A License to Fish

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

Fish Law established Missouri's first hunting licenses. The licenses were good statewide at a cost of $1 for residents and $15 for non-residents. No license was required for fishing. The Walmsley Law banned the use of dynamite for fishing. It also banned gillnetting, fish trapping, gigging and trotlines from July through March in all waters except the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Perhaps this was one of the reasons anglers began to buy more artificial lures available from companies like Heddon and Shakespeare!

The Walmsley Law also incorporated the earliest length-limit regulations for fish. To be sold in commercial markets, crappie and trout had to be at least 8 inches. Bass and jack salmon (walleye) had to be at least 11 inches.

In April 1907, the General Assembly enacted a revised game law that was more lenient toward the use of trotlines and gigs. It was also much more restrictive toward non-residents, requiring a $15 license in each county where they desired to hunt or fish. The non-resident licenses, which included fishing, were issued only until August 1909 because of public and political pressure. These 1907-1909 non-resident hunting and fishing licenses are extremely rare. Not even the Missouri State Archives has one. During this same period, James Heddon was selling his famous Dowagiac "150" Minnow in well made wooden boxes. These lures and their boxes are rare today.

In 1909, the Missouri Game and Fish Commission was appointed, and it submitted its first annual report in 1910. The unique Charmer Minnow was being made in Springfield, and by 1913 it was probably being used on newly impounded Lake Taneycomo. Lake Taneycomo did not become a coldwater lake suitable for trout until 1959, when Table Rock Lake was built above it.

In its Biennial Report to the Governor for 1917-1918, the Missouri State Fish Commission recommended that fishing licenses be required for all male residents and non-residents who fish in public waters. The Commission also recommended that the law should exempt all male residents under 21 years of age. The Commission justified this recommendation with the following statement: "The absolute justice of compelling male residents and non residents who fish in public waters to contribute a small sum towards perpetuating the supply cannot be questioned, . . . a small fee for residents and a larger one for non-residents cannot be considered excessive or burdensome. Practically without exception anglers throughout the state are anxious and willing

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