March 25 Bennett Spring public meeting to provide update on MDC plans for hatchery renovation and trout management

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LEBANON, Mo. – For many anglers who enjoy catching trout at Bennett Spring State Park, this spring’s fishing conversations have focused more on hatchery renovation plans and construction timelines than on lure selection and fishing spots.

People interested in learning how hatchery renovation will affect fishing at Bennett Spring this year and in future years should plan to attend a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) public meeting at 6 p.m., March 25 in the Bennett Room, which is located just east of Bennett Spring State Park on Missouri Highway 64. The address is 11798 MO-64, Lebanon. MDC staff will provide updates on the multi-million renovation project currently underway at MDC’s Bennett Spring Hatchery. They will discuss how construction on this multi-year project will impact fishing at the park and will also provide an update on Bennett’s trout management plans.

“I am excited about this investment in the future of Missouri trout fishing that this hatchery renovation brings to Bennett Spring,” said MDC Bennett Spring Hatchery Manager Ben Havens. “I look forward to discussing all the great things awaiting us in the future.”

This project will be advertised to contractors and put out for bid this spring. Construction is slated to begin later this year. Improvements that will be made to the hatchery include a new intake structure, reconstruction of some raceways, piping improvements, and other upgrades that will allow the hatchery to better maintain operations during flooding events and will improve fish production capability. Upgrades will also be made to the MDC hatchery office, the shop, and feed storage facilities.

“Bennett Spring Hatchery has a long history of raising fish for the anglers of Missouri and this renovation will bring great improvement to our aging buildings and equipment,” Havens said.

During the project that is scheduled to take approximately two years to complete, fish production at the Bennett Spring Hatchery will be disrupted and visitors will notice some of the raceways empty and dry while construction activities are taking place. Existing fish will be moved to MDC hatcheries at Shepherd of the Hills, Montauk State Park, and Roaring River State Park. Though Bennett Spring Hatchery’s annual fish production numbers will drop from normal levels to near zero while it's being renovated, fishing will continue at the park with no interruption. Trout from MDC’s other hatcheries will be transported to the park to support stocking activities throughout the year.

In recent years, MDC has conducted a variety of construction projects at the agency’s coldwater hatcheries, including major renovations at Roaring River Hatchery which were completed in 2021. These are much-needed improvements to aging infrastructure.

A facility the size of Bennett Spring Hatchery, which produces approximately 250,000 trout per year, cannot be taken out of production without impacting trout inventory numbers in MDC’s coldwater hatchery system. Hatchery staff across the state will be working to manage inventory levels and provide anglers with the best possible angling experience this year. There will be fish available at the hatchery for nightly stockings throughout the summer season.

In addition to recreational pleasures, the trout produced at the Bennett Spring Hatchery also provide economic benefits. Consider the 140,000 people who fish at Bennett Spring each year, the thousands of visitors the park gets, and the economic ripple effect all this activity generates in terms of money spent on meals, lodging, gas, etc. Data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that money spent on trout fishing in Missouri generates more than $187 million in economic impact each year.

Trout fishing at Bennett Spring has a history dating back to early 1900s. Currently, MDC manages the hatchery and trout fishing at Bennett Spring State Park. The state park facilities are managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.