Paddlefish: Snagging Report and Advisories

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Report for April 22, 2021

Last Report for 2021

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

General Conditions

Thanks to the snow and cold weather, water temperatures have cooled off some. Flow remains good and paddlefish are moving upstream. Truman Lake level is dropping, and Lake of the Ozarks and Osage River up and about same as last week. Flows are good even though they’ve cut back releases from both Truman and Bagnell dams. Snagging is good and pressure is light on Truman Lake, is good on Lake of the Ozarks and as picked up on the upper Osage River below Bagnell Dam. Most of the fish that they are harvesting on the reservoirs are 34-40 inches, we are seeing some 80-pound fish. The fish are in good condition – nice and fat! As temperatures increase the fish will continue to move up. Snaggers are seeing a lot of sublegal fish, especially 30-32-inch fish, these fish are from the really large 2016 stocking. It is extremely important to release all sublegal fish unharmed immediately and gently as they are the fish you will be harvesting in the future. Please don’t use gaffs on these sublegal fish.

Violations cited this past week include: snagging in a no snagging zone, taking game fish by illegal method (snagging), failure to keep fish separate or identifiable (paddlefish in cooler), possession if fish (paddlefish) without head and tail attached while on the water and no permit.

Dispose of your fish-cleaning waste responsibly when cleaning paddlefish. Help keep areas clean and inviting for everyone to enjoy.

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

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Snagging places and prospects
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Please remember the 34-inch-length limit (eye to fork of tail) on Truman Lake and its tributaries.

Water Temperature and Flow

Truman Lake is down about 4 feet from last week, yet the lake is still 4 feet high. Flow is still good. The Upper Osage and Marais des Cygnes River are continuing to come down. As the lake level comes down, they will cut back water releases from Truman Dam. The water temperature dropped back to upper 50’sF at the surface.

Fishing Prospect

With good water temperatures and flows snagging is good from Osceola to Taberville and above. The fish are moving upstream. Snaggers are harvesting fish, primarily small fish (34-40-inch fish) and we’re continuing to see more of the larger females. Snaggers are catching several sublegal fish (24-32-inch fish), please be sure to release these fish immediately unharmed.

Best guess

There are good water temperatures and flows, and some debris – please continue to use caution and stay safe. Try the deep holes around the Osceola area to Taberville and above. As water temperatures continue to increase you may want to consider moving up a little higher towards Roscoe, Taberville and above.

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Please remember the 34-inch length limit (eye to fork of tail on Lake Ozark and its tributaries. Snagging is not permitted from the no-fishing zone below Truman Dam to the Highway 65 Bridge.

Water Temperature and Flow

Lake of the Ozarks is about the same as last week. There is good flow, as water levels at Truman continue to fall, they will cut back water releases from Truman Dam. The water temperature dropped back to upper 50’sF at the surface.

Fishing Prospect

Snagging remains good on both the Osage and Niangua arms. The fish are moving ;upstream. They are harvesting primarily small fish (35-40-inch fish). We’re continuing to see some limits and the bigger 80 lb fish. We are seeing fish harvested from MM55 up to the Highway 65 bridge (about MM89.5) and in the Niangua Arm. Snaggers are catching several sublegal fish (24-32-inch fish), please be sure to release these fish immediately unharmed.

Best guess

There are good water temperatures and flows. The fish are moving upstream. Try the deep holes below and above Wigwam School Access (MM66.2), up to Highway 65 bridge, and around Larry Gale Access on the Niangua. As water temperatures increase you may want to consider moving up higher in the lake, towards Truman Dam.

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On the Osage River below Bagnell Dam, the minimum length limit remains 24 inches (eye to fork of tail). Snagging is not permitted from the no-snagging zone from Bagnell Dam to U.S. Highway 54 Bridge.

Upper Osage River (below Bagnell Dam)

A snag fishery exists for a few miles below the Highway 54 Bridge to RM78 (just past the golf course). There is still a good flow even though they’ve cut back releases from Bagnell Dam. Water levels are still higher than normal. The water temperature are in the mid to upper 50’s. Snaggers are having better luck; the fish have moved up and we’re seeing a few more fish harvested. Most of the fish harvested are in the 26-32-inch size range. Snaggers are catching several sublegal fish (less than 24-inches), please be sure to release these fish immediately unharmed.

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. Most of the snagging is below the low water dam. Occasionally we also see snaggers out in the Missouri River. The water level is still up and there are some logs and debris in the water. The water temperatures are in the mid to upper 50’s. Snagging is slow, with most of the fish harvested are in the 26-30-inch size range.

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Public Ramps
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  • Talley Bend Access: go upstream towards Horseshoe Bend and up towards the Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek and above towards Osceola OR downstream towards Fox Run.
    • Note: The Highway C bridge over the Osage Arm at Talley Bend is closed for repair, you will need to take an alternate route to Talley Bend.
  • Brush Creek Access: go downstream towards Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek and below OR upstream towards Osceola and above.
    • Caution: When the lake level is at normal pool (706' msl) and below, 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. Be sure to always use caution.
  • 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. This has become a popular bank snagging area, please be courteous of the bank snaggers.
  • 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 Access: 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.

