The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has approved a fish salvage plan as Schell Lake (the North Lake) is drained during June 2018 at the Schell-Osage Conservation Area in Vernon County. MDC is preparing to drain the lake as an early step in the renovation of the wetland management pools and water control structures. This project will improve the wetlands for waterfowl habitat, improve the fishery at Schell Lake and reduce long-term flood damages.
Schell Lake will begin to be drained June 1 and is expected to be emptied by July 1. Most of the fish in the lake are expected to be released into the nearby Osage River. But some fish may be stranded in pools of standing water.
To minimize wasted fish, an emergency fish salvage order will be in place from June 15 through June 30. The emergency fish salvage order will allow anglers to use both regular and alternative methods to harvest fish. Examples of alternative methods include seining, dip net, gigs and bowfishing. However, during this time, anglers must still abide by other statewide regulations including daily and possession creel limits and any fish removed from Schell Lake during this emergency salvage may not be possessed on any other waterbody of the state or banks thereof.
Starting June 1, all boating will be prohibited on Schell Lake for safety reasons. Fishing of any kind will be prohibited at the lake starting July 1 until lake renovation and fish population stockings are completed. All or portions of the wetlands, including waterfowl hunting areas, will be closed once construction begins, until completion of the project. Schell Lake will be closed to fishing three to five years. The construction project is expected to take up to two years. Then it will take two or three more years for fish to be stocked and grow into a population strong enough for a sustainable fishery.
The upland areas, Atkinson Lake, and ponds at Schell-Osage will remain open to normal birding, hiking, hunting, and fishing activities during the project.
MDC for several years has studied long-term challenges for wetland management at Schell-Osage. The planned construction will reduce costly flood damage and improve marshes and Schell Lake for wildlife and outdoor recreation for decades to come. MDC in 2004 kicked off a Golden Anniversary Wetlands Initiative to make improvements on the state’s five oldest wetland management areas. Schell-Osage is the last wetland on the list to receive renovations.
Outdoor enthusiasts can follow plans and work progress via a web page that will be periodically updated by MDC staff. Those interested in the project can sign up for updates via email by visiting https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zqu.