The Missouri Department of Conservation is asking anglers who fish select Ozark streams to help with a research project by reporting their catches of tagged smallmouth bass.
One of Missouri’s most popular game fish, smallmouth bass are found predominantly in cool, clear streams and large reservoirs in the Ozarks. Bass season for Ozark streams runs from May 25 through Feb. 28.
MDC fisheries biologists are using information from the research project help manage bass habitat and harvest. This is the second and final year of the tagging effort, which involves MDC staff catching and tagging wild smallmouth bass to learn more about angler catch rates and fish movement in the Black River, Castor River, Courtois Creek, Current River and the North Fork of the White River.
Anglers are encouraged to report tagged smallmouth bass they catch in these waters. Each tag has a phone number printed on it. Anglers are asked to call the phone number listed on the tag and provide the following information: tag number, date of catch, length of bass, approximate location of the catch, and if the fish was kept or released.
“Angler participation was great during the first year and we need their continued help,” said MDC Fisheries Management Biologist Jen Girondo. “Information gained from reported catches of tagged smallmouth bass will help us manage this species, which many Missouri anglers love to pursue. Anglers don’t have to keep the fish. They may simply clip the tag and release the fish if they wish.”
Girondo said the tag return study was prompted by the need to directly measure how much harvest occurs in the Ozark streams.
“We need to ensure that our smallmouth bass fishing regulations are appropriate for providing quality fishing experiences for all Missouri stream anglers,” Girondo said. “Appropriate regulations entail that we understand where and how smallmouth use our streams and where and how anglers catch smallmouth bass.”
MDC also conducted a mail survey of approximately 7,200 bass anglers from around the state in 2010 to gather their attitudes and opinions, and estimated efforts spent fishing for bass in Missouri streams. More than 4,000 anglers responded.
Results of the survey showed that anglers fished Missouri Ozark streams for smallmouth bass most often, followed by largemouth bass and rock bass. Wade/bank fishing was the most popular fishing method reported followed by float fishing. Jet boat fishing was the method least used. Most anglers reported taking multiple trips per year to fish for smallmouth bass, with 10 trips being the average. Most anglers reported catching multiple smallmouth bass per trip, with an average catch of seven per trip. Anglers also reported keeping an average of two smallmouth bass per trip. Anglers also provided more than 8,000 individual responses to what threatens the quality of Missouri stream fishing. Nearly half of all anglers responding cited pollution.
MDC’s smallmouth bass tagging study and fishing survey are two ways that conservation makes Missouri a great place to fish for more than one million anglers. Fishing activities in Missouri contribute more than $1.1 billion a year to the state and local economies, and support more than 10,800 jobs.
To read how MDC is working with conservation partners to manage bass habitat and harvest rates, read “Tracking River Smallmouth” in the May issue of the Missouri Conservationist, available online at mdc.mo.gov/node/22005.