MDC issues illegal hand fishing citations in northwest Missouri

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St. Joseph, Mo. -- Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agents in the state’s northwest region recently cited 16 people for illegally taking catfish by hand fishing methods. The misdemeanor citations were issued as several conservation agents working in teams monitored rivers for illegal activity. Hand fishing, sometimes called noodling or grabbing, harms the fishery for legal anglers because the catfish are removed from spawning nests.

One of the primary cases occurred as agents observed illegal hand fishing activity on the 102 River in Andrew County, said Steve Nichols, an MDC protection district supervisor based in St. Joseph. Several large fish were seized from those cited. Agents also cited one group of anglers for using an illegal hoop net. Citations were also issued for littering and marijuana possession.

Catfish reproduction and populations can be harmed by hand fishing because brood fish are removed from nests. Large fish can be taken from small streams. Flathead catfish will stay on nests in natural underwater cavities to defend eggs. The catfish fan the nests to keep eggs clean and alive. They also keep predators away that would eat the eggs.

Anyone spotting illegal fishing activity, including noodling, can contact their local conservation agent or call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-392-1111, 24 hours a day. You may remain anonymous and rewards are available for information leading to arrests.

The citations issued to those caught hand-fishing are a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $1,000. The loss of hunting and fishing privileges is also possible.