Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Missouri Blue catfish study enters second year

Missouri Department of Conservation biologists recently began
the second year of a blue catfish study at Truman Lake and Lake of
the Ozarks as regulations are considered to protect
intermediate-sized fish from overharvest and boost the numbers of
larger catfish.

The goal is to gather data for a three-year study on blue catfish
sizes, population and growth rates. MDC crews will run jug lines
through late autumn. The catfish caught will be weighed, measured
and released. Biologists will also remove spines from a certain
number of fish within a range of sizes to gather age and growth

Since the late 1980s, anglers and Conservation Agents have
expressed concerns about declining numbers of large blue catfish in
Truman Lake. The same concerns have arisen in recent years at Lake
of the Ozarks. Blue catfish population numbers remain healthy. But
as fishing pressure has increased, the number of fish in the 20- to
80-pound range has declined. The chance to catch a very large fish
is why many anglers seek blue catfish with jug lines, trot lines or
rod and reel.

Anglers can currently keep 5 blue catfish of any size daily on
Truman Lake, Lake Ozark and their tributaries. In the no-boating
zone below Truman Dam, anglers can currently keep an aggregate
(combination of blue, flathead or channel catfish) of 4 catfish
daily and only one of those can be larger than 24 inches.

Regulations are being considered on all these waters that would
increase the daily creel limit to 10 blue catfish. Also, a slot
limit would require anglers to release unharmed fish in a range
that would weigh from 5-7 pounds on up to 15-17 pounds in size. Any
slot regulation proposed would be in inches, but outlining it in
pounds gives anglers a good idea of the size of fish the
regulations being considered would protect. Anglers would be
allowed to keep one or two large fish above the slot limit.

The change would increase the total number of blue catfish anglers
could keep and eat, and it would still allow for a limited number
of large blues to be taken by each angler daily.

Returning fish within the protected size range would allow more
blue catfish to reach their large size potential.

“Blue catfish are popular on both of these lakes and catfishing is
important to the economy of the region,” said Mike Bayless, MDC
fisheries biologist. “The regulations we are considering are a
balance between improving the quality of the fishery while still
letting anglers take home fish to eat and keeping people coming to
these lakes long into the future. We realize that citizen input is
a critical part of changing any regulation and we want to hear what
people think.”

Anglers may contact Bayless regarding Truman Lake catfish at
660-885-6981, Ext. 253, For Lake of the
Ozarks, anglers may contact Greg Stoner at 573-346-2210, ext. 235,

The current study will add to data and feedback from anglers
gathered earlier.

An MDC harvest evaluation conducted on Truman Lake from 2004 to
2008 documented a high rate of harvest by anglers for
intermediate-sized blue catfish. Blue catfish reproduction is good,
but the high harvest rate affects the quality of a fishery where
many anglers enjoy the chance to catch very large catfish.

At the same time, response to MDC angler surveys have shown that
many people who enjoy target catfish at Truman Lake are concerned
about a drop in the numbers of large fish. Most recently MDC
biologists have heard similar concerns from anglers at Lake of the

The blue catfish population study currently underway will establish
more baseline data, so if new regulations are approved, biologists
can repeat the same study 7 or 8 years later and see how the change
affected the fishery.

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