Each year, the Conservation Commission evaluates regulations to ensure Missourians have many ways to enjoy our forest, fish and wildlife. In doing so, the commission also is careful to protect the great resources that we have for future generations. The new regulations that go into effect March 1 expand hunting, trapping and fishing opportunities by adding new methods, longer seasons and increased limits for some species. Other regulations protect native species by trying to limit diseases and exotic species from entering the state.
The following regulation changes encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors:
Surveys of small-game hunters showed that fewer people are hunting squirrels today than were pursuing them five years ago. To encourage new hunters to take up this sport and to allow avid squirrel hunters more time in the field, the daily limit is increased from six to 10, and the possession limit from 12 to 20. According to population surveys, an increase in harvest should not negatively impact this abundant resource.
Thermal imaging equipment has been added to the list of prohibited hunting methods. Like spotlighting, thermal imaging equipment gives hunters an unfair advantage. It also is a tool that could be used by deer poachers who hunt during closed hours.
Trappers will be able to take more otters in many parts of the state this year because the otter and muskrat trapping zones have been eliminated. The new statewide season runs from Nov. 15–Feb. 20 with no limit. This change simplifies the regulations and allows more trappers to help reduce otter conflicts during the regular trapping season. Muskrat season also is statewide, which allows trappers to sell muskrats that are accidentally caught, thus making wise use of a resource. Also, the deadline for tagging bobcat and otter pelts has been extended to April 10.
Trappers who use cable restraint devices need to be aware of several changes. First, cable restraint devices may be used from Dec. 15 through the last day in February, giving trappers an extra month to take coyotes and other furbearers. Also, the Cable Restraint Device Permit has been eliminated. Now the only permit required is a Resident Trapping Permit. However, trappers who want to use cable restraint devices are still required to complete a certified training course. This is to ensure they have been taught how to correctly use these devices, similar to snares, so that non-target animals can be released unharmed. The Resident Trapping Permit will indicate if the trapper has completed the course and is certified to use cable restraints.
Requiring anglers to watch their unanchored jug lines helps reduce catfish waste and jug-line litter. However, to allow anglers to put out jug lines in several locations on a lake, unanchored jug lines must be personally attended at least one time per hour instead of the entire time the jug line is set. On streams, however, jug lines still must be personally attended at all times.
Ice-fishing tackle, or tip-ups, are now considered a pole-and-line method. This will allow anglers to use this tackle in areas where only poles-and-line methods are allowed.
At the request of people interested in bowfishing tournaments, the Conservation Department now allows bowfishing 24 hours a day on rivers where commercial fishing is allowed. These rivers include: the flowing portions of the Missouri River, the Mississippi River except in Sand Chute below the mouth of the Salt River in Pike County, and that part of the St. Francis River which forms a boundary between the states of Arkansas and Missouri, and also waters which exist temporarily through overflow from the Mississippi River east of the Missouri Pacific Railroad between Cape Girardeau and Scott City, and east of the Mississippi River mainline and setback levees between Commerce and the Arkansas state line.
Since the floods of 1993, populations of exotic Asian carp have been expanding into Missouri’s big rivers. To make it easier to harvest these species, some of which jump into boats, anglers can now take bighead, common, grass and silver carp by handnet and can keep those that jump into a boat or on land. These fish can be possessed in any numbers.
Some regulations are designed to protect the health of individual species that are an integral part of Missouri’s biodiversity. Some of these rules involve harvest regulations, and others are related to importation of exotic species. These changes are listed below:
The number and populations of native mussels continues to be a concern in many states due to polluted waters and exotic mussel species that compete for their habitat. For many years, commercial fisherman were allowed to harvest native mussels; but as their numbers of mussels diminished, few fisherman were taking them. As a result, mussels may no longer be taken and sold by commercial fisherman.
Common snapping and softshell turtles are other species that are harvested commercially, but few are reported each year. Now commercial fisherman must report all species and the number of turtles harvested. Researchers in many states are concerned about the harvest of these long-lived species, and the information received from the new harvest forms should help protect these important aquatic reptiles.
Keeping Missouri’s deer herd free from chronic wasting disease continues to be a high priority. In the past, the Conservation Department monitored CWD in captive deer herds. Now the Missouri Department of Agriculture will be in charge of the herds, which are not part of Missouri’s wild deer population. The Conservation Department will continue to test for CWD in wild deer and work with the Department of Agriculture if CWD is detected.
Hunters who travel from another state and are transporting harvested deer, moose or elk with the spinal column or head attached must report the carcasses’ entry into Missouri to the Conservation Department within 24 hours of entering the state, and the carcass must be taken to a licensed meat processor or taxidermist within 72 hours of entry. Meat processors and taxidermists must dispose of the spinal cord and other parts in a properly permitted landfill. Hunters do not need to contact the Department if they are bringing back cut and wrapped meat that has been boned out, quarters and other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; hides or capes from which all excess tissue has been removed; antlers; antlers attached to skull plates or skulls cleaned of all muscle and brain tissue; upper canine teeth; and finished taxidermy products.
Two changes have been made to the Wildlife Collector’s Permit, which allow researchers to take species from the wild to study. To help keep diseases from spreading, wildlife held in captivity away from the area they were taken are not to be returned to the wild unless approved ahead of time. Also, helpers who do not have their own permit must be under the direct, in-person supervision of the permit holder at all times.
Because commercially reared tiger salamander larvae—also called water dogs or mud puppies—are often infected with diseases that could harm native species, they may not be sold for live bait in Missouri. The diseases they carry have caused massive die-offs of amphibians in areas where they have been sold as bait
In the past, trout infected with parasitic copepods were not allowed to be stocked in any fish-rearing facility that discharges water to streams. However, starting this year in areas that are already infected with copepods, infected fish may be stocked in those areas only.
Aquaculturists requested the addition of Atlantic salmon to the Approved Aquatic Species list to permit this species to be reared in facilities that discharge to waters of the state. Because any salmon that escape from such facilities are unlikely to successfully reproduce in the wild, this request was approved. Atlantic salmon, however, must be certified as free of several diseases that could affect native aquatic species before they can be imported.
The Conservation Department has more than 1,000 conservation areas around the state. To allow for quality hunts, fishing and other outdoor experiences, area managers sometimes request changes on their areas. This year, some areas will have new length limits on bass, longer hours for dove hunting; some banned float tubes, and others changed rules on using decoys and blinds. To see all the regulations on a specific conservation area and to find out what is available to do, visit our online atlas. You can search by county, area name or region.
How regulations are set
Each year the Regulations Committee reviews the Wildlife Code of Missouri to ensure the state’s forests, fish and wildlife are protected. Here’s how the process works.
- Changes proposed by the public and staff are brought to the committee to review.
- The committee researches the effects of the proposed regulation changes. Information reviewed may include costs to taxpayers, effects on wildlife populations, user group surveys, public comments and feasibility studies.
- When research shows a change could improve management of a species or provide more opportunities for Missourians to enjoy the outdoors, a proposed regulation change is sent to the director.
- If the director approves the change, the proposal is submitted to the Conservation Commission, four citizens appointed by the governor.
- If passed by the Commission, the proposed changes are filed with the secretary of state and published in the Missouri Register. The link can be found at www.MissouriConservation.org/19400.
- The filing begins the 30-day public comment period. If no comments are received, the final regulation is filed and becomes effective either 30 days after publication in the Missouri Code of State Regulations or on the date specified in the proposal.
- When comments are received, the proposal is reviewed. Based on the public’s comments, the Commission may decide to drop, modify or implement the regulation.