Every year, the Conservation Department’s regulations committee reads hundreds of letters and e-mail messages from Missouri’s hunters, trappers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts who have suggestions or complaints about wildlife management or regulations. Each year, the committee members also look at hunting and fishing surveys and opinion polls from Missourians across the state. We then seek the expert opinion of the Department’s research biologists and managers to learn how Missouri’s natural resources are faring under current regulations.
Out of this process comes recommendations to the director and the conservation commission on changes to next year’s Wildlife Code of Missouri. These regulations are established to manage Missouri’s valuable plant and animal communities, to provide equal opportunity to share and enjoy these resources, and to promote public safety.
Following is a summary of regulation changes that go into effect March 1, 2006, unless otherwise noted. Because regulations on Department lands are set to protect wildlife and to provide access to the public, they may change throughout the year, especially after the fall deer, turkey and waterfowl regulations are established. It’s always a good idea to get a current list of regulations before traveling to hunt or fish on a Department area, especially during the fall deer and turkey seasons.
Fishing, hunting and trapping opportunities expand in 2006.
- On the Salt River, longbow fishing will now be allowed from the no-boating zone (1,100 feet below the Reregulation Dam) to Route A, which was formerly open to pole-and-line fishing only. This change allows bowfishers greater opportunity to take nongame fish, especially exotic Asian carp that often congregate in this area.
- For many years, fisheries staff have been working with neighboring states to establish reciprocal fishing agreements in waters that share boundaries with Missouri. Anglers possessing either Missouri or Iowa fishing permits now can fish throughout the shared waters of the Des Moines River that form a boundary between the two states. However, if anglers want to fish from or attach equipment to land, they must have a permit from the state that land is in.
- As part of the Department’s statewide catfish management plan, the daily limit on blue catfish has been reduced to five to allow more of this long-lived species to reach large sizes as they once did in Missouri. Increased encounters with large catfish for anglers is one of the goals.
- About two-thirds of the fishing at Wappapello Lake is for crappie, and anglers petitioned the Department to improve this fishery. After a detailed study showed that less than 21 percent of the crappie were reaching 9 inches, the minimum length limit has now been changed to 9 inches. The new length limit should result in higher numbers of larger crappie and an improved crappie fishery without reducing the daily limit. Of the anglers surveyed, 69 percent said they preferred this approach.
- Hickory Creek from the Highway 86 bridge to its confluence with Shoal Creek in Newton County will now be a White Ribbon Trout Area, which provides more opportunities for catching trout and the occasional chance to harvest a large trout. During the catch-and-release trout season, from Nov. 1 through the last day in February, only artificial lures and flies may be used to reduce hooking mortality.
- Maramec Spring Park will now be open daily during the catch-and-release trout season from the second Friday in November through the second Sunday in February. Only flies may be used, and anglers must have a trout permit. This area was previously open three days a week.
- An addition to the winter trout fishing program will be Kiwanis Lake in Mexico, which will have catch-and-release trout fishing from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, when only flies, artificial lures and soft unscented plastic baits may be used.
Coot Lake at the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area near Kansas City formerly was a catch-and-release winter trout area. Since this is the only disabled-accessible lake stocked with trout in the Kansas City area, the harvest opportunities for these anglers were limited. Starting next winter, the catch-and-release rule will be removed and trout will continue be stocked, which will allow more winter harvest for all anglers.
- In addition to using .22-caliber rimfire firearms, bullfrogs and green frogs may now be hunted with other smaller rimfire rifles or pistols, and they may be possessed throughout the year. However, only the daily limit may be possessed while hunting.
- Hunters can once again use dogs to hunt for furbearers, squirrels and rabbits during the daylight hours of the November portion of the firearms deer season in Bollinger County. This hunting method continues to be restricted in counties where illegal deer-dogging activities continue to be a significant problem. Note: During this portion, small game hunters are restricted to using a shotgun with shot not larger than No. 4 or using a firearm that fires a rimfire cartridge .22 caliber or smaller.
- Because conservation areas were established for use by the general public, commercial use is not allowed. Therefore, guiding hunting parties for pay is prohibited on these public areas.
The Stockton Lake Waterfowl Refuge has been reduced from 1,490 acres to 758 acres. The former refuge acres are uplands, which will provide hunting opportunities for deer, rabbit, quail, squirrel and fall turkey. Quail management will be emphasized. Research at other areas shows that upland hunting near a refuge will not greatly impact the waterfowl that gather there.
- As with other trapping permits, Resident Cable Restraint Permits are now valid through April 10. This allows trappers to complete an entire trapping season using cable restraints without having to purchase the next year’s permit.
