98-year-old Benton County man shares snagging stories after landing spoonbill

Michael Losch
Murl Stull snagged a 50-pound spoonbill on Lake of the Ozarks.

At 98-years-old, Murl Stull can still teach people a thing or two.

With a wealth of experience that dates back nearly a century, one of those things is snagging paddlefish and the Benton County man proved he still has what it takes after snagging a 50-pound spoonbill on Lake of the Ozarks this year with one day left in the annual season that runs from March 15 to April 30 in Missouri.

“It was a huge relief and we were all excited that he caught one this season. It was the only one he caught this year,” said Cory Adams, Stull’s son-in-law who has been snagging with him for four years. “His nephew, Doug Stull, and I were getting worried he wouldn’t catch one this season.”

Stull was born and raised in a town called Fairfield, which currently resides under the waters of Truman Lake. During the years of World War II, he started as a cook in Hawaii and later went to Guam before transitioning to the 4th Marine Division as an MP. He got his discharge on Christmas morning of 1945 as a Staff Sergeant.

He picked up the hobby of snagging paddlefish in 1982 and had snagged every season with his brother, Ray Stull, through 2020 when Ray’s health prevented him from setting out this past season. Stull has also gone snagging with his nephew, Doug, for about the past 25 years and no matter how old he gets, he still refuses to use dipsy divers.

“It is the lazy way of snagging,” said the 98-year-old who has never used a cane or walker.

Murl Stull with a spoonbill.

Throughout the years, there have been a few favorite memories of catching a fish that can grow up to seven feet and weigh more than 100 pounds, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

For Stull, his favorite moment came in 2014 when he caught a spoonbill that may have weighed over 100 pounds. The scale was not working properly that day, but it is something he will never forget. As for Adams, one moment he will always remember is an outing three years ago when he was out with the trio of Stulls trying to catch a spoonbill.

“We were not having any luck that day and he (Murl) said, ‘Let me show you how its done.’ It wasn’t 10 minutes later he caught a spoonbill,” Adams recalled.

But for Adams, Stull has provided him so much more than just a few snagging memories. The son-in-law said the lessons he has learned from his father-in-law are invaluable.

“Murl has taught me a lot of lessons over the years and has been like a father to me. He taught me how to garden, how to can fruit and vegetables and just too many lessons to list,” Adams noted. “I’ve heard so many stories from when he was young to when he was in World War II and I’ve learned lessons and things about history and life through those stories.”

Over the course of 98 years and through all the experiences Stull has had, there are still a few mottos he lives by.

“If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right, work has never hurt anybody and always be honest,” he pointed out.