by Tris Yasgar
For Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River (below Bagnell Dam).
Snagging season got off to a good start. Snaggers did really good on opening day on Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake. However, things slowed down during the weekend which is typical early in the season. Most of the fish they are harvesting are 36-41 inches and in good condition – nice and fat! Snaggers are catching several sublegal fish (24-34 inches), please get these fish back into the water unharmed immediately as these are the fish you will be harvesting in the future. Snagging on the Osage River below Bagnell Dam has been very good with fish from 28-inches to 40+pounds being harvested. With the rains yesterday, we will have some flow – we will need more like it during the season. Now if it would just warm up.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding “catch and release” snagging. 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, they cannot be released. However, all sublegal (fish less than the legal length limit) paddlefish must be released unharmed immediately. Please remember that 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. Be sure to check the Wildlife Code of Missouri for paddlefish regulations.
Violations cited this past week include no permit, harvesting sublegal fish.
We are seeing more bank snaggers. When operating a boat near bank snaggers please be conscientious of them. Please slow down and give them space; running into their line risks pulling them into the water. Everyone needs to stay safe.
Thanks to all the snaggers who have reported tagged paddlefish. Please continue to report all tagged fish. Yes, you can keep the silver jaw tags, we will need a picture of the tag or if you send it in, we will send it back to you. Reporting tagged fish will help us monitor and better manage paddlefish, together we can keep paddlefish snagging great for many years to come.
If you have any questions call (660) 530-5500 or email Trish.Yasger@mdc.mo.gov (link sends e-mail).
Report tagged fish – get a reward
MDC is conducting a long-term study to improve paddlefish management. Please report all tagged paddlefish that you catch. Participating qualifies you to enter a raffle for up to $500.00 Find out how to participate.
Snagging success depends on the weather
Snagging is very dependent on weather conditions, primarily water temperature and flow. When water temperatures reach 50–55F and flow increases, paddlefish migrate upstream to spawn. Early in the season harvest is primarily made up of “local” fish, smaller males and immature females. As water temperature and flow increase, the fish will move upstream in the reservoir or river. Males make spawning migrations before females, with more females showing up when water temperatures are 55F and greater.
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. When lakes and rivers are rising due to heavy rain, logs and other debris can float downstream, and boaters need to be careful.
With all of this said, I would expect that the snagging season will most likely get off to a slow start, which is what we typically see. Early in the season fish tend to be scattered out and lower in the lakes. With the recent rains, Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks are up and they have been releasing from both Truman and Bagnell dams. Surface water temperatures are in the mid 40’s. The extended forecast is calling for normal temperatures with a little precipitation. With the water releases and water levels now falling we will be relying on spring rains to increase flows and get the fish moving – think warm spring rains! Remember as water temperature and flow increases snagging should improve.
Snagging places and prospects
Remember: after you have snagged your second paddlefish, you are done snagging for the day
• Please remember the 34-inch-length limit (eye to fork of tail) on Truman Lake and its tributaries.
• Truman is just above normal pool. There is a little flow; they are releasing some water at Truman Dam. The water temperature is in the mid to upper 40’s at the surface.
• Snagging got off to on good start at Talley Bend to above Osceola (Red Rock area). Snaggers are harvesting primarily small males and immature females (36-41 inch fish) we’re seeing several 50+ pound fish harvested. We’ve seen several females harvested for so early in the season. We saw several snaggers with limits on opening day. Snaggers are catching some sublegal fish (24-34 inch fish), please be sure to release these fish unharmed immediately. The fish are scattered out from Talley Bend to Taberville and above; however most of the harvest has been from Talley Bend to just above Osceola.
• Best guess. Early in the season when the fish are scattered out, snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. Try the deep holes from the Talley Bend area to Roscoe. As the flows increase, you may want to consider moving up a little higher towards Taberville and above.
Public ramps to launch — from down to upstream
• 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.
• Brush Creek Access: go downstream towards Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek and below OR upstream towards Osceola and above.
o 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.
• Sac River Access/Hwy. 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
• 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.
• Lake of the Ozarks is about normal for this time of year – use caution. They are releasing some water from both Truman and Bagnell dams, so there is some flow. The water temperature is in the mid to upper 40’s at the surface.
• Snagging got off to a good start, especially lower in the lake. Snaggers are harvesting primarily small males and immature females (36-40 inch fish); we’ve seen a few larger fish harvested. Snaggers are catching some sublegal fish (30-34 inch fish), please be sure to release these fish unharmed immediately. The fish are scattered out from MM50 up to the Highway 65 bridge (about MM89.5); we’re seeing more fish harvested below MM80. Snagging has been better lower in the lake MM60-MM68 and around MM80. Snagging is good on the Niangua Arm; they are harvesting fish.
• Best guess. When the fish are scattered out, snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. With the low flows try the deep holes from MM50 up to Highway 65 Bridge. Snaggers typically have better luck in the lower lake below MM70. Try the deep holes below Wigwam School Access (MM66.2). As the flows increase, you may want to consider moving up a little higher towards Hwy 65.
Public ramps to launch — from down to upstream
• 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.
o 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 down.
• Bledsoe Ferry Access: you must go below the Highway 65 Bridge before you can start snagging. Go downstream and start snagging below the Highway 65 Bridge (about MM89.5) and down.
• 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.
• 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.
• On the Upper Osage River below Bagnell Dam, a snag fishery exists for a few miles below the Highway 54 Bridge to RM78 (just past Osage National Golf Course). The water level is down and there is little flow. Snagging has been good with snaggers harvesting fish up to 40+ pounds. We’ve seen a few snaggers with limits.
• On the 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. We have also seen snaggers out in the Missouri River. The water level is down and there is some flow. Snagging in this area is typically slow early in the season. We are seeing very few snaggers, and haven’t heard of any fish being snagged in this area.
Public ramps to launch — from down to upstream
• 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.
Check the Wildlife Code of Missouri (see link below) for 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, anglers 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.
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.
Keep snagging strong — 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.
Avoid penalties! Use nets instead of gaffs to land fish
• Using a gaff to land paddlefish can injure or kill sublegal paddlefish, making you subject to a penalty. Use a large net to land all paddlefish safely.