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A License to Fish

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

to pay a license fee to help stock the state waters with fish."

In 1919, the Missouri Fish Commission was abolished, and the Game and Fish Commission assumed responsibility for all game and fish regulations and fish stocking. Licenses were again required for non-resident anglers. For the first time, licenses were required for residents to hunt and fish. All residents could continue to fish without a license within the boundaries of the county in which they resided. However, male anglers age 21 or over were required to buy the $1 County License to fish (and hunt) in the counties which adjoined their county of residence, or a $2.50 State License to fish (and hunt) anywhere in the state. For the cost of a County License, an angler could have bought one of several Heddon fishing lures, such as the Spin Diver.

An interesting addition to the 1919 fishing regulations was the ban on "logging" or "hand fishing," which was intended to stop unsportsmanlike harvest of fish.

The Missouri Game and Fish News was the forerunner to the Missouri Conservationist. When the Game and Fish News began publication in 1925, Heddon was already selling its famous Vamp and jointed Game Fisher lures, and the Creek Chub Pikie was getting popular. During the next few years, Bennett Spring, Montauk, and Roaring River became state parks.

From 1927, when the first seasons and creel limits for sport fish were enacted, through 1931, when Lake of the Ozarks was impounded, the unusual Heddon Luny Frog was being sold. By 1932, the Springfield Novelty Company was producing the Reel Lure.

In 1935, the Conservation Federation of Missouri was established. The new organization started a petition drive to establish non-political administration of Missouri's fish, wildlife and forestry resources.

On November 3, 1936, voters passed Constitutional Amendment 4, creating the present day Conservation Commission. It's mission was "to make adequate and effective the control, management, restoration, conservation and regulation of bird, fish, game, forestry, and all wildlife resources of the state." The first meeting of the new Conservation Committee was on July 2, 1937.

The newly formed Missouri Department of Conservation hired their first fisheries biologist, Albert E. Weyer, in 1939. Many of the anglers he talked to on Lake of the Ozarks were probably trying the new plastic Zara Spook, and other Heddon "spook" lures.

In 1940 the new Wildlife and Forestry Code included many new statewide fishing regulations, such as:

Crappie 12 per day 7-inch minimum
Black Bass 8 per day 10-inch minimum
Catfish 8 per day 13-inch minimum
Jack Salmon (walleye) 4 per day 13-inch minimum

At that time, Paw-Paw lures like the Caster and Wotta-Frog were gaining popularity. Throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s, plastic lures became more common, while many of the classic wooden lures faded out of production.

From 1937 to 1939, the Conservation Commission continued to sell fishing and hunting "licenses," but when the new Wildlife and Forestry Code of the State of Missouri went into effect on January 1, 1940, the terminology was changed to require fishing and hunting "permits." For the first time, all residents, male and female, age 17 or older were required to have a permit to hunt or fish.

No matter whether they purchased licenses or permits, anglers and hunters provided the bulk of the funding for the Conservation Commission from 1937 until 1976, when voters increased funding for the Missouri Conservation Commission through the Design for Conservation sales tax. Income from permit sales is still essential for the operation of the Department of Conservation and is still a vital component in providing the world-class fishing that has helped make Missouri famous.

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