 

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  • 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 and 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.
    • Caution: With the low lake levels some people, especially the snaggers with deeper, V-bottom boats and pontoons, find it difficult to get out of the cove. Be sure to always use caution.
  • 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 below.
  • Bledsoe Ferry 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 below.
  • 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.

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  • Bagnell Dam Access: you must go below the Highway 54 Bridge before you can start snagging.
  • 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.
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Permits Required
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Unless exempt, you must possess a valid fishing permit if you are snagging or driving the boat used for snagging.

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Reminder
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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.

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Report Illegal Activity
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Dial 1-800-392-1111 anytime to report illegal activity

Your identity will remain anonymous, and a reward is possible depending on successful prosecution of the case.

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Protect Paddlefish
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Use a large net to land all paddlefish safely.

Using a gaff to land paddlefish can injure or kill sublegal paddlefish, making you subject to a penalty.

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  • You can keep the silver jaw tags on legal-sized fish — we will just need a picture of the tag to verify the number.
  • Report sublegal paddlefish, but please do not remove the tags.

Call 573-579-6825 or email.

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Alerts and Reminders
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Dispose of your fish-cleaning waste responsibly when cleaning paddlefish. Each year, MDC receives numerous nuisance complaints of fish-cleaning waste on the banks around the public fishing accesses, especially during the paddlefish snagging season.

In addition to using trash receptacles, disposing of fish-cleaning waste back into the water is allowed. Fish-cleaning waste should not be allowed to pile up near the water’s edge. It should be discarded into deeper water or in the flowing part of the stream where it cannot end up washing on to the bank or concentrated in one area.

It is important to remember that the Wildlife Code of Missouri states that extracted paddlefish eggs may not be possessed while on the water or adjacent banks and may not be transported. Disposing of paddlefish eggs in trash receptacles and immediately back into the water is allowed. You cannot transport the eggs to another location. This includes by boat out to deeper water for disposal.

Please be considerate, and responsibly dispose of fish-cleansing waste, help keep areas clean and inviting for everyone to enjoy.

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Snagging is very dependent on environmental conditions: photoperiod, water temperature and flow. As daylight gets longer, paddlefish will start congregating in deep holes. Then as water temperatures reach 50-55F and there is an increase in flow, paddlefish migrate upstream to spawn. The increase in flow is what triggers them to make the spawning run. As the water temperature and flow increase, the fish will move upstream in the reservoir or river.

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 tend to remain lower in the reservoirs or rivers. On the other hand, if we have a very 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. During flooding events paddlefish will move out of the heavy flows to wait until flows come down. When reservoirs and rivers are rising due to heavy rains, logs and other debris can float downstream, and boaters need to be careful.

Typically, snagging tends to be good opening day, and then it often slows down. Early in the season, water temperatures are cool, and fish tend to be scattered out and lower in the reservoirs or rivers. Harvest is primarily made up of “local” fish, smaller males and immature females. Males make spawning migrations before females, with more and larger females showing up when water temperatures are 55F and greater. It is the increase in flow that will get the fish moving - think warm spring rains! Remember as water temperature and flow increase snagging improves!

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Remember physical distancing starts with you. When visiting one of our areas or boat ramps, it is critically important to follow guidance from the CDC and state/local public health authorities on physical distancing. Avoid overcrowding, disinfect surfaces, and wash your hands. When enjoying the outdoors, these guidelines must be followed for everyone’s public health and safety.

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Check the 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.
  • Once two legal paddlefish are caught they are to be retained by the angler and included in their daily limit.
  • Once you’ve taken your second fish, you are done snagging for the day.
  • Unless exempt, you 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.
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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 2016 more than 314,000 foot-long fingerlings were stocked — MDC’s largest stocking of paddlefish. These fish will be large enough to harvest beginning in 2023. As these fish grow, snaggers will catch a lot of these sublegal fish. It is extremely important to release all sublegal 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.
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Thank you to all the snaggers who have reported tagged paddlefish. Please continue to report all tagged paddlefish that you catch.

  • You can keep the silver jaw tags on legal-sized fish — we will just need a picture of the tag to verify the number.
  • Report sublegal paddlefish, but please do not remove the tags.

While supplies last, we will send an “I Caught a Missouri Paddlefish” t-shirt or paddlefish hat to those reporting a tag.

Continuing to report tagged paddlefish will help us monitor and better manage paddlefish. Together we can keep paddlefish snagging great for many years to come.

To report tagged fish, call 573-579-6825, or contact Trish Yasger at Trish.Yasger@mdc.mo.gov  or 660-530-5500.

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Unlike other species of fish in Missouri, the catch and release of legal paddlefish, any fish of legal length, is not permitted. In other words, once a legal paddlefish is caught, that fish is to be retained or kept by the angler and included in their daily limit; these fish cannot be released. However, all sublegal (fish less than the legal length limit) paddlefish must be released unharmed immediately. Once two legal paddlefish are caught, they are to be retained by the angler and included in their daily limit.

Please remember that on Lake of the Ozarks and its tributaries, Osage River below U.S. Highway 54, and 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. Be sure to check the Wildlife Code of Missouri for paddlefish regulations.

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We are continuing to see more bank snaggers, especially on Truman Lake. When operating a boat near bank snaggers please be considerate of them. Please slow down and give them space; running into their line risks pulling them into the water. Everyone needs to stay safe. When snagging on private property be sure to obtain permission from the landowner.

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

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 for more details.