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Paddlefish Snagging Report and Advisories

Paddlefish

Report for March 25, 2015

For Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River (below Bagnell Dam).

With the cold water temperatures and low flows, snagging is good for early season; on some days snaggers harvest a lot of fish and other days not so much. The fish are scattered, which is typical early in the season. Harvest is primarily small fish (34-37 inches); we are seeing a few 60+ pound fish. On Saturday 21 March Andy Belobraydic III snagged a new state record paddlefish on Table Rock Lake (140-pounds, 9-ounches). As water temperatures and flows increase the fish will start moving and snagging will improve. Think warm spring rains!

Snaggers are catching a lot of small (30-34 inch) sublegal fish,. Please don’t gaff these fish; get them back into the water unharmed immediately; you will be harvesting these fish in future years!

Thanks to snaggers who reported harvesting their tagged paddlefish.

Violations cited these past few days include harvesting sublegal fish, snagging in a restricted zone, failure to label fish when left unattended, no permit, and littering.

If you have any questions call 660-530-5500 or email Trish.Yasger@mdc.mo.gov.

Report tagged fish - get a reward

MDC is conducting a long-term study to improve paddlefish management. Participating qualifies you to enter a raffle for up to $500.00 Find out how to participate.

Snagging success depends on the weather

Snagging is dependent on weather conditions, primarily water temperature and flow. When water temperatures reach 50–55F and flow increases, paddlefish migrate upstream to spawn. Early in the season harvest is primarily made up of “local” fish and smaller males and immature females. As water temperature and flow increase, the fish will move upstream in the reservoir or river. Males make spawning migrations before females, with more females showing up when water temperatures are 55F and greater.

If we get a dry spring without much rain, snagging may not be as good as it has been in the past, and the fish will remain lower in the reservoirs or rivers. If we have a wet spring, fish will move up higher in the reservoirs or rivers. In some areas snagging may be very difficult or hazardous if flooding occurs. Logs and other debris can float downstream, and boaters need to be careful.

Snagging remains slow. The fish are scattered, some days snaggers harvest a lot of fish and other days not so much. Air temperatures have been below normal. Water temperatures are slowly increasing; surface water temperatures are around 50F. Keep in mind that this is just at the surface. The water is deep and there is a lot of colder water down where the fish are. We have had rain, but not much, and flows remain low. The forecast is calling for warmer days after the weekend and chances of rain. Truman Lake is just below normal water pool and Lake of the Ozarks is low. They are releasing a little water from both Truman and Bagnell dams. With the low water levels we will rely on spring rains to increase flows and get the fish moving. As water temperatures and flow increases snagging should improve!

Snagging places and prospects

Remember: after you have snagged your second paddlefish, you are done snagging for the day

Truman Lake

  • Please remember the 34-inch-length limit (eye to fork of tail on Truman Lake and its tributaries.
  • Truman is just below normal pool. There is very little flow; they are releasing a little water at Truman Dam. The water temperature is about 51F at the surface.
  • Snagging is good for early in the season, with some days better than others. Snaggers are harvesting mostly small males and immature females (34-37 inch fish), although we’ve seen a few 60+ pound fish harvested. We saw a few snaggers with limits past weekend. Snaggers are catching a lot of sublegal fish (30-34 inch fish); please be sure to release these fish unharmed immediately. The fish are scattered out from Talley Bend to Taberville and above; however most of the harvest was in the Talley Bend to Osceola area.
  • Best guess. When the fish are scattered out, snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. This is especially true with the cold water temperatures and low flows. Try the deep holes from the Talley Bend area to Osceola and above.

