Trout fishing continues at Bennett Spring State Park, despite construction at MDC hatchery

News from the region
Published Date

LEBANON, Mo. – Construction and fishing have proven to be compatible this summer at Bennett Spring State Park.

The construction-related signs and the sounds of heavy machinery at Bennett Spring are definite indicators that the multi-year renovation of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) fish hatchery at this popular state park are underway. However, there are also signs that trout fishing – one of the park’s most popular pastimes – also is going strong. Through the end of June, more than 60,000 trout tags have been issued to anglers to fish for the more than 120,000 trout that have been stocked at the park thus far this year.

“This year, the fishing at Bennett Spring has been great,” said Ben Havens, the manager at MDC’s Bennett Spring Hatchery. “The weather and water conditions have been very favorable for fishing and many anglers have had great success during their visit to the park.”

The construction underway that park visitors have undoubtedly noticed is a $40 million renovation of the MDC hatchery at Bennett. This project includes a new intake structure, reconstruction of the raceways, a new office, water quality improvements, and other upgrades and refurbishments that will improve fish production capability and site resiliency. Cahills Construction of Rolla is the contractor for this project.

A big reason fishing and construction have been co-existing at Bennett Spring this summer is because of the connectivity of MDC’s cold-water hatchery system. Bennett Spring Hatchery normally produces up to 450,000 trout annually from egg to fingerling size and stocks 325,000 in the park’s waters each year. The reason there are still trout to catch at Bennett Spring – despite the reduction in fish production at the hatchery – is that MDC’s other cold-water hatcheries in the state have picked up the slack. The bulk of the trout for this summer’s fishing has come from MDC’s Montauk Hatchery (Dent County), from MDC’s Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery (Taney County), and from privately owned hatcheries.

Stocking of the stream within park boundaries does not occur each evening (which was the stocking schedule before construction started), but MDC staff still stocks the stream several times each week. Though the frequency of stockings at Bennett has changed, the total number of trout stocked at the park each week has not changed. Numbers of fish stocked are posted in the Bennett Spring Park Store.

“To the best of our ability, we’re trying to maintain a regular stocking schedule and provide all the other angler amenities that make Bennett such a special fishing destination for thousands of people each year,” said MDC Hatchery Systems Manager Clint Hale. “Most importantly, we appreciate the public’s patience with this project. We know the park they’re seeing this summer is different than the one that trout anglers have enjoyed for generations. However, this renovation project will help MDC provide Bennett anglers with a quality fishing experience for many years to come.”

The significant economic impact that trout fishing has on Missouri is exemplified at Bennett Spring. Approximately 450,000 fish are produced at the park each year. This stocking activity creates fishing activity, which has a large economic ripple effect in the form of money that gets spent in the area on meals, lodging, gas, etc.

However, Bennett Spring is more than just a fishing location. Many families also enjoy walking along the raceways viewing the trout being raised to stocking size. Havens will also be glad when the fish-viewing aspect of Bennett Spring returns.

“Bennett Spring offers many people a wonderful opportunity to fish and enjoy the outdoors,” he said. “The investment in improving the hatchery today will allow us to continue to provide great opportunities for years to come.”.