Editor’s note: Last week we requested that MDC respond to the Everhart letter. They did respond in time, but we didn’t get it until Friday after they asked why it didn’t appear in the Sun. Here is the MDC response.

Editor:

Here is the information posted on MDC’s website covering the Conservation Commission’s approval and background of blue catfish regulations for Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks and their tributaries.

http://mdc.mo.gov/fishing/regulations/truman-reservoir-and-lake-ozarks-blue-catfish-regulation-changes-proposed

The Missouri Conservation 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 their meeting on March 11, 2013.

The approved changes 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 Following consideration of comments received, the approved changes will either be withdrawn, modified or finalized, with an anticipated effective date of 3/1/14.

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.

For a number of years MDC staff have been concerned about potential overharvest of blue catfish in Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks, especially larger blue catfish. Anglers have expressed concern about the decline in the numbers of large blue catfish. In our 2002 Statewide Catfish Angler Survey, about 35 percent of respondents indicated the quality of catfishing at Truman Reservoir had declined over the last 10 years, while about 12 percent indicated catfishing had improved. Almost 28 percent reported that catfishing quality had stayed the same, and about 25 percent reported they didn’t know. MDC staff also documented very high harvest and slow growth of blue catfish at Truman Reservoir during our Reservoir Catfish Evaluation Project from 2004 to 2008. Research showed a blue catfish harvest rate two-to-three-times higher than reported in similar studies nationwide.

In May 2010, MDC held stakeholder meetings to discuss potential regulation changes. The majority of attendees were in favor of potential regulations. Since these meetings, MDC staff continued to receive and document public input. Several comments suggested alternatives to the potential regulation changes presented. We have been responsive to public input and developed the new set of regulation options that address many of those concerns.

In, August 2012, MDC held three open houses to present the new regulation options, provide background information, answer questions and gather comments. About 200 people attended the three open houses, with many of them filling out comment cards. MDC also collected public comments online. A summary of the open houses and public comments is available at: http://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/resources/2013/01/blue_catfish_summary.pdf

Goals of potential regulations

*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.

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 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.

Based on biological projections, the number of fish harvested would remain similar or increase compared to existing conditions. With added protection for medium-size blue catfish, we project the numbers of larger blue catfish to increase.

Should a new regulation be 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.

Thanks for requesting more information,

Mike Bayless

Fisheries Management Biologist

660.885.6981 Ext. 253

Fax: 660.885.5038

2010 S. 2nd

Clinton, MO 64735