From the Missouri Conservationist Magazine
March 2020 Issue

In Brief

News and updates from MDC.

Paddlefish Season Begins March 15

Get your permit for a chance to snag a Missouri monster fish.

Imagine catching a giant, prehistoric fish whose ancestors swam during the time of dinosaurs. That is a reality for thousands of paddlefish snaggers during Missouri’s annual spring paddlefish snagging season, which opens March 15.

Paddlefish — named for their large, paddle-shaped snouts — are an ancient species that can grow to 7 feet and weigh more than 100 pounds. The state’s major paddlefish snagging waters include Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, and Table Rock Lake. The paddlefish snagging season for these and most other waters in the state runs through April 30. The season for the Mississippi River goes through May 15, with a fall season from Sept. 15 through Dec. 15.

Unless exempt, anglers must have a current fishing permit to snag or operate a boat for snaggers. Once two legal-sized paddlefish are caught, they must be kept by the snagger and included in the daily limit. The daily limit is two paddlefish and snaggers must stop snagging after obtaining the daily limit on Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake and their tributaries, and the Osage River below the U.S. Highway 54 bridge.

For more information about paddlefish snagging regulations, snagging reports, and more, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZTC.

Landowner Verification Required for Free, Discounted Permits

MDC reminds Missouri resident and nonresident landowners who qualify for free or discounted deer and turkey hunting permits to register their properties in the new landowner permit registry, either online or by paper application.

Starting this year, resident landowners with 20 or more contiguous acres and nonresident landowners with 75 or more contiguous acres qualify for landowner deer and turkey permits, but must submit their property information to the registry to receive them.

The new registry will provide MDC and permit vendors with secure records of landowners and members of their households who qualify for free and discounted permits, along with proof of land ownership and boundaries of the properties for which permits apply.

Conservation agents around the state find several hundred violations each year related to the misuse of landowner permits and privileges, and this new system will help eliminate that abuse.

For more information about the MDC landowner permit registry and to register online, visit mdc.mo.gov/landownerpermits. To request a paper application and for more information on the registry, email permits@mdc. mo.gov, call MDC Permit Services at 573-522- 0107 and select Option 1, or mail a request to: Missouri Department of Conservation, Permit Services — Landowner, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180.

Be Bear Aware This Spring

Missouri is home to an estimated 540–840 black bears, mostly in the southern part of the state. As spring approaches, these magnificent mammals leave their winter dens in search of food. MDC reminds Missourians to “Be Bear Aware.”

MDC Resource Scientist and Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee said it is imperative that residents remove bear attractants from their property, such as bird feeders, trash, barbeque grills, pet food, and food waste.

“As black bears become active in the spring, they are on a mission to find food,” said Conlee. “Letting bears find natural foods is in everyone’s best interest. If you see a bear, let the animal be and enjoy the sighting, but be sure to not offer it any food.”

Conlee noted that intentionally feeding bears can be dangerous as it makes the bears comfortable around people. It can also lead bears to cause significant damage to property while searching for a meal.

“When bears lose their fear of humans, they could approach people in search of food or may defend the food sources or territory they associate with people, which can make them dangerous,” Conlee said. “When this happens, the bear cannot be relocated and has to be destroyed. A fed bear is a dead bear.”

Food is usually a bear’s main motivator, but that also means it can be a main source of conflict. MDC offers the following tips to avoid attracting black bears to possible food sources:

  • Store garbage, recyclables, and compost inside a secure building or in a bear-proof container until trash pick-up day.
  • Keep grills and smokers clean and store them inside.
  • Don’t leave pet food outside. Feed pets a portion at each meal and remove the empty containers.
  • Refrain from using bird feeders in bear country from April through November. If in use, hang them at least 10 feet high and 4 feet away from any structure. Keep in mind that even if a bear cannot get to the birdseed, the scent could still attract it to the area.
  • Use electric fencing to keep bears away from beehives, chicken coops, vegetable gardens, orchards, and other potential food sources.
  • Keep campsites clean and store all food, toiletries, and trash in a secure vehicle or strung high between two trees. Do not keep food or toiletries in a tent, and do not burn or bury garbage or food waste.

While black bears are generally a shy, nonaggressive species and bear attacks are rare, follow these tips when outdoors in bear country:

  • Make noise, such as clapping, singing, or talking loudly while hiking to prevent surprising a bear.
  • Travel in a group if possible.
  • Keep dogs leashed.
  • Be aware of the surroundings. If there is evidence of a bear, such as tracks or scat, avoid the area.
  • Leave bears alone! Do not approach them, and make sure they have an escape route.

For more information on Missouri black bears and how to Be Bear Aware, visit mdc.mo.gov/bearaware. Learn about MDC’s Missouri Black Bear Project at short.mdc.mo.gov/ZTb.

Ask MDC

Got a Question for Ask MDC? Send it to AskMDC@mdc.mo.gov or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q. I discovered an interesting plant in my backyard. Could you identify it?

A. It’s not a plant at all; it’s a fungus. What is the difference? Plants usually use carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water to create food via photosynthesis, while fungi typically acquire their food by secreting digestive enzymes to absorb dissolved molecules.

