, these fish grow at the rate of just under an inch a month so they will be large enough to stock the stream in 2017.  Again I would like to thank Ben Havens, Mike Perry, Gabe Dumond and all the staff for the hard work that they put in to get opening day 2016 ready for us to enjoy.

Several anglers have asked about gravel removal in the Spring.  At the point I am writing this, it will happen, but may be later in the year after the season is over.  The machinery needed to dredge is in high demand right now.  It's too dangerous to have it operating while people are trying to fish, so once the season starts, if it hasn't been done, it will be put off.  Please note that while you knew the stream like the back of your hand, it's not the same.  Take care wherever you fish and adjust your movements to the new bottom of the stream.

There are no rule or price changes for 2016.  One difference is the purchasing of licenses.  If at all possible, go on line and purchase your license ahead of time. The extra dollar fee to print them at home has been eliminated and all licenses are to be printed on a letter size piece of paper - no matter where you buy them - this year.  Many places that you may have purchased your license in the past have opted not to provide this service.  Fort Bennett, the Park Store, and Weaver's are the only three in this area that will continue to issue them.  The link to the website is

The trout cam was taken out by the flood.  The park has a new one and it will be installed when they can.

Hatchery and raceways - Christmas Flood 2015

Bridge - Christmas Flood 2015

Roller Dam - Christmas Flood 2015
It has been a stellar fishing weekend in the Niangua River.  The weather was perfect and there are tons of fish begging to be caught.

What's Working?
What do you like to fish with?  It's working!  Every angler that I have talked with has told me the perfect thing to use and every one of them is different.  My suggestion is to go with the classics and enjoy!

Fishing Times
March           6:30 a.m./7:30 a.m  dst           6 p.m./7 p.m .dst
April              7 a.m.                                    7:30 p.m.
May              6:30 a.m.                                8:15 p.m.
June/July        6:30 a.m.                                8:30 p.m.
August           7 a.m.                                     8 p.m.
September     7:30 a.m.                                7:15 p.m.
October         7:30 a.m.                                6:30 p.m.

Calendar of Events
March 1, 2016
Opening day for the regular fishing season.  Whistle blows at 6:30 a.m.
Bennett Spring Fire department is hosting a chili lunch from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. or until the food runs out, at the fire department at 11626 Highway 64.  A donation for the meal goes to keeping the trucks running and the lights on for the Bennett Spring Fire Department.  The department helps protect the area from fires and provides first responder services.  Everyone who provides these services is a volunteer.  We all thank you for the services you provide daily to keep us safe.

March 23rd & 24th:  Moss Cutting
April  19th & 20th:   Moss Cutting
May 7:  Kids Fishing Day
May 24th & 25th:  Moss Cutting
June 28th & 29th:  Moss Cutting
October 31st:  End of Regular Season
November 11, 2016:  Start of Catch and Release for 2016 - 2017

Water Conditions
February 21, 2016 Bennett Spring:

Gage house level is 2.01 feet
Daily Discharge levels:
All numbers are in Cubic Feet per Second
minimum was 76 in 2015
25th percentile is 117
current level is 155
Median is 180
Mean is 187
75th percentile is 233
Max was 421 in 1988

February 21, 2016 for Niangua River:

there is a problem with the gage at this site.  These numbers may not be accurate.
Gage House reading (water level) is 2.41 feet
Discharge levels in cubic feet per second:
Today's reading is 426

Weather Forecast
Monday: Partly sunny, with a high near 52. Wind chill values as low as 30 early. Northeast wind 3 to 6 mph.

Tuesday: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 48. North wind 7 to 11 mph.

Wednesday: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 45.

Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 46.

Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 48.

Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 55.

Quote of the Week
The ancients wrote of the three ages of man, I propose to write of the three ages of the fisherman - When he wants to catch all the fish he can - When he strives to catch the largest fish - When he studies to catch the most difficult fish he can find, requiring the greatest skill and most refined tackle, caring more for the sport than the fish.
Author:  Edward R. Hewitt
Published:  A Trout And Salmon Fisherman For Seventy-Five Years 1948

Welcome to 2016 and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February 10, 2016

How's Fishing?

The big question on everyone's mind, is how the winter's epic flood has affected the fishing at Bennett Spring.   I have good news for you.  The fishing has been amazing! From zone two on into the Niangua River there have been lots of good sized fish to catch.   Weather conditions (I do know that predicting two weeks out is a chancy thing at best) look optimal and the fish are begging to be caught. If we don't have a tornado or an ice storm it will definitely be the best opening day in five years!

        I am writing this on the last day of the Catch and Release Season.  I spoke recently with Ben Havens, the new hatchery manager.  We talked about the concerns of lost fish and low inventories for the coming year.
Currently there are plenty of fish waiting to be released into the stream for opening day and there will be a good supply of fish for the balance of the year.   Most of these fish will be close to 12 inches in length.
At this point, the fish needed to stock the stream are there for almost the entire coming season. The only real issue is the hours and hours of labor needed to get the hatchery back into shape.  Fish are being graded, only a couple of pools still need to be done and some pools are being re-graded to improve the quality of fish.
   Mr Havens did say that because of the stress from the flood there may be a number of fish who don't make it, or there may be other issues that come up as time goes on, but they plan to address these as they arise.

There were a lot of fingerlings and eggs that were washed out of the hatchery.  Mr. Havens stated that before the flood they had four hundred and fifty thousand eggs or trout that had just hatched that were lost.  To replace them, they were able to get seven hundred thousand eggs, almost doubling what was in the hatchery previously.  These were secured from Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery or from out-of-state hatcheries and will be ready for the 2017 season. It takes about fourteen to fifteen months for a fish to grow to stocker size, so these fish will be released in 2017.

          There have been anglers who have said that zone two is crazy with fish, but zone one has barely any.  I asked Mr. Havens about this and he said he had heard the same thing.  He went up there to look for himself and agreed with it.  Even though there was only two more weeks of catch and release, he had eight hundred fish dropped into zone one.  This guy gets it.
The entire hatchery staff has put in so many long, cold hours preparing for this opening day.  They are to be commended for their efforts!

The 2016 Trout Pre-Season Meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 16 at 6:30 pm in the Bennett Room, located at 11798 on Highway 64.  (Formerly Gaston's Tackle)
Issues discussed will include the 2016 trout fishing season, park improvements and fishing on the Niangua. This meeting is open to anyone interested in Bennett Spring State Park.  You will also have a chance to meet the new hatchery manager, Ben Havens.  If you have any questions or would like to speak with him about concerns you may have about the future of the park, his phone is 417-532-4418.  His e-mail is

Water Conditions will be updated before opening

Fishing Times

March        6:30 a.m./7:30 a.m   6 p.m./7 p.m.
April         7 a.m.                       7:30 p.m.
May           6:30 a.m.             8:15 p.m.
June/July        6:30 a.m.                   8:30 p.m.
August        7 a.m.                   8 p.m.
September 7:30 a.m.                   7:15 p.m.
October        7:30 a.m.                   6:30 p.m.

Quote of the Week

I think I fish, in part, because it's an anti-social, bohemian business that, when gone about properly, puts you forever outside the mainstream culture without actually landing you in an institution. It's a nice position. No one considers you to be dangerous, but very little is expected of you.
Author:  John Gierach
Published:  Even Brook Trout Get the Blues

Thanks for reading,