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Paddlefish report and news update from MDC

Opening day snagging pressure was light and the fish were scattered out. Snagging was slow on Truman, upper Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River.  Snaggers had better success on the lower Osage and Niangua arms of Lake of the Ozarks. Water temperatures are cool and with all of the rains, water levels and flows are both up.  There is flooding in upper Truman. On Truman and Niangua Arm of Lake Ozark use caution and watch for logs & debris in the water. Most of the fish being harvested are 34-40 inches with a few 50+ lb. The fish are in excellent condition – nice and fat!!

We are seeing a lot of sublegal fish, especially 30-32-inch fish caught. These fish are from the extremely large 2016 stocking. Please release these fish unharmed and as quickly as possible as these are the fish you will be harvesting over the next several years.

Water temperatures are cold, flows are high use caution and wear your life jacket.

Thanks to all of the snaggers who reported harvesting tagged paddlefish. Even though our 5-year paddlefish project is over,  please continue to report all tagged paddlefish. While supplies last, we will send and “I Caught a Missouri Paddlefish” t-shirt or paddlefish hat to those reporting a tag.

As always, thanks to those who have shared their snagging stories & pictures – keep them coming, I really enjoy hearing from you.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Good luck snagging and stay safe.

Trish

Paddlefish Report

Report for March 17, 2021

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

General Conditions

We had a typical weekday opener, snagging pressure was light and the fish were scattered out. Water temperatures dropped with the rains, low to upper 40’s and water levels and flows have increased, especially on Truman. Please be careful, watch for logs and debris and wear life jackets as the water is cold and there is good flow. Snagging was slow on Truman Lake, upper Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River. Snaggers had better success on the lower Osage and Niangua arms of Lake of the Ozarks. Both Truman and Lake of the Ozarks are up from last week and they are releasing water from both dams. With all the rain we’re getting, flows will continue to  increase. When flows are really high paddlefish will get out of the heavy current. Most of the fish that they are harvesting are 34-40 inches, with a few 50+ pound fish. The fish are in good condition – nice and fat! 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 fish without a permit/no permit, and attempting to take an over limit.

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

 

Snagging places and prospects

Truman Lake

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 up 7 feet from last week and rising. There is a lot of flow due to rain, and there is flooding in the upper basin. The water at Taberville Access is out of the bank. With more rain there will be more flooding. With the high water, there is a lot of logs & debris in the water and snaggers must be cautious. They are releasing water from Truman Dam, and predicting to increase releases. The water temperature is cold, in the mid to upper-40s at the surface.

Fishing Prospect

Snagging got off to a slow start from Talley Bend to Taberville and above. The high flows and debris made snagging difficult above Osceola. The fish are scattered out. Snaggers are harvesting primarily small fish (34-40-inch fish) and we’ve seen a few larger females 50+ lbs. All the fish we’re seeing are in good condition – nice and fat! Snaggers are catching several sublegal fish (24-32-inch fish), please be sure to release these fish immediately unharmed.

Best guess

Early in the season fish tend to be scattered out and snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. The high-water levels and high flows with debris are making snagging above Osceola challenging as snaggers dodge the logs and debris – please use caution and stay safe. Try the deep holes around the Talley Bend and Osceola areas.

Lake of the Ozarks

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 up 1+ feet from last week and holding. There is flow, they are releasing water from both Truman and Bagnell dams, and are predicating to increase flows from Truman Dam. With the higher flow in the Niangua Arm, snaggers must watch out for logs and debris in the upper Niangua. The water temperature is cold, in the low to mid-40s at the surface.

Fishing Prospect

Snagging got off to a somewhat slow start on upper Osage, snaggers did better on the lower Osage (below MM80) and Niangua Arm. Like Truman, snaggers are harvesting primarily small fish (35-40-inch fish) and we’ve seen a few larger females 60+ lbs. We did see a few limits. The fish are scattered out from MM50 up to the Highway 65 bridge (about MM89.5). Snagging has been better lower in the lake MM50-MM75 and in the Niangua Arm. All the fish we’re seeing are in good condition – nice and fat! Snaggers are catching several sublegal fish (24-32-inch fish), please be sure to release these fish immediately unharmed.

Best guess

Early in the season fish tend to be scattered out and snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. Try the deep holes from MM55 up to the Highway 65 bridge. Currently, snaggers are having better luck lower in the lake below MM75 and in the Niangua. Try the deep holes below and above Wigwam School Access (MM66.2). As water temperatures increase you may want to consider moving up higher in the lake, towards Truman Dam.

Osage River

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). The water level is up, and water temperatures are cold, in the low 40’s. There is flow, they are releasing water from Bagnell Dam. Snagging was slow, with most of the fish harvested in the 26-30-inch size range.

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. There has been very little snagging activity. The water is high and muddy with a lot of logs and debris. Water temperatures are in the mid 40’s.

Public Ramps

Truman Lake

  • 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.

Lake of the Ozarks

  • 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.

Osage River

  • 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.

Snagging Depends on Weather Conditions

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!

Permits Required

Unless exempt, you must possess a valid fishing permit if you are snagging or driving the boat used for snagging.

Reminder

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.

Alerts and Reminders

COVID-19 Precautions

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.

Advisories

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.

Release Sublegal Fish Unharmed — Immediately

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.

Tagged Paddlefish

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.

“Catch and Release” Snagging Prohibited

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.

Paddlefishing Courtesy

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.

 

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 below for more details.

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