Reservoir Blues

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Published on: Nov. 14, 2012

survey, suggesting that future management efforts should be directed at improving these fisheries.

In 2003, the Department drafted the Statewide Catfish Management Plan and discussed its elements with anglers at six public meetings. Public response was gathered and the following key strategy was identified: Implement new regulations, based on sampling and creel data, to protect large catfish in Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks.

Between 2004 and 2008, Department biologists tagged 300 blue catfish on Truman Reservoir using $50 reward tags. At the end of the five-year period, the combined harvest rate on blue catfish 24 inches and larger, or about 5 pounds, was 92 percent. A 92-percent angler harvest rate for medium-size blue catfish does not allow blue catfish to remain in the population long enough to reach their growth potential. This “growth-overfishing” is recognized as a major contributing factor to the decline in blue catfish sizes.

The Department conducted further sampling of blue catfish during 2010 and 2011. During that time, 1,099 fish were sampled on Truman Reservoir, with an average weight of 4 pounds. A total of 869 fish were sampled on Lake of the Ozarks, with an average weight of 3 pounds. Meanwhile, blue catfish caught by anglers were showing the same trend.

Truman volunteer catfish anglers also shared information from their 2003–2005 fishing trips. The 3,760 blues caught using a full range of legal methods (measured by anglers) averaged only 3 pounds.

Finally, conservation agents began measuring angler catches on both reservoirs in 2010.

Once again, the average size of fish that anglers have been catching on Truman Reservoir is 4 pounds, and the average size on Lake of the Ozarks is 3 pounds.

Citizens and Science Seek a Solution

In 2006, the Department implemented changes to the statewide regulations for blue and channel catfish. Once combined in a daily limit of 10, blue and channel catfish were separated. The new regulations allow 10 channel catfish and five blue catfish daily statewide. Fisheries Division Chief Chris Vitello explains, “We made this change with future management in mind. We know that channel and blue catfish are very different and by separating the two, we would be able to better manage each in the future as we learned more about populations of these important sport fish.”

In 2009, the Department formed a working group to review available data and consider ways to reverse the decline of

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