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From Missouri Conservationist: Mar 2012

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: In the Missouri Ozarks I have seen bent trees with trunks that are straight for a few feet, turn horizontal, and then grow vertical again from the horizontal portion. I was told that Native Americans would bend them over to mark specific spots. Do you have any information about these trees?

A: There can be several explanations for that growth form. Native Americans reportedly did tie down young trees with leather thongs to create marker trees, which are often referred to as “thong trees” or “trail trees.” The same form can also result from natural causes when a falling limb or tree trunk pins a young tree sapling to the ground for a few years. New growth on a tree will always resume its vertical growth toward the light. Saplings are also pinned down by the felling of trees during logging, producing the same result. There may still be some very old trees in Missouri that were bent over by Native Americans, but most trees you see now with that growth form surely resulted from the other scenarios.

Q: What determines whether a fish is a game fish or just a fish?

A: Game fish are species that are most commonly sought after by anglers due to preferences for them as table fare or as sporting fish to catch. There are more restrictive regulations for game fish to ensure that they will remain plentiful, even with much interest in their harvest. Nongame fish, except for rare species, often have more liberal harvest limits and methods because there is less harvest pressure on their populations. Cultural tradition and regional tastes are important factors in determining if a fish species is considered a game species. Missouri game fish are listed in Chapter 20 – (Definitions) of the Missouri Wildlife Code.

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Agent Notes

Tailor-made regulations make Missouri a great place to fish.

A common theme when talking with people is the complex nature of regulations. Fishing regulations in particular seem to generate the most consternation. While a few simple regulations covering all bodies of water in the state might seem ideal, Missouri waters and angler interests are much too diversified to lump together.

Over the course of my nearly 35-year career with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), I can recall many sport fishing regulations that were originally very tough sells to the angling public. Instituting 9-inch length and daily limits of 15 for crappie was a drastic change from how people were used to doing business. Many were skeptical this would improve fishing, but as an agent I knew my job was to educate the public about the science behind the regulations. Seeing baskets of 30 to 60 crappie, most in the 6- to 9-inch length range, had always seemed a tremendous waste of the resource, but it was accepted as the status quo. After the regulation change, crappie fishing on every major impoundment in Missouri continues to be among the best in the nation. Seeing such a dramatic change in the size and number of crappie caught year-round made me a firm believer in MDC’s approach to regulations.

Other innovative regulations such as introducing muskellunge to certain waters, black bass and paddlefish length limits, trophy trout regulations and catfish daily limits have all proven successful. Even regulation changes concerning live bait help keep Missouri waters safe from invasive species. Missouri’s long tradition of regulations based on sound science has kept fishing successful and popular in the state, even in the face of controversy. To learn more about fishing regulations in Missouri pick up a copy of A Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations from permit vendors or download a PDF at mdc.mo.gov/ node/6108. To learn more about sport fish management in Missouri, read The Lure of Fishing starting on Page 8.

Mike Burton is the Protection District Supervisor in the Kansas City Region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional conservation office listed on Page 3 or go to mdc.mo.gov and search for your county under ”Who’s My Local Contact?”

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler