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Ask the Ombudsman

Q: Does a good cold winter reduce tick and chigger populations, or is that just wishful thinking?

A: We finally had a bit of winter weather last season, but we likely won’t know what sort of impact it had on the ticks and chiggers until July. I visited with the Department’s entomologist and learned that, while weather can be a factor in the survival of ticks and chiggers, there are a number of variables which make this a difficult question to answer.

Ticks and chiggers over-winter in leaf litter and topsoil. They actually do quite well during a cold winter with snow cover. The snow insulates them and provides protection. A tick- and chigger-unfriendly winter would be good and cold, then warm up, allowing a break from hibernation, and then quickly turn back to frigid temperatures—but we still might have plenty of ticks and chiggers the following summer. How the predators of these insects over-winter is a factor, and spring and summer weather may have as much to do with tick and chigger survival as winter weather.

With no way to make absolute predictions, the next logical question is how to control ticks and chiggers. A well-maintained yard and good repellent may be the best way to deal with ticks and chiggers, though pesticides are also an option for homeowners. Listed below are sites from the University Extension which may be helpful.

Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov.

Agent Notes

Fielding questions about private ponds stocked with Department fish.

During June and July, I look forward to visiting with landowners who have submitted a pond stocking application for a new or renovated pond or lake. Renovating old ponds sometimes becomes necessary if a dam has been damaged or if a new owner wants to increase the acreage of an existing pond to create better fishing. These folks are really interested in talking about fishing!

The first thing they want to know is, “If the Department of Conservation stocks my pond, how many folks do I have to let fish there?”

The answer is none. The Department of Conservation leaves the use of farm ponds and lakes stocked with fish it provides up to the landowners. We hope, however, that landowners will invite lots of friends and family to fish their pond. There is no better way to get a young boy or girl interested in the outdoors.

Landowners also ask how long it takes for the fish to grow big enough to keep. Growth rate depends on water clarity and fertility, cover, spawning success and food availability. In most cases, expect keeper-size fish 2 1/2 to three years after the initial stocking. To improve growth rates, many pond owners pre-stock fathead minnows, giving newly stocked fish a ready food supply.

After the pond inspection period, I again look forward to visiting with landowners in the fall, when they pick up their first load of fish.

Marsha Jones is the conservation agent for Adair County, which is in the Northeast region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.

Time Capsule

May 1997

In “Big Fish in Small Streams,” Mark Goodwin wrote, “It’s a well-known fact that many of the rivers that drain the Missouri Ozarks support trophy smallmouth bass.” This truth endures a decade later, and with time and proper technique, you too can catch smallmouth bass over 15 inches long in the Current, Meramec and Gasconade rivers, and even the occasional smallmouth in excess of 20 inches (a trophy by any standard). You’ll need patience in sharing space with canoeists, and you’ll probably need to wade rather than float-fish their tributaries as the creeks are small. Though Goodwin warned that finding lunker smallmouth in creeks requires effort, he encouraged readers who enjoy privacy coupled with the chance to catch big smallmouth to consider fishing small Ozark streams.—Contributed by the Circulation staff.

Behind the Code

Regulations for fishing in your private pond

by Tom Cwynar

Landowners have two good options for turning new or renovated ponds into great fishing holes. They can obtain fish free from the Department of Conservation or buy fish from commercial fish producers.

A third option, transplanting fish from other waters, isn’t effective for building a balanced and self-sustaining fishery.

The method landowners choose determines how the fish and the pond they are in are treated by the fishing regulations in Missouri’s Wildlife Code.

Ponds stocked with Department fish are considered “waters of the state” until they are drained or all fish are removed. Landowners control access to the waters, but anglers, except for landowners and members of their immediate family, need a valid fishing permit. Also, anyone who fishes in the pond must use legal methods and abide by statewide seasons, creel limits and length limits.

If landowners buy or otherwise provide fish for their pond, anglers are not subject to state fishing regulations. No licenses are required and anyone can harvest fish of any size by any method at any time. The fish can also be sold without special permits.

Landowners should keep receipts for the fish they buy and provide receipts to people who harvest fish from their private pond and remove them from their property.

For more information about regulations concerning stocked ponds, go to the Department’s Web site.

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