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Trout Talk Opening Day

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Behind the counter at Bennett Spring Page 5

April 2018


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OPENING DAY About 1,300 anglers tried their luck at Bennett Spring State Park on March 1


Trout Talk photo/Steve Smith

nglers turned out arch for an annual tradition, the first day of trout season at Bennett Spring State Park. It was a bit chilly early on, but that didn’t seem to bother the fishermen and fisherwomen gathered along the banks. As of a.m. Thursday , adult daily trout tags and youth pages had been sold at the Bennett Spring State Park Store. Some of the anglers said family and tradition played a role in their enthusiasm for the opening day to trout season. The season opened at a.m. arch and runs until ct. . lint c rath of St. ouis said his family his been coming out for the opening of trout season for years. “I’ve been coming since I was five, I’ve been coming on opening day for about years,” he said. He seemed to be having good luck reeling in trout and c rath said being from a fishing family may have had something to do with that. “I was taught well by my family,” c rath said. “ y uncle, my dad, my grandpa taught them.” Sean Viau of House Springs, o. said he hadn’t been participating in opening day that long, but thinks he will be from now on. “I come out here with a group of friends and we’ve been coming out for about years,” Viau said. “ e just like the excitement and energy of opening day.” “I’m actually kind of a newcomer to this, but the group I came with, some of the guys having been coming here for years, but it’s neat tradition and I think I’ll want to continue to do it,” Viau said. ike Hunter of verland ark, an., said he looked forward to getting outside as the winter season winds down. “I love to y fish and its the opening of the season, I like being a part of the tradition,” Hunter said. “ y father and step father and friends are here as well, every year.”

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An angler pulls his catch out of the stream on Opening Day.


PAGE 4 THE LEBANON DAILY RECORD TROUT TALK APRIL 2018 “I like being outside and it’s a first sign of spring as well,” he said. “I get cabin fever after being in all winter long and it’s time to get out and have some fun.” awrence Harman of olumbia said he has been coming out for opening day or years with a group of friends and relatives. “It is a good time, with friends and relatives my son’s here,” said Harman. aily trout tags are reuired to fish on the spring branch and ones are set aside for different kinds of lures. Tags are available for sales at the Bennett Spring ark Store. The park store also offers fly fishing lessons. or more information, call or see the website,



Behind the counter at Bennett Retirees Vic and Sue Eckmann have been working at the park store for a decade hen Vic and Sue Eckmann retired to Bennett Spring over 18 years ago from Vic’s Collinsville Ill., they never imagined they would become two of the best known public faces of their new home but that is exactly what has happened. As employees of Jim and Carmen Rogers, Bennett Spring’s park concessionaires since 1980, they are the folks behind the cash registers, making those cabin reservations, helping fishermen, young and old, men, and women, find everything from the right lure to the best fitting pair of waders to a great hot dog to just the perfect T-shirt or hat to remember their visit to Missouri’s most famous trout fishing mecca. Vic’s first trip to Bennett Spring was as a freshman in high school in the 1950s and as they say in every great fishing story, after that, he was hooked. And for his first many years as an actual resident of the area, Vic was a trout hatchery worker, helping to raise the famous fish. He has now been with the store 10 years. “The greatest part of this job,” he confided, “is getting to help the young people learn to fish. The old guys, they already know it all or like me, they think they do.” He laughed. And like all experienced fisherman he has great stories. “This lady comes in to the store, her first time here and she’s complaining she can’t catch anything. Well, what do you say? I told her, you ain’t holding your mouth right. She looked at me funny so I told her again and I hold out my can of Skoal and say ‘Here.’ And so she says, ‘Could I have a pinch? I’m willing to try this.’ So I say, sure, she takes

a little and off she goes. She comes back later that afternoon and says, ‘I caught my limit! I gagged a lot but I caught ‘em all!’” Vic’s hearty laughter punctuated his story. “I figured she’d just spit it out as fast as she left the store but she said no, she held on to it. I asked her if she needed a can of to take with her when she left and she smiled and said, ‘no, I’ll just come by and borrow a pinch from you!’ Of course, I didn’t have the heart to tell her the tobacco didn’t have a thing to do with her fishing success but the important part is she left that day, happy with her trip to Bennett Spring!” “What we really want people to know these days is that Bennett Spring is a family park,” Sue Eckmann picked up the narrative. “A lot of folks still think of this park as strictly trout fishing but it is so much more than that. We have trails, picnic areas, a big outdoor swimming pool in the summer, a store full of fishing-themed goodies, but also jewelry, decorative signage, and cups of all kinds. I know one area lady who has come here and bought several sets of our fancier ceramic Bennett Spring cups as wedding gifts for her kids’ friends as they got married. We have fun shirts and hats, and stuff for the kids to enjoy and keep them busy on the drive home, whether it’s to Lebanon, Buffalo or Springfield, Iowa, Kansas or New York.” Sue brought her retail experience of years at K-Mart, Sears and Dairy Queen to the operation of the park store when she hired on and that has provided a sound foundation for her many years of successful customer service.

