New crappie regulation at Smithville Lake showing good results, similar change considered for Mozingo Lake

News from the region
Published Date

St. Joseph, Mo. – Spring brings a favored time for crappie fishing. The panfish move into shallow water or near structure to spawn, making it easier for anglers to find them. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) welcomes anglers to enjoy crappie fishing at major reservoirs and on lakes at conservation areas. However, anglers are urged to check current crappie creel and length limits for the body of water where they are fishing. Regulations vary as MDC fisheries management biologists tailor limits to optimize fishing success for anglers.

Smithville Lake currently has a special crappie regulation that allows anglers to keep 30 crappies but no more than 15 over nine inches long. The change was made in 2019 and allows anglers to harvest more undersized black crappie while protecting the white crappie numbers. White crappie generally grow to a larger and more desirable size for anglers. The former regulation allowed anglers to keep 15 fish of either species over nine inches.

The Missouri Conservation Commission is considering a similar regulation change for Mozingo Lake near Maryville. Biologists say that lake also has too many undersized crappies of both species. Changing from a 15-fish limit with no size limit, to a 30-fish limit with no more than 15 over nine inches, will allow anglers to harvest undersized fish and improve the crappie population size balance by preventing the overharvest of fish over nine inches while allowing the necessary harvest of fish less than nine inches.

But anglers should be aware that the Mozingo Lake change is not in effect this spring. The 15-crappie limit with no size restriction is still the regulation. MDC has a 30-day public comment period on the proposed change through May 1. MDC invites online public comments during that time at Comments received will be considered and final proposals will go to the Commission for further action at its May 20 meeting. If enacted, the changes will become effective Aug. 30.

The crappie regulation change at Smithville Lake has so far shown positive results for the crappie population and angler success, said Tory Mason, MDC fisheries management biologist.

“Feedback from many anglers is that both crappie size and numbers at Smithville have been better than usual this winter and in early spring,” Mason said. “I know they were catching a bunch near standing timber in deep water, probably fish staging ahead of spawn.”

The food bases for sport fish are showing good signs, too. For sport fish, food availability such as baitfish and competition for that food does much to determine growth rates. Larger fish are fun to catch, and they provide larger fillets for cooking and eating.

“Many anglers commented this winter that the fish had huge full bellies of shad in them, which is kind of unusual for winter,” Mason said. “The shad are usually too big to be utilized by crappie by the fall. I think this means the shad hatch was good and many of this year’s shad stayed small throughout the 2021 growing season. That means they were well fed all winter, which also should mean a really good year of growth.”

For more information and photos of black crappie, visit Photos and information about white crappie are at

For more information about fishing in Missouri, visit Also, MDC’s MO Fishing app allows anglers to use digital devices to check regulations, find places to fish, and even get GPS coordinates for sunken brush piles in lakes that attract fish. To download the app, visit