By this time next year, fishermen trolling for the big catch could find new regulations in place for blue catfish.

By this time next year, fishermen trolling for the big catch could find new regulations in place for blue catfish.

The Missouri Department of Conservation Commission signed off on a proposed set of regulations in March that the agency hopes will create a larger pool of bigger blue catfish. The new blue catfish regulations will be filed in the fall with the Missouri Secretary of State's office followed by a 30-day commenting period. After the commenting period, the state will either adopt or abandon the new regulations.

The MDC Commission approved a ban on keeping blue catfish measuring 26 to 34 inches and a two-fish limit of blue catfish measuring longer than 34 inches.

According to MDC, since the early 1990s, anglers and fisheries biologists have been concerned about the declining number of larger blue catfish being caught from Truman Reservoir. In a survey, more than a third of Truman Reservoir anglers said they thought the quality of catfishing had declined. A study at Truman Reservoir from 2004 to 2009 confirmed anglers’ concerns by showing that blue catfish 24 inches and larger were being harvested at an extremely high rate. Similar concerns have emerged more recently at Lake of the Ozarks.

Blue catfish frequently grow to 60 pounds and can exceed 100 pounds. Both Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks contain adequate to excessive numbers of smaller blue catfish. However, heavy harvest of blue catfish 24 inches and larger is not allowing them to reach the larger sizes desired by many anglers, MDC officials said.

If the the new regulations are adopted, a long-term evaluation of the regulation will be conducted. Because of the slow growth exhibited by blue catfish, it will take at least seven or eight years before the population will start to show any significant response to the regulation according to MDC.

If approved, the regulations would go into effect March 1, 2014.

Changes include:
•Ten blue catfish daily
•A protected slot-length limit of 26-34 inches (7-16 pounds).  Fish within the slot must be returned to the water.
•Two blue catfish larger than 34 inches would count toward the daily limit of 10. 

The goals:

•Protect medium-size blue catfish and increase the number of larger blue catfish.

•Increase harvest of smaller blue catfish below protected slot length to with the goal of improving growth.

•Retain catfish anglers on the affected waters.

•Maintain good relations with non-angling stakeholders.

•Continue to promote local catfishing based economy.

What happens next:

The changes approved by the Missouri Conservation Commission will be filed with the Missouri Secretary of State’s office this fall and a 30-day public comment period will be held. Following consideration of comments received, the approved changes will either be withdrawn, modified, or finalized, with an anticipated effective date of March 1, 2014.

About the catfish:

•According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, catfish are the number-one sought-after sport fish in Missouri.

•Anglers spend more time fishing for catfish in Missouri than any other sport fish.

•Catfish provide many anglers enjoyment and fish to eat.