Proposed Catfish Regulations – Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks

Kevin Sullivan: The Missouri Department of Conservation and anglers have seen a noticeable decline in the numbers of large blue catfish at Truman
and Lake of the Ozarks. We’re proposing regulations that will provide protection for medium size fish so that
we’ll have more large fish for future generations, while still allowing anglers to take home plenty of blue catfish. Alvin Franklin: I’ve been fishing the lake of the Ozarks,
catfishing for 50 years, every bit of it. The catfish population, I haven’t seen as many big ones as we used to. We used to catch a lot of large
catfish on the Lake of the Ozarks. Brad Kilpatrick: We really care about the fish and we want
to return them to the water in the best possible condition that we can. We want these fish to survive our tournaments, and to continue to grow and breed. I
have an eight year old daughter. I want her to be able to go out
some day and catch a 50 pound blue cat. Kevin Sullivan: One thing we know about catfish
is that catfishing is very popular in Missouri. In fact in a 2006 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey,
more anglers spent more time fishing for catfish than any other sportfish group. And we want
to continue that strong tradition in Missouri. We also know that catfish grow very large, especially blue catfish. They can reach weights over 100 pounds. In fact in 2010
the state record was set and that fish was 130 pounds. But they grow slow. They grow large but it takes them awhile to get
there. So those are some of the things we know about catfish. The numbers of large blue catfish have been declining
at Lake of the Ozarks and Truman. We’ve been hearing that from anglers, from our conservation
agents in the field for a number of years. Actually as far back as the early nineties. And we’ve confirmed
that in some studies that have been done since then. As a part of the statewide catfish management plan
that we unveiled at the end of 2003, and really in response to this decline in the numbers of
large blue catfish, MDC started a research project in 2003. Our goal was to look at the blue catfish population, to see
if we could learn more about what was going on. And one of our key objectives was to determine what kind
of angler harvest rates we actually had at Truman. And the way we did that is we did a reward tag
study where we put 300 reward tags on blue catfish. They were 50 dollar reward tags. And we tracked the
response, what anglers were turning in over the course of five years to document angler harvest rates. Here’s what we found of our reward tag study on Truman: Of all of the blue catfish that we tagged that were 24
inches and larger, which is about a five pound fish, 92 percent of those were gone from the lake
within five years. Anglers harvested them. That’s an incredibly high harvest rate, and much higher
than anything we’ve seen from around the country. And that’s really our concern and that’s why these fish are
not being able to grow to the larger sizes. Based on the public input that we’ve received over the
years, angler comments, observations from our conservation agents, and the reward tag study that we accomplished, we want to
reverse the decline in the numbers of large blue catfish. And the way we’re going to do that is
we’re going to recommend regulations that will protect the intermediate size fish so that they can grow to larger sizes. Right now we have a statewide five daily limit on blue catfish. That five daily limit was implemented back in 2006.
It was a statewide thing. It was not directed at any particular body of water.
We also have besides the statewide five daily limit, we have a special creel regulation in the no boating zone at Truman. What we’re proposing is to go from that
statewide five daily limit to ten daily. Let me explain why we’re going from five to ten. We
have a lot of blue catfish in both reservoirs that are seven pounds and under. So we actually want anglers to
take more of those fish because they’re bordering on over abundant. So going from five to ten makes sense
because we can decrease competition, improve growth, but we still have to provide protection for those intermediate size fish,
the medium size fish that are seven to 15 pounds. So that’s why we’re recommending that we implement a
slot length limit, a protected slot length limit where there’s an eight inch size category that anglers
will have to release back into the lake. So they get to take lots of fish home under seven pounds
and also fish over the slot limit–one or two over. But we need to protect those fish in the
intermediate size ranges so they can grow. And right now they are going out too quickly. So we’re recommending an eight inch protected slot length limit for blue catfish. The three options we’re considering start at 24, 25 and 26 inches. By protecting blue catfish in this eight inch slot, we expect to
see a noticeable increase in the number of large blue catfish. We also want to provide anglers the opportunity to take one or two
fish over the protected slot when they do catch larger fish. This new regulation will replace the current daily limits
on both Lake of the Ozarks and Truman, all their tributaries, and it will replace the existing special catfish creel
limits that we have in the no boating zone below Truman. We want to make sure that we evaluate this regulation if it
does go into effect. We’re already assessing the status of the population right now and if the regulation does go forward, we will come back to the exact same kind of sampling
in seven or eight years, we’ll compare the results, and if it’s not having the desired impact that we’re
looking for, we’ll make adjustments at that time. Public input has been and will continue to be a very
important part of the solution. Besides the survey information that we collected in 2002 and all of the information that we
got form our volunteer catfish creel anglers at Truman, we also collected some really good input from the public when
we had six public meetings in 2003 when we unvieled our statewide catfish management plan. One of
our objectives in that plan was to implement new regulations at Truman and Lake of the Ozarks based on sampling and creel data. During 2010, MDC hosted three stakeholder meetings to discuss
blue catfish regulations at these two reservoirs. And the majority of the people that attended
were in favor of implementing protective regulations. They did make recommendations, some alternative regs to consider and we have done that. And we have adjusted and the end result are
the recommendations that we are bringing forth today. Alvin Franklin: I think if they can come up with a release
or a slot limit, length limit, weight limit, whatever, that’s got to help things. And if we don’t have that,
the younger generation won’t know what a big catfish is. And that would be a shame. I’d like to
see them have more chances on catching larger catfish. Brad Kilpatrick: The state of Missouri is an excellent place for
catching blue cats. They’ve got a number of reservoirs that have blue cats in it. We’ve got the Missouri river over
here, the Mississippi river on the other side of the state. Excellent, excellent blue catfishing in this state and
the Missouri Department of Conservation does an excellent job managing our resources.

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