Smallmouth bass are the king in Ozark streams. Beautifully colored bronze bodies barred with sharp black blotches are the dreams of every angler who ever hooked into one of these powerful fish.
“Smallmouth are the epitome of the Ozarks,” said Matt Weir, the president of the Smallmouth Alliance of Missouri. “The free flowing streams of the Missouri Ozarks are national treasures and the smallmouth bass is part of the loot. The smallmouth is as wild as the streams which they inhabit.”
Smallmouth bass of our Ozark streams are indeed a treasure, attracting anglers from far and wide to do battle with the hard fighting fish. John Barton, from Illinois, makes an annual pilgrimage to the Jacks Fork River with several friends.
“We love the crystal clear waters of the Jacks Fork,” Barton said. “The river holds us spell bound for the entire three day float we do each year. It is about a five hour drive for us, but we don’t mind.
“There are no rivers in Illinois which compare to this. And the smallmouth bass fishing is superb adding a bonus to every trip.”
Missouri now has 10 streams with special smallmouth bass management areas. Designation of these areas were a long time in the making.
“Missouri has a long history of black bass management on Ozark steams,” said Jen Girondo, a fisheries management biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Early studies concentrated on finding how many fish Missouri streams could produce, how fast they grew and how to best improve smallmouth fishing.”
These studies led to a closure of smallmouth bass fishing in 1965, a 12-inch minimum length limit in 1974, six-per-day- limit regulations and an understanding that stocking would not improve stream bass fishing. The conservation department began an aggressive stream access program to provide public access to smallmouth streams.