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Paddlefish Snagging Report – March 25, 2020

Report for March 25, 2020 

For Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River (below Bagnell Dam). 

NOTICE – – Due to health precautions regarding COVID-19, Bledsoe Ferry Access (Warsaw, below Truman Dam) will be closed by 27 March. Due to flooding the Taberville ramp is currently underwater. At this time all other public ramps are open. There is a rumor going around that snagging season has been cancelled – NOT TRUE!

Water temperatures are beginning to warm up, we have good flows and some flooding on upper Truman. Not much has changed since last week, the fish are scattered out which is typical early in the season. Water temperatures are still cool, upper 40’s, flows are high and there is a lot of logs and debris in the water, especially on Truman and lower Osage River below Bagnell Dam. Please be careful, watch for logs and debris and wear life jackets as the water is cold and there is good flow. Snagging is slow on Truman Lake and upper Lake of the Ozarks. Snaggers are having better success on lower Osage and Niangua arms of Lake of the Ozarks, as well as the upper and lower Osage River below Bagnell Dam. We’ve seen some limits in these areas. Both Truman Lake and Osage River below Bagnell Dam are up from last week. They are releasing water from both Truman and Bagnell dams. Most of the fish that they are harvesting are 34-39 inches, with a few larger 50+ pound fish. The fish are in good condition – nice and fat! Snaggers are seeing a lot of sublegal fish (24-30 inches), these fish are from the really 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. 

Thank you to all the snaggers who have reported tagged paddlefish. Please continue to report all tagged paddlefish that you catch. Yes, you can keep the silver jaw tags, we will just need a picture of the tag to verify the number. Report sublegal paddlefish, but please do not remove the tags. While supplies last, we will send and “I Caught a Missouri Paddlefish” t-shirt or paddlefish hat to those reporting a tag. Continuing to report tagged paddlefish will help us monitor and better manage paddlefish, together we can keep paddlefish snagging great for many years to come. To report tagged fish call 573-579-6825 or call or email me 660-530-5500 or email Trish.Yasger@mdc.mo.gov.

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.

Violations cited this past week include: snagging in a no snagging zone, taking fish without a permit/no permit, and attempting to take an over limit.  Just a reminder, 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.

We are continuing to see more bank snaggers, especially on Truman Lake. When operating a boat near bank snaggers please be considerate 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.

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.

The rain continues!  Water temperatures were cold, upper 40’s at the surface and there are good flows. Truman Lake is up 7+ feet and Lake of the Ozarks is down slightly from last week. The Osage River is up from last week. They are releasing water from both Truman and Bagnell dams and are calling for continued releases. The extended forecast is calling for fluctuating daytime temperatures and cool nights. They are calling for more rain later this week, a nice weekend and rain again next week. It looks like this wet pattern is continuing.

 Snagging places and prospects

Remember: after you have snagged your second paddlefish, you are done snagging for the day

Truman Lake 

  • Please remember the 34-inch-length limit (eye to fork of tail) on Truman Lake and its tributaries.
  • Truman Lake is up 7+ feet from last week, and forecast is to continue to rise. There is flow due to rain, and there’s flooding and high flows in the upper basin. There is flooding at Taberville Access and Schell Osage CA. With more rains the flooding will continue. They are releasing water from Truman Dam, they had cut back flow and have started increasing flow. The water temperature is about 49F at the surface.
  • Snagging continues to be slow from below Talley Bend to Taberville and above. High water is making snagging more challenging, there is a lot of logs and debris in the water that snaggers must watch for. The fish are scattered out. Snaggers are harvesting primarily small fish (34-39-inch fish) and we’re seeing a few more of the larger females 50+ lbs. All the fish we’ve seeing are in good condition – nice and fat! Snaggers are catching several sublegal fish (24-30-inch fish), please be sure to release these fish immediately unharmed. 
  • Best guess. Its early in the season and fish are scattered out and snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. The higher water levels and good flows with debris are making snagging a little more challenging as snaggers dodge the debris. Try the deep holes around the Talley Bend area to Osceola and above. As water temperatures increase, you may want to consider moving up a little higher towards Roscoe and above. With the high flows there’s logs and debris in the water, please use caution, don’t drive through flooded water 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 just above 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.
  • 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 slightly lower than last week. There is flow. They are releasing water from both Truman and Bagnell dams. The water temperature is in the upper 40’s at the surface. 
  • Snagging is about the same as last week. The fish are scattered out and snaggers are doing better lower in the lake. Snaggers are harvesting primarily small fish (34-39-inch fish) and we’re seeing the a few larger females 50+ lbs. The fish are scattered out from MM50 up to the Highway 65 bridge (about MM89.5). Snagging has been better lower in the lake MM50-MM70. Snaggers have been having success on the Niangua Arm. We’re seeing a few limits on the Lower Osage and the Niangua. Snaggers are catching several sublegal fish (24-30-inch fish), please be sure to release these fish immediately unharmed.
  • Best guess. Early in the season fish tend to be scattered out and snagging tends to be better lower in the lake. Try the deep holes from MM55 up to the Highway 65 Bridge. Currently, snaggers are having better luck lower in the lake below MM70. Try the deep holes below and above Wigwam School Access (MM66.2). As water temperatures increase you may want to consider moving up higher in the lake, towards Truman Dam. Due to health precautions regarding COVID-19, Bledsoe Ferry Access will be closed by 27 March.

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.

Osage River 

  • 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 is up, they are releasing a lot of water and water temperature is in the mid 40’s at the surface. Snagging remains good. Snaggers are harvesting a lot of 30+ inch fish in the 30-40+ lb. range. 
  • 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. Most of the snagging is below the low water dam. Occasionally we also see snaggers out in the Missouri River. The water level is up, bank full to out of its banks in some areas. We’re seeing a lot more logs and debris in the water. Water temperatures in the mid 40’s at the surface. We are seeing more snaggers and more fish. Snaggers are harvesting primarily 30-35-inch fish, and we are seeing some 40+lb females. Snaggers are catching several sublegal fish (less than 24-inches), please be sure to release these fish immediately unharmed. 

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.

Advisories 

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.
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