Reservoir Blues

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Published on: Nov. 14, 2012

It was a warm summer morning and the three catfish anglers pulled their boat up to the trotline with great anticipation. They had caught several nice fish the night before, and numerous smaller fish, but this line would be different.

The boys grabbed the line while their grandpa drove the boat. “Grandpa, we have a good one!” one of them shouted. As they eased closer to the big blue catfish they could tell it was a giant. The fish fought hard as the three tried to get it in the net. At the last minute, the large blue made a hard run and broke the dropper line, leaving only a tale of the one that got away.

This might sound like a common fish story, but for Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks, it’s not as common as it used to be. In the early years following the building of Truman Dam, Truman Reservoir and the area directly below the dam on Lake of the Ozarks became known as world-class blue catfish waters. The reservoirs combined span more than 100,000 acres and were once destinations for anglers wanting to catch a fish of a lifetime. Early on this was possible, but now blue catfish weighing 50 pounds or more are rare.

Blue catfish are Missouri’s largest catfish. The current alternative method state record was caught by Azel Goans in 1964 and weighed 117 pounds, a record that stands nearly 50 years later. The giant blue was caught from the Osage River near Osceola, an area that is now flooded by Truman Reservoir. In 2010, the former pole-and line world record, and current state record blue catfish, was caught from the Missouri River near St. Louis. That fish weighed 130 pounds. Blues are pursued because they can reach large sizes and are great to eat. However, it takes time for these fish to grow. Blues can live 20 to 30 years and, on average, take five years to reach about 1 pound and 15 years to reach about 12 pounds in Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks.

A Common Concern

Truman Reservoir impounded the Osage River upstream from Warsaw in 1979. The dam became a barrier to blue catfish migrating upstream from Lake of the Ozarks and a concentration point for large blue catfish making their annual spring spawning runs. Truman was a new reservoir full of food and had

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