Well, here we are in January and not a lot to do. OK, that’s not exactly true. We still have some small game hunting, trout fishing, and if you’re really energetic, you can still catch some bass on the rivers.
And that’s what I’d like to talk about, river bass. There has been a lot of discussion recently around the state about changing the regulations for bass in the river. The current regulations have been in place for over 50 years now. And quite honestly, in my opinion, are working.
Missouri has great populations of bass in the rivers. And very good sized bass, too. That meaning 15 inches and bigger. But could they be better?
The state of Missouri has over 20,000 miles of fishable streams and rivers. Each one unique in its own biodiversity. And each one will have change in its own biodiversity from the headwaters to its confluence.
This can and does create extremely difficult challenges in the effective management of the resource.
Creating and implementing a viable management plan that will protect the resource and provide for its recreation in a harmonic balance can seemingly be impossible but, not out of reach.
Early stream bass management concentrated on finding out how many fish Missouri streams could produce, how fast bass grew and how to protect and improve smallmouth bass fishing. These efforts led to a statewide seasonal bass harvest closure (1965), 12-inch minimum length limit (1974), six-per-day limit regulations (1961) and an understanding that stocking wouldn’t improve stream bass fishing.
More recent studies have centered on smallmouth habitat and improving black bass populations. Experimental habitat improvement projects began in the 1980s. In 1991, the first Stream Black Bass Special Management Areas were established, using special regulations to improve the numbers and sizes of smallmouth bass.