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Trout Talk photo/Laura Valenti

Vic and Sue Eckmann pose for a picture at the Bennett Spring State Park entrance sign.

PAGE 6 THE LEBANON DAILY RECORD TROUT TALK APRIL 2018 She and Vic are two of approximately 15 employees who keep the store open seven days a week during the regular trout season, March 1 through October 31 and then on weekends during the Catch and Release season, the second weekend of November through the second weekend of February. They will be opening the store on February 28 and be open for the next full 24 hours for the official upcoming 2018 Opening Day of Trout Season which begins March 1. Vic and Sue are both highly skilled woodcarvers and make delightful treasurers that also turn up at the park store on occasion. “I don’t have any in the store right now,” Vic concluded. “We sold them all!” “Of course, the very best part of this is meeting the people,” Sue continued. “Every year for the last couple of years, I think this is going to be my last year but then it comes and I start checking people in….” her voice trailed off for a moment. “And then of course, I’m dropping in here, even on my days off, to check on my customers. And they know I’ll be coming around to check on them, too. This is like family now. And that is the most wonderful part. How many people get to work in a place where everyone has a smile on their face? When people come in to the park store, they are smiling and when they leave, we make certain that smile is even bigger.” Vic and Sue Eckmann have been married for 28 years. He has three sons and she has three daughters and between them, they have nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, all of whom still reside in Illinois. The residents and visitors to Bennett Spring have been blessed by the presence of these grandparents for many years now and are hoping for many, many more.

Trout Talk photos/Laura Valenti

Above, Sue Eckmann stands behind the register at the Bennett Spring Park store. Right, Vic Eckmann, a renowned local woodcarver and artist, shows off a couple of his latest creation.


Meet the rainbow trout MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION Species: Rainbow trout Scientific name: Oncorhynchus mykiss Claim to fame: ainbow trout are a popular sportfish in issouri. Studies have shown trout fishing in the state provides a multi million dollar benefit to the state’s economy each year. issouri’s current trout program consists of Lake Taneycomo, four trout parks, 20 trout management areas and winter trout fisheries in urban lakes in St. Louis and Kansas City. Virtually all of these areas and opportunities are sustained by stockings from Missouri Department of Conservation hatcheries. The Department stocks more than 1.5 million trout annually in the state. Species status: Rainbow trout are not native to Missouri, but were first imported here in the s. The rainbow trout’s native range stretches along the acific Coast from Alaska to northern Mexico. First discovered The first scientific description of the fish was written by ussian naturalist ohann ulius

albaum in the th century. Family matters: ainbow trout belong to the salmonidae family of fish. This family includes several species high in angling popularity such as brown trout, salmon, char and whitefish. Length: The average length is to inches, but longer lengths have been reported. Diet: Aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, snails and small fish make up the bulk of a rainbow trout’s diet. There is some variance based upon local availability of food. Weight: ost adult rainbows caught in issouri range in weight from under one pound to one and one half pounds, but they can grow larger. Distinguishing characteristics: The upper parts of a rainbow’s body are dark olive and thickly speckled with black spots. f course, the tell tale sign of a rainbow is the pinkish to pinkish red stripe that runs the length of the body on both sides. Life span: Rainbow trout have been reported to live up to 11 years in some parts of the country.

Habitat: ithin their natural range, rainbow trout inhabit streams, naturally occurring lakes and reservoirs. Trout do best in waters that generally remain below degrees . In issouri, suitable trout habitat is limited to approximately miles of arks spring branches and spring fed streams and the , acre coldwater reservoir of Lake Taneycomo. Life cycle: Most of the trout in Missouri waters come from hatchery-raised brood-stock, with the few exceptions of some areas where conditions are suitable for some trout spawning to occur. In parts of the continent where trout reproduce in the wild, spawning occurs from early winter to late spring, depending on local conditions. ggs are laid by the female in a shallow pit dug by the female on clean, gravelly rif es. The female resumes digging upstream and the eggs are covered by gravel carried down by the current. o parental care is provided to the eggs, which are dependent on oxygen present in the water percolating through the gravel. ggs hatch in about days and the fry remain in the gravel until the yolk sac is absorbed.


A walk in the park

There’s a lot more to do at Bennett Spring State Park than fish for trout Each month Trout Talk features a different trail at Bennett Spring State Park. This month we take a look at the Whistle Trail, which is named for the low-water bridge that connects the main park to the picnic area. The bridge is so named because of the large tubes that resemble whistles through which the stream water flows. The trail runs along the stream branch most of the time, but allows access to some bluff tops as well. At the south end, the trail overlaps with Forrest Trail. Whistle Trail divides at the south end of the bluffs, with one side of the trail traveling along the top of the bluff and the other along the base and next to the water. After these two trails reconnect at the north, the trail ascends a steep bluff and then gradually descends toward the picnic area to the north of Whistle Bridge. A short travel through the parking area of the picnic area leads to the continuation of the trail. Traveling north on this section leads through a bottomland area and then hugs the bottom of steep hillsides until connecting at the north end with a parking area near the Niangua River. A bridge at the north end allows for an alternative loop that returns on the linear trail. Several areas along the trail offer good overlooks to the valley. Much of the tread is narrow, rocky and can be slippery when wet. The trail ascending and descending the bluffs can be treacherous under wet conditions. Only daytime activities are now allowed in the area. Portions of the trail are inaccessible during high water. The length of the trail is one mile with an estimated hiking time of 45 minutes one way. The north trailhead is is off of Bramwell entrance road at the bottom of the hill.