Sometimes called a “devil’s urn,” this urn-shaped, leathery-brown mushroom (Urnula craterium) is one of the first mushrooms to appear in the spring from March to May. They are inedible. But when mature, this species is a good sign that morels are popping. So, if you see one, look around for the more edible morels.

Devil’s urns can be found singly or clustered on small to medium sized decaying sticks and small logs. When young, they are urn shaped, but the “mouth” of the urn gets wider as they mature. Older specimens are often shaped more like goblets or cups.

Q: I’m interested in catching more crappie. Do you have tips for spring fishing?

A. Crappie are spawning from March to early June, making it the perfect time to cast a minnow and bobber toward the bank and catch a ton of fish. During the spring spawning period, use a trolling motor to move slowly and quietly close to the shoreline. Most crappie are caught either on a minnow under a bobber or on a small jig — 1/16th ounce being the most versatile. Having two contrasting colors helps make the lure more visible to the fish. They prefer to follow bait moving at a slow, steady pace; they usually don’t chase fast-moving prey.

Move slowly and hit every nook and cranny around rocks, woody debris and vegetation. Pea gravel banks are also preferred spawning locations. Once you locate crappie, stop and continue fishing that spot until the fish stop biting or they’re not big enough to suit you. If a spring cold front sends crappie out to deeper water, concentrate on steep banks. Crappie won’t be very far off the bank.

They are known for being very gentle nibblers. Keep a close watch on the line between the tip of your rod and where it enters the water. It takes patience, but with practice you’ll catch on.

For more tips, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/Zpp and short.mdc.mo.gov/Zmh.

Q: Does Missouri have carnivorous plants?

A. Yes. Missouri is home to four species of bladderwort, the only known fish-catching plant in the world. Capable of eating small aquatic invertebrates and microorganisms, these plants get their name from the small bladderlike traps scattered along their finely divided branches. You can find them floating in still ponds, ditches, and backwaters throughout Missouri.

Bladderworts’ pea-shaped traps are tiny at less than a quarter-inch long. On one end is a transparent trap door surrounded by a halo of minute trigger hairs. When closed, the door is sealed watertight. Glands inside the bladder pump water out, emptying the interior and forming a vacuum inside the pocket.

Sugar is secreted as bait to attract small swimming animals, such as tiny crustaceans, insects, tadpoles, and fish fry. The slightest touch of a hair causes the entry to snap shut and the suction causes the victim to be swept inside by the inrushing water. Glands inside the trap emit substances that slowly digest the prey, leaving only their skeletons behind.

Bladderworts are far more widespread than other North American carnivorous plants such as Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, and sundews, but are easy to overlook due to their underwater habitat. A telltale sign is their striking springtime flower display. Watch for their bright yellow, snapdragon-like flowers from May to August.

Agent Advice

Agent Jake Strozewski, Benton County Conservation Agent

Paddlefish snagging season opens statewide March 15. This is a finite resource we are fortunate to pursue in Missouri. All snaggers should have the proper fishing permit and know the regulations governing the waters they are visiting. Remember, if you snag a legal-size fish, it must be kept. Anglers must stop snagging once they reach their daily limit of two fish on Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake (including their tributaries) and the Osage River below U.S. Highway 54. Finally, paddlefish eggs cannot be possessed or transported outside the body of the fish. For more information on paddlefish and paddlefish season, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZTC. See you on the water.

We Are Conservation

Spotlight on people and partners

By Larry Archer

Normandy Schools Collaborative

For many urban school students, opportunities to experience nature first-hand are rare, but for seventh and eighth grade students in the St. Louis-area Normandy Schools Collaborative, nature is built into the curriculum.

To facilitate the connection between students and nature, teachers take students on field trips to the Audubon Center at Riverlands, a 3,700-acre nature reserve located near West Alton, Mo., on the banks of the Mississippi River north of its confluence with the Missouri River.

More than a field trip

More than simply a visit to a nature reserve, the trip to reinforces classroom lessons concerning science inquiry and processes. Educators also base writing assignments on the students’ experiences in nature. The area includes prairies, marshes, and bottomland forest habitats along the Mississippi flyway migratory corridor, giving students the opportunity to conduct studies of both fish and birds.

In their own words

“As educators, our goal is to make the unfamiliar more familiar for all our students,” said Andrew Miller, Normandy science coordinator. “We want them to have a hands-on, authentic experience outdoors that will stimulate new ways of thinking about the environment and their relationship to our shared environment as Missourians.”

Renew Your Hunting and Fishing Permits Today

Buy Missouri hunting and fishing permits from vendors around the state, online at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits, or through MDC’s free mobile apps, MO Hunting and MO Fishing.

Also in this issue

Devil Crayfish

Burrowing Crayfish

These elusive engineers contribute greatly to their habitats.

Prescribed Burn

Leopold’s Toolbox

Century-old land management techniques still work for attracting wildlife.

Flower in a Sand Prairie

A River Ran Through It

How the mighty Mississippi influenced Missouri’s most diverse region.

And More...

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This Issue's Staff:

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler