Upcoming open houses will give citizens chances to discuss potential regulation changes.

A crew samples smallmouth bass populations on the Elk River in McDonald County. For MOCON story by Jen Girondo. Rick Horton drives the boat.

Smallmouth and rock bass are very popular with anglers in Missouri streams. However, research by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) shows that both species grow slowly and many do not reach a quality size before dying from natural causes or being caught by anglers.

As a result of research and angler feedback, MDC is proposing changes to fishing regulations for these two popular game fish that they believe would ensure the quality of smallmouth and rock bass populations and simplify regulations for smallmouth in MDC Special Management Areas.

For rock bass (also called goggle eye), MDC research shows a majority of anglers favor a single, statewide minimum length limit (currently there is none outside of special management areas). MDC is proposing setting this minimum length limit at seven inches. Anglers in south-central Missouri should note the rock bass minimum length limit will remain eight inches at MDC’s Rock Bass Management areas on the Big Piney and Eleven Point rivers.

For smallmouth bass, the proposed changes would maintain the current statewide length limit of 12 inches with a daily limit of six fish. However, all of Missouri’s Special Smallmouth Management areas would be changed to a 15-inch minimum length limit with a daily limit of one smallmouth bass.

Proposed regulations would also create a new Special Management Area on the Current River and expand the Special Management Areas on the Big Piney, Big River, Jacks Fork and Meramec rivers.bass fishing changes 2 copy 2

“While these proposed regulations fall short of the more aggressive regulations which the MSA proposed to the MDC some five years ago, the proposed changes definitely represent a big step in the right direction and we support their passage into law and implementation,” said Matt Wier, president of the Missouri Smallmouth Alliance (MSA).

“If you don’t agree with us, that’s fine. The MDC needs to hear from passionate sport anglers from around the state. Do not just sit there and do nothing because you don’t think your opinion will matter.”

MDC is seeking public input on these potential regulation changes and will host several open houses around the state to provide more information, answer questions, and get public comments.

All open houses will be from 6-8 p.m. on these dates and locations:

• Monday, Oct. 5, in St. Robert at the St. Robert Community Center, 114 J.H. Williamson Drive.

• Tuesday, Oct. 6, in Farmington at the Memorial United Methodist Church, 425 North St.

• Thursday, Oct. 8, in Kirkwood at the MDC Powder Valley Nature Center, 11715 Cragwold Road.

• Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Springfield at the MDC Springfield Nature Center, 4601 S. Nature Center Way.

• Thursday, Oct. 15, in Neosho at the National Fish Hatchery, 520 Park St.

• Monday, Oct. 19, in Columbia at the MDC Central Regional Office and Conservation Research Center, 3500 E. Gans Road.

MDC is also accepting public comments online at mdc.mo.gov/node/9092 or through U.S. mail to: Missouri Department of Conservation, Attn: Policy Coordination, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

“Talking to friends and posting on the Internet is not enough. I generally don’t like to hit people over the head with homespun aphorisms but my mom always told me that I’d never get anything I didn’t ask for,” said Wier. “The MSA has been asking for this for 23 years. We’re not crossing our arms and pouting because we didn’t get everything we asked for. The MSA supports these changes, will suggest more, looks to the future and encourages all the sport anglers of Missouri to do the same.”

These proposed changes have sparked heated debate among anglers and outfitters throughout the state and beyond. The Pulaski County Outfitters Association (PCOA), whose member retailers promote padding, fishing and outdoor activities in Pulaski County, is against MDC’s proposed smallmouth changes.

“Thousands of anglers from around Missouri and adjoining states travel to Pulaski County’s Gasconade River MDC Special Management Area for its great smallmouth bass fishing,” said the PCOA in a recent press release. “A reduction from the current smallmouth bass 18-inch length limit down to a 15-inch minimum length limit is a step in the wrong direction in maintaining world class smallmouth bass fishing within Pulaski County.”

The Gasconade River MDC Special Management Area runs approximately 21 miles on the Gasconade River from Riddle Bridge public access downriver to Jerome Highway D Bridge.

 

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