- To keep others from interfering with legally set traps, wildlife held in traps, snares or cable restraint devices may only be killed or removed by the person who set the traps.
- Because nutria have extended their range into southeastern Missouri and are often considered a nuisance animal, they can now be trapped during the entire trapping season from Nov. 15 through March 31.
- The rabbit trapping season has been extended from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15 so it will be concurrent with the primary trapping season for furbearers.
To allow trappers and hunters more opportunities to sell their furs at national and international auctions, the new Fur Handler’s Permit allows them to possess, process, transport and ship legally taken pelts from March 2 through June 1. The pelts must have been taken by the holder of the permit; and if sold within Missouri to a fur dealer, the pelts must be fleshed, stretched and dried.
Safety issues are always a concern when setting regulations.
Technology is developing that allows people to shoot wildlife via the Internet with the use of remote cameras. After the animal is located on the computer screen, a remote control would allow the people sitting in front of a computer screen in another location or even another state or country to aim and fire a gun at the animal. Because computer-assisted remote hunting violates the concept of fair chase for wildlife and creates safety concerns for people, Missouri is joining several other states in banning this practice.
Changes to improve and protect wildlife populations and habitat.
- Long Branch Lake has a new daily limit of four and a length limit of 20 inches for white, yellow and striped bass and their hybrids. The 2,429-acre lake in Macon County was recently stocked with hybrid striped bass to increase predation on overabundant gizzard shad and crappie. The new length limit will allow the stocked fish to become large enough to prey on adult shad and help establish a hybrid striped bass population.
- Non-native goldfish and bighead, common, grass and silver carp of any length may now be taken for use as live bait.
- To help other states keep unwanted species out of their waters and to stop the illegal commercialization of native species from Missouri waters, anglers are not allowed to transport or sell native species taken in Missouri as live bait in other states.
- To minimize negative impacts to invertebrates listed in the Missouri Species and Communities of Conservation Concern Checklist, a Wildlife Collector’s Permit must be obtained to collect or possess these species. The checklist is available online.
- Mussels listed as species of conservation concern in the Wildlife Code are protected. The list of species is available online.
- To protect public safety, help control the spread of wildlife diseases and prevent the proliferation of non-native species in the wild, escaped animals from big game hunting preserves and from holders of Class I wildlife breeder permits must be reported immediately to the Department.
Because sturgeon fisheries in Missouri have been under increased harvest pressure due to the demand for caviar, the commercial harvest restrictions imposed upon the Missouri River will now be expanded to the Mississippi River. In portions defined as commercial waters, shovelnose sturgeon that measure 24 to 32 inches may be taken from Oct. 15 through May 15 by holders of a Resident Shovelnose Sturgeon Commercial Harvest Permit or Nonresident Mississippi River Shovelnose Sturgeon Commercial Harvest Permit. Shovelnose sturgeon smaller than 24 inches and larger than 32 inches must be released unharmed. Bordering states are working with the Department to protect this fish species and standardize regulations. As a result, fishermen who possess a valid commercial permit to harvest shovelnose sturgeon issued by Illinois or Tennessee may harvest shovelnose sturgeon from the Missouri portion of the Mississippi River without further permit or license.
Other changes clarify the intent of existing regulations.
- If a mountain lion, which is protected in Missouri, is killed by a person who is protecting property, the intact carcass, including pelt, must be surrendered to an agent of the Department within 24 hours. This wording was changed to show that the pelt along with the carcass must be surrendered.
- The experimental catfish hand-fishing season will continue this year, but several items were added to the regulation to clarify allowable methods. Only feet and bare hands may be used without the aid of hooks, snorkeling or SCUBA equipment, or other man-made devices. Hand fishers may not possess fishing equipment, except a stringer, while on designated hand fishing waters or adjacent banks. Stringers may not be used as an aid for taking catfish, and may not be used until the fish is in possession at or above the surface of the water. Natural sticks may be used to locate catfish, but may not be used as an aid for taking fish. Catfish taken by hand-fishing methods may not be possessed on waters closed to hand fishing. Also, every hand fisher must keep an up-to-date, accurate record showing the date, waters fished, length, weight, species and sex of catfish caught or taken and other biological data as listed on the form furnished by the Department.
- Crayfish traps, as well as other live-bait trapping methods, may be used to take live bait. All traps used to take live bait must be labeled with the angler’s full name and address, and must be attended every 24 hours.
- A complete list of regulations is available online at www.sos.mo.gov/adrules/csr/current/3csr.asp. A printed version of the Wildlife Code of Missouri is available at permit vendors. Area regulations and maps are available at www.missouriconservation.org and at Conservation Department regional offices