Public ramps to launch — from down to upstream

  • Talley Bend Access: go upstream towards Horseshoe Bend and up to the Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek and above towards Osceola.
  • Brush Creek Access: go downstream towards Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek and below OR upstream towards Osceola and above.
  • Crowes Crossing: to downstream towards Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek and below OR upstream towards Roscoe and/or go up the Sac River a couple of miles.
  • City of Osceola: go upstream towards Roscoe and/or go up the Sac River a couple of miles OR go downstream towards Brush Creek Access and down to Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek.
  • Sac River Access/Highway 82: go down stream towards the Osage, snagging the last couple of miles of the Sac, then continue on toward Osceola and below OR go up towards the Roscoe Access and above.
  • Roscoe: go downstream to where the Sac and Osage meet, then go up the Sac River a couple of miles or continue downstream towards Osceola OR go upstream towards Taberville and above.
  • Taberville: go downstream towards Roscoe and below OR go upstream towards the cut and above.
  • Caution: When the lake level is normal pool (706' msl), some people, especially the snaggers with deeper, V-bottom boats and pontoons, find it difficult to get out of the cove at Brush Creek Access. With the low water boats are NOT able to get out of the cove at City of Osceola Ramp. Be sure to always use caution.

Lake of the Ozarks

  • Please remember the 34-inch length limit (eye to fork of tail on Lake Ozark and its tributaries. Also, snagging is not permitted from the no-fishing zone below Truman Dam to the Highway 65 bridge.
  • Lake of the Ozarks is low. They are releasing a little water from both Truman and Bagnell dams, so there is very little flow. The water temperature is about 41F at the surface.
  • Snagging has improved - it is good for early in the season, some days better than others. Snaggers are harvesting primarily small males and immature females (34-38 inch fish); we’ve seen a few 60+ pound fish harvested. Snaggers are catching a lot of sublegal fish (30-34 inch fish), please be sure to release these fish unharmed immediately. The fish are scattered out from MM50 up to the Highway 65 bridge (about MM89.5); there are no real concentrations of fish. Most of the harvest is in the lower in the lake (MM50-MM80). We saw a lot of fish come out of the Wigwam Access this past weekend. Snaggers are also harvesting some fish on the Niangua Arm at the confluence of the Big and Little Niangua arms.
  • Best guess. When fish are scattered out, snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. With the cold water temperatures try the deep holes from MM50 up to Highway 65 bridge. Snaggers typically have better luck lower in the lake below MM70.

Public ramps to launch — from down to upstream

  • Browns Bend (around MM61.5): I've been told when the water is low, it can be difficult to get from the ramp to the lake since the cove is somewhat shallow this isn't a very large ramp, so not a lot of parking spaces. Go upstream between MM61 and MM65 and above OR downstream towards MM50.
  • Wigwam School Access (MM66.2): go downstream towards MM62 and below OR upstream towards MM72 — Big Buffalo Creek.
  • Warsaw (Drake) Harbor Access: you must go below the Highway 65 Bridge before you start snagging. Go downstream and start snagging below the Highway 65 Bridge (about MM89.5) and down.
  • Bledsoe Ferry Access: you must go below the Highway 65 Bridge before you can start snagging. Go downstream and start snagging below the Highway 65 Bridge (about MM89.5) and down.
  • Larry Gale Access — Niangua Arm: go downstream to where the Little Niangua joins the big Niangua or upstream toward Highway 54.

There are numerous private ramps that you can pay to launch from.

Osage River  

  • Please remember the no-snagging zone from Bagnell Dam to U.S. Highway 54 Bridge. Tickets are being issued for this violation. On the Osage River below Bagnell Dam, the minimum length limit remains 24 inches (eye to fork of tail).
  • On the Upper Osage River below Bagnell Dam, a snag fishery exists for a few miles below the Highway 54 Bridge to RM78.
  • The water is cold and flows are low even though they are releasing a little water at Bagnell Dam. Snaggers harvested a few small fish (just over the 24-inch minimum).

