by Trish Yasger. MDC
For Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River (below Bagnell Dam).
The snagging season got off to a good start despite colder than normal water temperatures and high flows. Snaggers did really good opening day on Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake and the Osage River. Snagging slowed down over the weekend on Lake of the Ozarks when they stopped releasing water from Truman Dam. On Truman high water levels above Osceola made snagging difficult. When there are really high flows paddlefish will get out of the heavy current. Most of fish that they are harvesting are 36-40 inches and in good condition – nice and fat! Snaggers are seeing more of the really small sublegal fish. A lot of these fish are from the very large 2016 stocking. It is extremely important to release all sublegal fish unharmed immediately and gently as they are the fish that you will be harvesting in the future. Snagging on the Osage River below Bagnell Dam has been good with fish from 26-30 inches and up to 35+ pounds. Water temperatures are beginning to warm up and should continue. Flows are high on Truman and when they begin releasing water at Truman Dam flows should increase on Lake of the Ozarks. With all of the flooding they are saying minimum releases at both Bagnell and Truman dams.
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. Once two legal paddlefish are caught they are to be retained by the angler and included in their daily limit. Please remember that on Lake of the Ozarks and its tributaries, Osage River below U.S. Highway 54, and 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. Be sure to check the Wildlife Code of Missouri for paddlefish regulations.
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, you’ll need to flatten it and we will send it back to you. Please do not remove tags from sublegal fish. Reporting tagged fish will help us monitor and better manage paddlefish, together we can keep paddlefish snagging great for many years to come.
Violations cited this past week include snagging in no snagging zone, taking fish without a permit, attempt to take over limit of paddlefish and failure to keep fish separate and identifiable.
We are continuing to see 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. When snagging on private property be sure to obtain permission from the landowner.
If you have any questions call 660-530-5500 or email Trish.Yasger@mdc.mo.gov.
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. During flooding events paddlefish will move out of the heavy flows to wait for flows to come down. When lakes and rivers are rising due to heavy rain, logs and other debris can float downstream, and boaters need to be careful.
Opening day weather was nice yet very windy, conditions were much better over the weekend with less wind. Despite cold water temps the snagging season got off to a good start. Water temperatures were in the upper 30’s to low 40’s at the surface. The Truman Lake water level is coming up, and Lake of the Ozarks is a little higher than we normally see this time of year. The Osage River was up and has started to come down. They are releasing water from Bagnell Dam – minimal flows. With the heavy flooding on the Missouri Rivers they haven’t been releasing water from Truman Dam. They are calling to begin minimum flow releases starting today, no telling how long this will last. The extended forecast is calling for warmer days with more rain and chance of snow one of the days.
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 Lake is up, few feet above normal pool. There is flow due to flooding in the upper basin and they are saying they will start minimum releases from the Dam. The water temperature is in the mid 40’s.
• Snagging got off to a good start from Talley Bend to Osceola. With the high-water levels and flows above Osceola snagging was difficult. Snaggers are harvesting primarily small males and females (36-40 inches fish). We are seeing a few more females than we normally see this time of year. We saw several 50+ pound fish harvested. We saw several snaggers with limits on opening day. Snaggers are catching some sublegal fish (20-34 inch fish)., please be sure to release these fish unharmed immediately.
• Best guess . Early in the season the fish tend to be scattered out, snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. With the high-water level and flows snagging above Osceola has been difficult. Fish will get out of these heavy flows. As water levels and flows come down the fish will move up. Try the deep holes from Talley Bend area to Osceola and above, moving further up towards Taberville as water levels and flows come down. With the high water there is a lot of logs and debris in the water, please use caution and stay safe.
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.
• 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: go 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. This has become a popular bank snagging area, please be courteous of the bank snaggers.
• 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 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. Also, snagging is not permitted from the no-fishing zone below Truman Dam to the Highway 65 Bridge.
• Lake of the Ozarks is a little higher than we normally see this time of year. There is some flow. They are doing minimal releases from Bagnell Dam and should begin minimal releases from Truman Dam. The water temperature is in the low to mid 40’s at the surface.
• Snagging got off to a good start, especially in the lower lake. Harvest dropped off when they stopped releasing water from Truman Dam. Like Truman, snaggers are harvesting primarily small males and females (36-40 inches fish). We are seeing a few more females than we normally see this time of year. We saw several 50+ pound fish harvested. The fish are scattered out from MM50 up to the Highway 65 bridge (about MM 89.5); we are seeing more fish harvested below MM80. Snagging has been better lower in the lake MM50-MM70. Snagging has also been having success on the Niangua Arm, mainly at the confluence with the Little Niangua Arm.
• Best guess . When the fish are scattered out, snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. Try the deep holes from MM50 up to the Highway 65 Bridge. Snaggers typically have better luck lower in the lake below MM70. Try the deep holes below Wigwam School Access (MM66.2 If the flows increase, you may want to consider moving up higher in the lake, towards Highway 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.
• 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). Also, 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 the golf course). The water level has fallen, and they are releasing minimal flows from Bagnell Dam. Snagging was good opening day with several limits taken. Snagging dropped off over the weekend. Snaggers are harvesting primarily 26-30 inch fish and up to 35+ pounds.
• 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. Occasionally we also see snaggers out in the Missouri River. With the flooding on the Missouri River we haven’t seen any snaggers in this area or heard of any fish being harvested.
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 above) 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 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. In 2018 more than 78,000 fingerlings were stocked, this is twice the normal stocking. As these fish grow snaggers will catch a lot more 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.