SEND ME A BILL – Paddlefish, also known as spoonbill, have long, paddle-shaped rostrums that are about one-third the length of their bodies.
by TrishYasger, MDC’s paddlefish expert
Below is the paddlefish snagging report for Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks, and the Osage River (below Bagnell Dam).
With the cold water temperatures and low flows snagging got off to a slow start on Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River. Snaggers had better success on Truman Lake. Snaggers harvested mostly small fish (34-38 inches), we did see a few larger fish up to 80+ pounds. Snaggers are catching a lot of small (30-34 inch) sublegal fish, please get these fish back to the water unharmed immediately these are the fish you will be harvesting over the next several years! Violations found this past weekend included several for harvesting sublegal fish, cleaning fish while on the water, continuing to snag after harvesting second fish and snagging in a restricted zone.
If you have any questions call 660-530-5500 or email Trish.Yasger@mdc.mo.gov
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 and 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 and don’t get 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 if not hazardous especially if flooding occurs. When lakes and rivers are rising due to heavy rain, logs and other debris can be coming downstream and boaters need to be careful.
The recent snow and extremely cold weather that we’ve been experiencing has kept water temperatures colder than normal. Surface water temperatures are in the lower to mid-40s. The extended weather forecasts are calling for warmer weather; however, there is no rain in the forecast. Water temperatures will most likely remain cold with little flow. Truman Lake is at normal pool and Lake of the Ozarks is low. As a result, they are releasing very little water from both Truman and Bagnell dams and flows are low. With the drought conditions we’ve had this past year and current low flows we will be relying on spring rains to increase flows — think warm spring rains! Remember, as water temperatures and flow increase snagging should improve!
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 that are raised at MDC’s Blind Pony Hatchery. It takes paddlefish seven to eight years to grow to legal size. In 2008, we had our largest stocking of paddlefish ever — more than 260,000 fish. These fish are now six years old, and they should average 31 to 33 inches (measured eye to fork of tail). These fish should start contributing to the harvest next year. Snaggers will continue to catch a lot of these sublegal fish this year. It is important to release these fish unharmed immediately and gently because they are the fish that you will be harvesting over the next several years!
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.
Snagging places and prospects
• Please remember the 34-inch-length limit (eye to fork of tail), AND after you have snagged your second paddlefish, you are done snagging for the day on Truman Lake and its tributaries.
• Truman is about normal pool. There is very little flow; they are releasing a little water at Truman Dam. The water temperature on Saturday at Talley Bend was 45F at the surface. The sleet and snow Sunday has caused water temperatures to fall.
• Snagging got off to a good start; then slowed on Sunday with the cold weather. This past weekend snaggers harvested primarily small males and immature females (34-38 inch fish); we’ve seen a few 60+ pound females. Snaggers caught lots of sublegal fish (fish less than 34-inches), please be sure to release these fish unharmed immediately. A few people had limits. The fish are scattered out from Talley Bend to Taberville; however, most of the harvest was from Talley Bend to just above Osceola.
• Best guess. When the fish are scattered out, snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. With the cold water temperatures try the deep holes from Talley Bend to just above Osceola.
Public ramps to launch — from down to upstream
• Talley Bend Access: go upstream towards Horseshoe Bend and up to the Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek and above towards Osceola.
• Brush Creek Access: go downstream towards Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek and below OR upstream towards Osceola and above.
• 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.
• City of Osceola: go upstream towards Roscoe and/or go up the Sac River a couple of miles OR go downstream towards Brush Creek Access and down to Walker Hole/ Weaubleau Creek.
• Sac River Access/Highway 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: 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.
• Caution: When the lake level is normal pool (706’ msl), some people, especially the snaggers with deeper, V-bottom boats, find it difficult to get out of the coves at the City of Osceola and Crowe’s Crossing ramps. Be sure to always use caution.
Lake of the Ozarks
• Please remember the 34-inch length limit (eye to fork of tail), AND after you have snagged your second paddlefish, you are done snagging for the day on Lake Ozark and its tributaries. Also, snagging is not permitted from the no-fishing zone below Truman Dam to the Highway 65 Bridge.
• They are releasing a little water from both Truman and Bagnell dams, so there is very little flow. Water temperatures are about 41F at the surface.
• Snagging got off to a slow start, and slowed down even more on Sunday with the cold weather. This past weekend snaggers harvested primarily small males and immature females (34-38 inch fish); we’ve seen a few 70+ pound females. The fish are scattered out from MM50 up to the Hwy 65 Bridge (about MM89.5); there are no real concentrations of fish. However, snagging seemed better lower in the lake, below MM84.
• Best guess. When the fish are scattered out, snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. With the cold water temperatures try the deep holes from MM55 up to Highway 65 Bridge. Snaggers typically have better luck lower in the lake around MM55 and MM65/64.
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 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.
• 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 Hwy. 65 bridge before you start snagging. Go downstream and start snagging below the Hwy. 65 bridge (about MM89.5) and down.
• Bledsoe Ferry Access: you must go below the Hwy. 65 bridge before you can start snagging. Go downstream and start snagging below the Hwy. 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 Hwy. 54.
There are numerous private ramps that you can pay to launch from.
• Please remember the no-snagging zone from Bagnell Dam to U.S. Highway 54 Bridge. On the Osage River below Bagnell Dam, the minimum length limit remains 24 inch (eye to fork of tail), AND after you have snagged your second paddlefish, you are done snagging for the day.
• On the Upper Osage River below Bagnell Dam, a snag fishery exists for a few miles below the Highway 54 Bridge to RM78.
• The water is cold and flows are low even though they are releasing a little water at Bagnell Dam. Opening day snaggers harvested a few fish up to 35 inches.
Public ramps to launch
• Bagnell Dam Access: you must go below the Hwy. 54 Bridge before you can start snagging.
• 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 in the lower 25 miles. We also see snaggers out in the Missouri River.
• The water is cold (41F) and flows are low. We didn’t hear of any fish snagged on the lower Osage, however, several fish (26-40 inches) were harvested from the Missouri River just above the Osage River. Snagging in this area is typically slow early in the season.
Public ramps to launch — from down to upstream
• Bonnots Mill Access: go up or downstream. Occasionally we see snaggers out in the Missouri River.
• Mari-Osa Access: go downstream below the Hwy. 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. Tickets have been issued for this violation.
• Once you’ve taken your second fish, you are done snagging for the day.
• You must possess a valid fishing permit if you are snagging or driving the boat used for snagging.
• 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.
Take care returning sublegal fish to the water
This year’s sublegal fish will be your harvest over the next several years. The Code states that sublegal paddlefish must be returned unharmed immediately and gently!
• Take care when removing hooks, and get them back into the water as quickly as possible.
• Be sure that your hands are wet before handling, and avoid excessive handling.
• Do not pass them 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.