Public ramps to launch

  • Bagnell Dam Access: you must go below the Highway 54 Bridge before you can start snagging.
  • On the Lower Osage River below Bagnell Dam, snagging is primarily done from a couple of miles above Pikes Camp all the way down to the Missouri River; the lower 25 miles. We also see snaggers out in the Missouri River. Snagging in this area is typically slow early in the season.
  • The water is cold (47-50F at the surface) and flows are low. Snagging is slow, which is typical early in the season. Snaggers harvested a few small fish. We have had reports of snaggers harvesting a few fish in the Missouri River and some of the other tributaries to the Missouri.

Public ramps to launch — from down to upstream

  • Bonnots Mill Access: go up or downstream. Occasionally we see snaggers out in the Missouri River.
  • Mari-Osa Access: go downstream below the Highway 63 bridge towards Bonnots Mill and below, OR upstream towards the lock and dam.
  • Pikes Camp Access: go upstream a couple of miles, OR downstream towards the lock and dam.

Advisories

Check the Wildlife Code of Missouri (see link below) for paddlefish regulations

  • Please remember — on Lake of the Ozarks and its tributaries, the Osage River below U.S. Highway 54, and on Truman Lake and its tributaries — no person shall continue to snag, snare, or grab for any species after taking a daily limit of two (2) paddlefish. Tickets have been issued for this violation.
  • Once you’ve taken your second fish, you are done snagging for the day.
  • Unless, exempt, anglers must possess a valid fishing permit if you are snagging or driving the boat used for snagging.
  • Extracted paddlefish eggs may not be possessed while on the water or adjacent banks and may not be transported. Paddlefish eggs may not be bought, sold, or offered for sale.
  • Do not clean paddlefish while you are on the water. The head, tail, and skin must remain attached to all fish that have length limits while those fish are on the water.

Dial 1-800-392-1111 anytime to report illegal activity

In 2013, Conservation Agents broke up an international paddlefish-trafficking operation in Warsaw. This group of poachers stole a lot of fish from legal snaggers. We aren’t sure what effect that this illegal activity has had on Missouri's paddlefish population. If you see or suspect illegal snagging activity, please report it immediately. Your identity will remain anonymous, and a reward is possible depending on successful prosecution of the case. Visit our Operation Game Thief page below for more details.

Keep snagging strong — release sublegal fish unharmed immediately

MDC maintains the paddlefish populations in Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks, and Table Rock Lake with annual stockings of fingerlings from MDC’s Blind Pony Hatchery. It takes paddlefish seven to eight years to grow to legal size. In 2008, we had our largest stocking of paddlefish ever — more than 164,000 fish. These fish are now seven years old, and should average about 34 inches (measured eye to fork of tail). These fish should start contributing to the harvest. Snaggers may continue to catch a lot of sublegal fish this year. It is important to release these fish unharmed immediately and gently because they are the fish that you will be harvesting over the next several years!

The Code states that sublegal paddlefish must be returned unharmed immediately after being caught!

  • Take care when removing hooks, and get the fish back into the water as quickly as possible.
  • Be sure that your hands are wet before handling, and avoid excessive handling.
  • Do not pass fish around for photos.
  • Hold fish firmly to avoid dropping them, and never put your fingers in the gills or eyes.

Avoid penalties! Use nets instead of gaffs to land fish

  • Using a gaff to land paddlefish can injure or kill sublegal paddlefish, making you subject to a penalty. Use a large net to land all paddlefish safely.

Wanted: Bighead and Silver Carp

MDC biologists are looking at bighead and silver carp (invasive species) to see if they have any impact on our native fish species.

Biologists would like to collect all bighead and silver carp caught by anglers on Lake of the Ozarks, Truman, and Table Rock lakes. We will look at captured fish to see if there is any dietary overlap with our native paddlefish, determine if they are mature and able to reproduce, and look at various ages and sizes of fish. If you would like to help out, please save and freeze any bighead and silver carp that you catch. Contact Quinton Phelps at 605-695-0593 (cell) or Trish Yasger at 660-530-5500 (work) to arrange a pick-up of the fish you’ve collected.

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