MDC invites public comments on potential catfish regulation changes

Regulation considerations designed to meet the desires of big rivers catfish anglers and harvesters.

Missouri Department of Conservation
MDC is seeking public input on potential regulation changes for both recreational and commercial blue catfish and flathead catfish harvested from the Missouri, Mississippi, and St. Francis rivers.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is seeking public input on potential regulation changes for both recreational and commercial catfish harvest in some big rivers of the state.

People can learn about and comment on the potential regulation changes by going to https://mdc.mo.gov/contact-engage/public-commenting-opportunities/big-rivers-catfish-assessment.The comment period will end August 15, 2021.

Blue catfish and flathead catfish support important sport fisheries on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, as well as a commercial fishery on the Mississippi River and a small portion of the St. Francis River. Our studies confirmed that current management approaches continue to support healthy and sustainable blue catfish and flathead catfish populations in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and regulation changes do not appear to be necessary to maintain these populations or prevent overfishing. However, MDC is considering changes to management strategies and harvest regulations to better meet the desires of big rivers catfish anglers and harvesters.

“These potential regulation changes can help MDC manage catfish fisheries on Missouri’s big rivers, but we need to understand Missourian’s opinions about catfish angling and harvest before moving forward,” said Joe McMullen, an MDC scientist who’s involved with catfish management in the state. “After we collect public comments, we can tailor our management strategies to meet the desires of fishers and implement harvest regulations that can improve both sport and commercial fisheries accordingly. Depending on public sentiment we may also decide to retain our current management strategies and harvest regulations.”

Potential sport fishery regulations include:

    •    Establish a minimum length limit of 18, 21, or 24 inches for blue catfish and flathead catfish on the Mississippi and/or Missouri rivers (currently there is no minimum length limit).

    •    Maintain the current daily limit of 5 blue catfish per day on the Missouri River but establish that only 1 blue catfish over 30-inches in length may be kept as a part of that limit.

Potential commercial fishery regulations include:

    •    Establish a minimum length limit of 18, 21, or 24 inches for blue catfish and flathead catfish on the Mississippi and St. Francis rivers (currently the minimum length limit is 15-inches).

People can learn more about the regulations being considered and view associated research reports and summaries at: https://research.mdc.mo.gov/project/big-rivers-catfish-assessment.