Whistle Trail Length: 1 mile Estimated time: 45 mintues Map courtesy of Missouri State Parks


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A GREAT HONOR Skip Nichols, 81, was chosen to kick off Opening Day 2018 at Bennett Spring DELEVAN OGLE ◆ FOR TROUT TALK

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Skip Nichols, a longtime Bennett Spring State Park visitor, had the honor of sounding the siren on March 1 to signal the beginning of trout season. It was at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s pre-season informative meeting in February, where BSSP Hatchery Manager Ben Haven announced to a much surprised Nichols that he had been chosen the “whistle blower.”

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Trout Talk photo/Delevan Ogle

Skip Nichols shows off his hole-in-one score card at his home near Bennett Spring. Nichols, 81, of Lebanon, was chosen as the 2018 Opening Day whistleblower.

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With such a variety of activities to offer, Lebanon is the perfect neighbor to Bennett Spring State Park. We invite you to come visit our many restaurants, many recreational activities, and local shops with a variety of services and products to offer.


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Bennett Spring State Park Hatchery Manager Ben Havens congratulates Skip Nichols for being selected as the 2018 siren ringer at the park’s annual meeting, which was held at The Bennett Room. Day, so he borrowed his mother ’s car and drove from the St. Louis area by himself to Bennett Spring State Park. “I think I even pulled over and snoozed a bit on my way down,” Nichols said. He went on to explain the trip from Kirkwood on Route 66 took a little longer than the twoand-a-half hours on Interstate 44 today. As Nichols became a high school graduate, his grandfather left him funds for college, but only three years’ worth of funds to try and obtain a four-year degree. He enrolled at Westminster College in Fulton and finished the three years. However, another issue would com-

plicate things: World War II and the draft. “I couldn’t qualify for federal assistance of any kind, and they didn’t have all the lending programs back then they have today — and the government knew that after my three years of school I was done and my status of deferment as a student changed. I lost (it),” he said. A few of Nichols’ buddies were in similar situations, and they all decided to join by their own volition. They joined Missouri’s National Guard near St. Louis and spent much of the time in combat training. Nichols was stationed first at Fort Leonard Wood for basic training and then Monterey, Calif., he said.

After his service, Nichols headed back to the Kirkwood area and became a shoe salesman at Thom McCann. “It was a great job for me,” he said. “We sold men’s, women’s and children’s shoes. They were a big company.” Nichols admitted he would take much of his earnings selling shoes to a piano bar to see a young woman. He said the money was well spent for he married Patricia and had sons who were reared to camp and fish — the family tradition. But he did not bring his new bride to the area until their honeymoon in their early 20s.

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Nichols, now 81, told Trout Talk his fondness for the Lebanon area and Bennett Spring began many years ago, when he was 12 and his father and brothers decided to drive down to Bennett Spring for the Opening Day ceremony back in 1937. His father had enough of the Opening Day festivities and large crowds after taking his boys to their first Opening Day, according to Nichols, but the Nichols family visited the park several times over the years, growing their love affair with trout, streams and these Ozark hills. When Skip Nichols turned 16, he wanted to go to another Opening


“How about this, I know a place that we can go that is really nice,” he said to his wife. “So I called Bramwells where we always stayed with my parents when we went down there … it was down by the (Niangua River).” Not having much money to travel too far away from the St. Louis area, the Nichols stayed at the park. “I didn’t even bring any fishing equipment,” he said. Yet it was on that honeymoon where Skip would rent some equipment, even the waders, and taught his wife to fish. She loved the area, Lebanon, The Lake of the arks, Springfield along with the scenic beauty of the Bennett Spring area, he said. As the family grew, he carried on the tradition. In 1975, the Lebanon Daily Record came down for an opening day picture of the Nichols with camp set up in a good spring snow. Shortly after that, ichols finished up with a career as a pharmaceutical representative and moved with his wife to the mobile home park in 1989 right behind the Bennett Room where he was told a week ago he would have the honor of sounding off for the new season.

About eight years ago, ichols’ fishing partner and love of his life, Patricia, passed away. Nichols proudly displays his two

lunkers mounted on his wall, one brown and one rainbow. He also has a plaque for a perfect 300 game in bowling and a hole in one certifica-

tion from the Lebanon Country Club. Blowing this whistle for Opening Day is another accomplishment to add to his trophy wall.

A brown trout lunker caught by Skip Nichols at Bennett Spring hangs on his wall.

Trout Talk photo/Delevan Ogle

Trout Talk April 2018  

Trout Fishing At Bennett Springs Outside Lebanon, MO.

Trout Talk April 2018  

Trout Fishing At Bennett Springs Outside Lebanon, MO.