Fish Management Plans

rainbow trout in hands
Fish Management Plans

MDC works to maintain quality fish habitat and quality fishing opportunities throughout the state. Management practices are determined through science-based research, public input, and feedback from Missouri anglers. 

Browse this section for information on how MDC manages specific game fish and endangered fish species. 

Management Plans

MDC has detailed plans on how we manage several species of fish, either to improve fishing opportunities or to ensure survival of the species.

Read full management plans.

Management Summaries

In 2009, a group of Missouri Department of Conservation employees from Protection, Resource Science, and Fisheries branches came together to discuss the history of blue catfish and the anglers who pursued them on both lakes. Some anglers and professionals alike had concerns with the decline in the numbers of large blue catfish.

MDC staff looked at past angler surveys and harvest evaluations with an eye toward regaining the fame these lakes once held for producing big catfish.

In 2010, staff began gathering blue catfish population data and continued the effort for three years ending in 2012. During the same time period, MDC held three stakeholder meetings, three public open houses, and gathered public opinion in several other ways.

With the combination of sound science and public input that showed angler support, MDC implemented the following regulations, effective March 1, 2014:

  • Blue catfish between 26 and 34 inches in total length must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught on Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, and their tributaries.
  • ANY stream, creek, or river entering these lakes is a tributary. These waters cease being tributaries ONLY where a major dam (Pomme de Terre, Stockton Lake, Montrose, and Tunnel Dam) interrupts them, or where they reach the state line.

One of the most popular groups of fish sought by anglers, catfish are managed to maintain quality fishing opportunities.  Because catfish are harvested both recreationally and commercially, management of this group of fish has become increasingly important. 

Best bets for catfish


The lake sturgeon recovery program's mission is to improve populations of a state-endangered species, and increase the sturgeon’s numbers sufficiently to provide a unique sport fishing opportunity to Missouri anglers.


Missouri’s muskellunge (muskie) program was initiated at Pomme de Terre Lake in 1966 to provide Missourians an opportunity to experience muskie magic without having to leave the state, and to provide a trophy fishery with a predator that could prey upon large non-game fishes.

Best Bets for muskie


Sport and commercial anglers prize Missouri’s paddlefish. The Department’s primary paddlefish management goals are to maintain healthy and sustainable populations and manage paddlefish statewide as a high-quality sport fish.

Annual Stocking at Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Reservoir, and Table Rock Lake

Since paddlefish do not naturally reproduce in our three large reservoir fisheries, MDC maintains these reservoir populations with annual stockings of hatchery-produced fingerlings.

MDC staff has been raising paddlefish at Blind Pony Hatchery near Sweet Springs for reservoir stocking since 1970. Paddlefish brood stock are collected from the three reservoirs each spring and taken to Blind Pony where the eggs are manually extracted and fertilized. The fry are raised at the hatchery until September when almost 40,000, 10- to 12-inch fingerlings are then stocked in Lake of the Ozarks (15,000), Harry S. Truman Reservoir (15,000), and Table Rock Lake (7,500).

Best Bets for paddlefish fishing


Missouri's pallid sturgeon recovery efforts include:

  • Understanding more about their life history
  • Restoration of habitat
  • Artificial propagation

Missouri manages stream smallmouth bass populations to provide a variety of fishing opportunities now and for future generations of anglers.


Currently, Missouri has almost 300 miles of streams with special management regulations and many more miles of permanently flowing black bass streams with statewide regulations:

  • 12-inch minimum length limit and daily limit of six


The Missouri Department of Conservation does not stock smallmouth bass. Extensive research studies that showed supplemental stocking of small, native smallmouth bass yields only a very slight increase in adult numbers. Alterations to available habitat for smallmouth bass is the prime reason for decreasing populations and adding more fish into poorer habitat rarely means more fish for the angler.

Spotted Bass

MDC has noticed increased populations of spotted (Kentucky) bass in portions of the Meramec, Big, and Bourbeuse rivers since the 1980s. In those rivers, spotted bass rarely seem to reach the 12-inch length limit. They grow slowly and have been shown to compete and hybridize with native smallmouth bass.

While there is no doubt that smallmouth bass have been affected by habitat alterations, the continual march of spotted bass farther upstream each year concerned biologists. Smallmouth bass numbers appear to have declined in many areas and biologists believe spotted bass may be part of the reason.

In response, MDC removed the minimum length limit on spotted bass and increased the daily limit to 12. Anglers in these three rivers can help slow the increase of spotted bass by learning to identify spotted bass and taking some home.

Best Bets for smallmouth bass


Trout fishing accounts for about 14 percent of all Missouri angling effort. Trout habitat, however, is limited. Because trout fishing is so popular and the resource is so limited, Missouri's plan ensures the most efficient and effective management.

Best Bets for trout


Walleye Populations Are Maintained Through Stocking

Walleye do have some natural reproduction in Missouri’s lakes and rivers, but they don't keep up with the fishing demand. Therefore, broodstock (mature adults) are collected each year so MDC staff can artificially produce and raise young walleye. These fish are stocked as fry and fingerlings (1–2” fish) into a selected number of Missouri’s lakes and rivers.

To learn more about fish hatcheries and the fish rearing process, visit the Lost Valley Hatchery. The hatchery offers tours and educational programs.

Ongoing Research

In order to increase our knowledge of the species, biologists conduct studies to determine the genetic diversity of walleye found throughout Missouri, walleye movement in various lakes and streams, the impact anglers have on individual walleye populations, survival of stocked fingerlings, etc.

Best Bets for walleye

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