By Kristie Hilgedick
Smallmouth bass and rock bass — also called goggle eye — are very popular with anglers on Missouri’s Ozark streams. However, research by the Missouri Department of Conservation shows both species grow slowly and many do not reach a quality size before dying from natural causes or being caught by anglers.
Many anglers surveyed by the Department have reported fishing quality for rock bass has declined over the past decade. Many anglers also have said the minimum-length limits and daily limits for smallmouth on rivers and creeks vary and can be complicated.
According to fishing regulations, no statewide minimum-length limit exists for rock bass, but some rivers and creeks located in the Department’s special management areas have an 8-inch minimum. Smallmouth bass have a statewide minimum-length limit of 12 inches with a six-fish daily limit, while special management areas have a minimum-length limit of 15 or 18 inches with a daily limit of one or two fish.
As a result of research and angler feedback, the Department is proposing changes to fishing regulations for these two popular game fish. These changes would help grow smallmouth and rock bass while simplifying regulations for smallmouth in Department special management areas.
For rock bass, research shows a majority of anglers favor a single, statewide minimum-length limit. The Department will propose setting it at 7 inches.
For smallmouth bass, the proposed changes would maintain the current statewide length limit of 12 inches with a daily limit of six fish, but change all special management areas to a 15-inch minimum length limit with a daily limit of one smallmouth bass.
Proposed regulations would also create a new special management area on the Current River and expand the special management areas on the Big Piney, Big River, Jacks Fork, and Meramec rivers.
The Department is seeking public input on these potential regulation changes and will host a series of open houses around the state to provide more information, answer questions, and receive public comments. The Department invites anglers and others to the following open houses from 6–8 p.m.:
Gov. Jay Nixon announced the reappointment of Don C. Bedell of Sikeston to the Missouri Conservation Commission.
”Don Bedell’s service on the Conservation Commission since 2009, including a term as chair, has been exemplary, cementing Missouri’s role as the nationwide leader in conservation,” Nixon said.
During the past six years with Bedell as a member, Nixon said the Missouri Conservation Commission has seen record harvests of wildlife and increased numbers of participants in outdoor conservation-related activities, par ticularly among Missouri’s youth, minority, and disabled populations.
Bedell said serving Missouri citizens has been an honor.
“The combined work and dedication of Department staff and Missouri citizens has resulted in some great conservation achievements over the last six years,” he said. “The Governor, First Lady, and my fellow Commissioners are great conservationists who continue to help Missouri be a national and world leader in conservation. I am both flattered and humbled to serve a second term on the Conservation Commission.”
Bedell, a Republican, is a businessman, conservationist, and sportsman. He is a Life Sponsor of Ducks Unlimited, a Life Member of Quail Unlimited, Inc., a Sustaining
Member of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, a Diamond Sponsor of the National Wild Turkey Federation, and a Life Member of Safari Club International.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture and a Master of Science degree in animal nutrition with a double minor in biochemistry and wildlife. He is owner of B&B Boats and Bikes in Sikeston and B&R Marine & Cycle in Batesville, Arkansas. He has founded and run numerous other businesses, primarily in healthcare/nursing home management. He serves on many boards of directors and is an advisory board member to the Southeast Missouri State University College of Health and Human Services.
The four members of the Conservation Commission serve six-year terms. Commissioner responsibilities are statewide and include serving as the Conservation Department’s policy makers; approving changes to Wildlife Code regulations, strategic planning, budget development, and major expenditure decisions; and appointing the director of the Conservation Department. The Governor appointed Bedell to a term that ends July 1, 2021. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Missouri Senate.
October is a wonderful time to take a scenic drive through Missouri’s elk restoration area in the Ozarks. Not only will the state’s autumn foliage likely be at its glorious peak, visitors may also catch a glimpse of two newcomers, twin elk calves born in July at Peck Ranch Conservation Area (CA). And since elk breed in the fall, visitors could hear males bugling as they advertise their fitness to potential mates and warn other competitors away.
Elk twins are uncommon, especially in relation to other members of the deer family, said Elk Program Manager David Hasenbeck. Less than 1 percent of elk females typically have twins in a given year, Hasenbeck noted. “It’s a good indicator of quality habitat for the herd,” he said.
Elk breeding, which starts in late September, occurs earlier than the deer rut.
“Given the longer gestation period of elk, earlier breeding is needed to ensure that the calves will be born during the peak nutritional period of spring,” Resource Scientist Barbara Keller said.
Once common throughout most of Missouri, elk disappeared from the state about 150 years ago due to over harvest and habitat loss. The Missouri
Department of Conservation reintroduced an elk herd to a 346-square-mile restoration zone between Ellington and Winona in 2011.
