plenty of water for blue catfish to roam and grow to large sizes.
Retired Department Hatchery Manager Gary Heidrich remembers those days. “I worked in the Truman basin before the dam went in,” he says. “Once the dam was built and the reservoir flooded, 50-pound blue catfish were very common. It was easy to go out and catch those fish, and many larger fish upwards of 80 pounds were caught each year.”
Fishing pressure increased once the reservoirs gained fame for producing heavy stringers of blue catfish. Department biologists and conservation agents noticed the increasing fishing pressure beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As the number of anglers rose, the number of large blues fell.
Local angler Alvin Franklin has chased catfish on the Lake of the Ozarks for more than 50 years. “I can remember the days when we used to catch a lot of big ones,” he says. “I haven’t seen as many big ones as we used to. I think if they can come up with a slot limit or a length limit, that’s got to help things. And if we don’t have that, the younger generation won’t know what a big catfish is. That would be a shame.”
Biologists decided to take a closer look at catfish angler opinions and catfish populations. In Lake of the Ozarks below Truman Dam, biologists had concerns with declining numbers of larger, mature fish and determined that harvest was too high. Subsequent research led to the implementation of a no-fishing zone directly below the dam, and protective regulations for catfish were implemented beginning in 1998.
In 2002, the Department conducted a statewide survey of catfish anglers and asked several questions of anglers who fished Truman Reservoir. Truman catfish anglers were asked whether fishing for catfish had improved, declined, or stayed the same for the 10-year period spanning 1992 through 2002. More anglers (35 percent) believed that the quality of catfish angling had declined, while only 11 percent believed that fishing for catfish had improved.
Between 2003 and 2005, the Department also conducted a Truman Volunteer Catfish Angler Creel. Catfish anglers (308) were asked to rate their fishing trips. The largest percentage (41 percent) ranked their trips as poor, while the smallest percentage (15 percent) ranked their trips as excellent. Combined, the categories of fair and poor accounted for 64 percent of the responses from anglers in this latter