Anglers flock to Opening Day

By Kelly Morgan Lebanon Daily Record

Tuesday morning was cloudy with light rain and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, but that didn’t stop anglers from flocking to Bennett Spring State Park to celebrate the first day of trout season.

By about 9:45 a.m. Bennett Spring’s park store had sold a total of 1,149 adult trout tags and 67 kids’ tags for a total of 1,216 tags. Bennett Spring State Park Hatchery Manager Ben Havens said Monday that the park was preparing for 2,200 to 2,500 visitors for the whole day, a number that was based on daily tag sales from previous years. Hatchery staff stock three fish per anticipated fisherman for Opening Day, Havens said, which means that 7,500 trout, plus more than 50 lunkers, went into the stream.

Also on Monday, Havens commented on the park’s progress following floods in December.

“Everything is good to go,” he said. “We had some damage to some of our stocking areas where we back down to throw the fish in the water, and we smoothed those out and got those going. The hatchery is back online; got a bunch of young fish in the hatchery building, a lot of nice fish outside for the stocking for the season.”

Opening Day began at 6:30 a.m. when 77-year-old Vic Eckmann sounded the siren to signal the beginning of trout season. Eckmann works at the Bennett Spring Park Store and has been fishing at Bennett Spring for 63 years.

Out in the stream, anglers ranged from veterans who have been attending Opening Day for decades to newcomers experiencing the tradition for the first time.

Marthasville resident Jim Dierking was celebrating the start of trout season with friends Kevin Frankenburg and Jay Obermark, as well as Dierking’s son, Nick Dierking and Obermark’s son, Tommy Obermark. Jim Dierking said that the adults in the group have been observing Opening Day at Bennett Spring since approximately 1999 or 2000.

Dierking said that the group began fishing together when they were students at East Central College.

“The college instructors in our college would let the guys off for the first day of deer season, and we weren’t deer hunters, so we told them we wanted off for the first day of trout season,” Dierking recalled. “So we started coming down for the first day of trout season.”

<em>For the complete article, see the Wednesday print edition of The Daily Record, or view the </em><a href=""><span>e-Edition</span></a><span> </span><em>online.</em>

<p>Anglers stand ankle-deep in water rushing over a dam as they fish on Opening Day at Bennett Spring State Park.</p>

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