To see the herd, visitors are invited to participate in two self-guided driving tours through the Peck Ranch and Current River conservation areas. Although catching a glimpse of the elk isn’t guaranteed, a beautiful drive through fields, forests, and glades is a certainty.
Peck Ranch is located near Winona in Shannon County with entrances off both Routes 19 and 60. The tour begins at the office and is marked along the way. It is open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, except during managed deer hunts, fall firearms season, and in the event roads are closed due to weather.
This fall, managed hunts are scheduled at Peck Ranch Oct. 10–11, 24–26, and Dec. 5–6. The area will also be closed for fall firearms deer season Oct. 31–Nov. 1 and Nov. 14–24.
No similar conflicts exist for the Current River CA, where the driving tour runs from Highway 106 to South Road out of Ellington. The route includes roads 1, 9, and 10, past the shooting range, the log cabin, and the fire tower.
Visitors’ best chances of seeing elk are the hours right after sunrise and before sunset. For more information about the Department’s driving tours, visit on.mo.gov/1NTb37P.
A series of proposed changes could simplify Missouri’s conservation area deer regulations and give Missouri Department of Conservation staff more flexibility to manage local deer herds.
Specifically, the Department is considering changing the hunting methods allowed on some conservation areas for the 2016–2017 seasons. The public is invited to provide input. To see a list of the 32 conservation areas with proposed hunting method changes, and to provide comments, visit on.mo.gov/1VsTCgv. The comment period closes Nov. 30.
Historically, the Department reevaluates the structure of conservation area regulations every five to 10 years. This time the working group waited until the results of a hunter satisfaction survey were complete.
“Providing quality hunting opportunities on conservation areas is important because approximately 10 percent of all Missouri deer hunters hunt only on public land and as many as 25 percent hunt on public land at least once during the year,” Wildlife Management Biologist Dave Darrow said.
Currently, deer regulation options for the state’s conservation areas fall into six different categories. But over the years, managers, agents, and hunters alike have found the system confusing. The new regulations trim the categories from six to three hunting methods, including:
The new system also clarifies — with a “yes” or a “no” — if antlerless permits may be used on the area.
The proposed changes aren’t expected to have a widespread impact. Of the state’s 568 conservation areas, only 32 — or fewer than 6 percent — will be affected. Although the number might be small, said Darrow, each location is important to someone.
“Changing methodologies on conservation areas is a big deal because it might be the only conservation area close to someone,” he said. “If someone is used to hunting with a rifle, they may be concerned if the area is changed to ‘archery and muzzleloading methods only.’”
The Missouri Conservation Commission set season dates and limits for the 2016–2017 fall deer season and gave initial approval to several deer-hunting regulation changes proposed by the Missouri Department of Conservation at the Commission’s August meeting in Jefferson City.
Missouri’s rule-making process includes a 30-day public comment period. Comments related to the proposed regulation changes can be submitted online to the Conservation Department from Oct. 2–31 at on.mo.gov/1NJkkzZ. If individuals are unable to submit comments via the on-line system, written comments on specific proposals can be sent directly to Regulations Committee Chairman, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102- 0180. Full verbiage of the proposed amendments is posted on the Department’s website.
The Commission will make its final decision on these proposed changes at its December meeting. With final approval, the regulation changes would become effective in March 2016 and implemented for the 2016–2017 deer hunting seasons. 2016–2017 Deer Hunting Season Dates
The Conservation Commission approved the following 2015–2016 waterfowl hunting seasons at its August meeting.
Bag Limit: Six ducks daily with species restrictions of:
Possession Limit: Three times the daily bag limit (in total 18), including species restrictions.
The August Commission meeting featured presentations and discussions regarding 2016–2017 fall deer and turkey season structure, methods, and limits, 2015–2016 waterfowl season dates and limits, the Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program, fiscal year 2016 major construction projects status report, and fiscal year 2015 year-end review of revenue and expenditure trends. A summary of actions taken during the Aug. 18–19 meeting for the benefit and protection of forests, fish, and wildlife, and the citizens who enjoy them includes:
The next Conservation Commission meeting is Oct. 22 and 23. For more information, visit on.mo.gov/1Ii70Op or call your regional Conservation office.
The bearded tooth can be found statewide from August to November on trunks of living deciduous trees and fallen trees and logs. It is a choice edible mushroom, but it is tasty only when young and fresh. It gets sour and bitter as it matures. This species lives as a network of cells (mycelium) within dead trees as a scavenger, and in living trees as a parasite, digesting and decomposing the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the beardlike ”fruiting body” that emerges from the wood — this is the reproductive structure. Spores are produced in the ”teeth” and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere.
—photograph by David Bruns
Conservation enriches our economy and quality of life.
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
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Circulation - Laura Scheuler