Opening Day At Bennett Springs

Johnie J. Logue
Enterprise Staff
One of my best friends ever, Oliver Forth, who passed away several years ago, loved to drive down on opening day and watch the fishermen at Bennett Springs. So keeping with that spirit of adventure, I went by and picked up my friend John Taylor and away we went . 
The 45 minute drive to Bennett Springs State Park from Warsaw was enjoyable considering the nice weather on the opening day of trout season across Missouri.
Several fish were caught in the morning hours but the high murky water seemed to prevent very few lunker trout over five pounds to be weighed in at the Trading Post Store.
One man told me that he caught 26 trout in the morning hours but when the sun rose overhead then fishing was tough. 
 I talked with manager Annette Ruble and Store Clerk Judy Barnett and they said they had sold 1367 daily fishing tags up to 2:30, which was a hundred over last year at that same time of the day.
Several years ago they sold well over that on a miserable day with snow and very cold temperatures hanging around. However, the water conditions were right and the fishermen came in groves. 
Bennett Springs was originally created by Peter Bennett, who built a mill in the 1800’s In 1900, the Missouri fish commissioner introduced 40,000 mountain trout into the spring and a privately owned fish hatchery was built in 1923, the year before the state bought the spring and some of the surrounding area for a state park.
Some of my early memories of Bennett Springs were on May 30, 1969, ( Yes I googled it). A few of my buddies decided  to spend a couple of days down there fishing. I had fished there with my dad and my brother a couple of years before. 
I remember this particular trip and date  because Johnny Bench hit a three run home run off Bob Gibson in the seventh inning to tie the game. Clay Carroll, a relief pitcher, would hit the only home run of his career in the tenth off Gibson to win the game 4-3. I listened to the game on my radio with an ear plug  in my sleeping bag outside of our tent. It was dark and the game and the stars kept me company.
Well, our car, a 1957 Chevy, owned by my friend Jeff Moyle, broke down and our two day trip ended up being some four or five days. We all ran out of money but we had brought enough food with us so we were okay. I caught all of the fish but lost out on dating the pretty girl who was staying with her parents across the way.
We had no money for tags so we couldn’t fish so we played football and we got into a fist fight like usual. Well, after several days, we finally got the car started and went home in second gear.
I went back some thirty years ago and my line broke on my first cast and I spend the best time of the early minutes of fishing threading two pound line and tying on a new bait. If you have never fished there then you have missed standing out in the water in waders in the dark waiting for the morning whistle to sound. When it does, hundreds of lines are casted into the water and most of the ten inch fish that were stocked that night are usually caught in about ten minutes. Yes, it can be shoulder to shoulder at times and if you move away for any reason then somebody will have taken your spot.
Not much has changed at Bennett Springs since 1969. The fish hatchery is still about the same. They built on to the trading post some 17 years ago.
I may be wiser though because I fished on that ledge in the above picture once when guys were lined up from end to end. The only way out is to walk around the other fishermen. I wouldn’t do that again. I tried to get John Taylor to climb out there on this trip but he wouldn’t do it. I noticed the other end was covered with moss which makes it even more slippery.
Hey, if you want some good trout fishing then head on out to Bennett Springs but watch your step if you get on the ledge.