MDC proposes changes to fishing regulations for paddlefish and more

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Conservation Commission gave initial approval during its Aug. 27 open meeting in Jefferson City to several proposed regulation changes to the Wildlife Code of Missouri by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) for paddlefish, related fishing methods, and commercial fishing.

Snagging Definition

A regulation change establishes a definition of snagging, which is currently undefined in the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Snagging is a popular method for taking fish, such as paddlefish, that do not go after baited hooks because they “filter feed” on tiny crustaceans and insects by swimming through the water with their large mouths open. Snagging uses a heavy-duty fishing pole with a large, three-pronged hook on a line to snag a fish along its body as it swims.

The MDC definition of snagging is: Hooking or attempting to hook a fish in a part of the body other than the mouth or jaw by means of a pole, line, and hook. Snagging is characterized by a repeated drawing or jerking motion of the pole, line, and hook or by trolling with an unbaited hook rather than enticement by bait or lure.

Statewide Minimum Length

A proposed regulation amendment establishes a statewide minimum length limit of 32 inches for sport/recreational taking of paddlefish, up from the current minimum length of 24 inches for most areas of the state. The existing minimum length limit of 34 inches will remain in effect for Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock Lake, Truman Lake, and their tributaries. All paddlefish under the legal minimum length must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught.

Paddlefish can grow to a length of about seven feet and weigh 100 pounds or more. According to MDC, the increased length limit will allow female paddlefish to reach sexual maturity before they can be harvested. This will help make paddlefish waters more sustainable for natural reproduction, and result in larger fish available for harvest.

15 More Days to Season

Another proposed regulation amendment adds 15 days to the fall/winter snagging, snaring, or grabbing season for taking fish -- except paddlefish -- by extending the season end from Jan. 31 to Feb. 15. It also prohibits snagging for all species of fish on Table Rock Lake after taking the daily limit of two paddlefish.

The paddlefish snagging season for the state’s major paddlefish snagging waters -- Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, and Table Rock Lake -- and most other waters in the state remains March 15 through April 30. The paddlefish season for the Mississippi River remains March 15 through May 15 with a fall season of Sept. 15 through Dec. 15.

According to MDC, the proposed amendment extending the fall snagging, snaring, or grabbing season provides additional opportunities for anglers. It also aligns the snagging, snaring, or grabbing season with the season allowing some fish to be taken by gig or atlatl.

Commercial Fishing Season

A proposed amendment establishes a commercial paddlefish fishing season of Nov. 1 through April 15 on the Mississippi River to limit the commercial harvest of paddlefish only during cooler water temperatures. It also sets a minimum length limit of 32 inches for taking paddlefish on the Mississippi River.

According to MDC, the primary justification for the season is to prevent mortality of paddlefish. Paddlefish captured in nets during warm-water temperatures (late April through October) are more likely to perish, causing waste of fish that would have otherwise been harvested and the unnecessary death of paddlefish under legal length. The establishment of the paddlefish commercial season will also better align Missouri regulations with those of other states along the Mississippi River.

MDC asked for public comments on the proposed regulation changes this spring. Of the 260 people who provided comments, there was strong support for all proposed paddlefish regulations.

The next step in the rulemaking process is for MDC to have a public comment period during October. MDC invites public comments during October online at Comments received will be considered and final proposals will go to the Commission for further action at its Dec. 10 meeting. If enacted, the changes will become effective Feb. 28, 2022.

Learn more about paddlefish and related fishing regulations from MDC online at