Manage Missouri's Catfish

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

It's easy to see why catfish are so popular. Catfish are easy to find, inhabiting rivers, streams, farm ponds, small lakes and reservoirs throughout the state. You can catch them with simple tackle and almost any bait. Some anglers even catch them on set lines, limb lines and jug lines. Catfish also grow large, sometimes huge. They can be a challenging opponent on the end of a line. And no one can deny how great a meal of catfish tastes.

In an effort to satisfy catfish anglers, the Missouri Department of Conservation has developed a new plan to safeguard and improve catfish angling.

The Department's new catfish management plan has three goals. The first is to provide a diversity of catfish angling opportunities in Missouri. This includes managing select water bodies for large catfish. The second is to inform Missouri anglers of catfishing opportunities across the state. Finally, the plan calls for partnering with Missouri catfish anglers to develop catfish management strategies for the future.

Actually, Missouri catfish anglers played a key role in the development of the plan itself. They provided ideas and direction for future catfish management at a series of public meetings the Department conducted across the state in 2003. Public input was incorporated into the final version of the catfish plan.

The Conservation Department will continue to seek input from interested anglers regarding catfish management. You will also see more information from the Department about existing catfishing opportunities across the state in the future.

Catfish in Missouri

Missouri has 15 native species of catfish. Nine are small, secretive species that spend most of their time hiding in crevices between rocks on river bottoms or under leaf litter at the bottom of creek pools. Collectively, this group is called madtoms.

Missouri also has black bullhead, yellow bullhead and brown bullhead. These three catfish species rarely exceed 2 pounds. Black and yellow bullheads are common across the state. The only confirmed, self-sustaining population of brown bullheads is at Duck Creek Conservation Area and the adjoining Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Missouri. Though overlooked by many anglers, bullheads are eager biters and taste great. They provide lots of angling pleasure for many Missourians.

The three catfish species best known to Missouri anglers are the channel catfish, the blue catfish, and the flathead catfish. These popular species are the focus of the Department's future management efforts.

Currently, anglers can take five flathead catfish daily, and 10 blue catfish and

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