The Missouri Department of Conservation hopes proposed regulations aimed at increasing the size of blue catfish will help increase the number of larger members of species. The deadline to file comments on the proposed changes is fast approaching.
MDC will be taking comments from the public until Dec. 7. The MDC Commission approved proposed changes to the daily possession and length limits for blue catfish on Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Reservoir, and their tributaries at its meeting in March.
MDC officials said the proposed regulations are the best way to bring back large blue cats in Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake.
The problem is that an increasing portion of the blue cat population is being harvested before it has time to reach full growth potential. Blue catfish can easily live 30 years and reach weights that exceed 100 pounds. However, they are slow growing compared to most other Missouri game fish species. This slow growth, coupled with the fish's popularity, has created a situation where high fishing pressure has caused a decline in the number of larger blue catfish being caught at Truman and Lake of the Ozarks.
A blue catfish living in Lake of the Ozarks or Truman Lake will live about 15 years before growing to a size above 31 inches in length and 12 pounds. If undisturbed, a blue catfish can live over 25 years and weight 60-80 pounds, according to a recent study.
According to MDC, the potential regulation changes would provide harvest protection for medium-size blue catfish, which are currently being harvested at an excessive rate. This protection will allow more blue catfish to reach larger sizes.
Doubling the daily limit from 5 to 10 will also encourage the harvest of smaller blue catfish. The numbers of smaller blue catfish in both reservoirs are adequate to allow for additional harvest. Encouraging more harvest of smaller blue catfish has the potential to reduce competition among blue catfish, which may actually improve growth. Encouraging the harvest of smaller blue catfish will still allow anglers to take fish home for the table.
Approved changes include the following:
•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 unharmed immediately.
•Two blue catfish larger than 34 inches
•These two fish would count toward the daily limit of 10.
The approved changes were filed with the Missouri Secretary of State's office this fall. Following consideration of the comments received during the comment period that ends in December, the approved changes will either be withdrawn, modified, or finalized. The regulations are expected to be approved with an anticipated effective date of March 1, 2014.
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