THE (FIRST) ONE THAT GOT AWAY

A 1931 Fish Story


There have been fish stories about the one that got away for -- well, for as long as Lake of the Ozarks has been around. That means seventy-five years of fish stories. How did it all begin? Ah, I'm glad you asked. What follows is Lake of the Ozarks' first fish story. It is the genuine article, documented in the local press in 1931. The incident took place in the tail waters of the then brand new Bagnell Dam.

From The Eldon Advertiser, the week of September 10th, 1931:

"Three businessmen of Eldon had an unusual experience while fishing on the Osage River last week. Lester Evans, A.W. Holliday, and Edward Pies were fishing in a boat on the deep water eddy near the Union Electric gravel plant at Bagnell, when the line they were trolling caught, and after moving back and forth a few times, started their boat upstream.

"They were in dead water and endeavored to raise the big fish or whatever had taken the line, but the boat was too light and would dip water as soon as they began to pull. The boat was towed upstream until a sudden lunge broke the hook off the line and released the whale or big fish that was causing the excitement.

"Since the story was first told, after the men came back to town, the distance that the boat was towed upstream has been estimated at 1/4 mile. The three men, however, are not willing to admit this part of the story on their truth and veracity, and as the story was not told to The Advertiser by Emmett Hackney, the well known fish story authority, there should be an investigation. Another fishing party should be organized to go to Bagnell, have the dam closed, dry the river up, or anyhow catch this fish."

The story ends there, as well it should, lest the facts grow with age. While it seems likely that these fellows snagged a paddle fish or a catfish, it certainly must have been one big fish to pull a boat with three men in it for 1/4 mile upstream. It makes you wonder if that fish has some descendants below the dam to this day.

© 2006 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.