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Area lakes see changing catfish regulations

The Missouri Department of Conservation is changing catfish regulations at five southeast Missouri lakes, including three in Farmington, to improve channel catfish populations and average size of fish harvested. 

The five lakes are Tywappity Community Lake in Scott County; Buford Pond in Reynolds County; and Thomas, Giessing and Hager lakes in St. Francois County. 

Beginning March 1, channel catfish less than 16 inches must be released.  The daily bag limit will remain at 4 fish. This regulation change is part of a research project to determine the best way to improve catfish populations in our small waters. 

Mike Reed, a MDC fisheries management biologist said researchers and biologists studied the populations of catfish in these lakes and belive the regulation change will increase catfish abundance as well as average size by allowing fish to remain in these water bodies for a longer period. 

“The result should be more consistent catfishing with larger fish for harvest for our anglers,” Reed said.

Reed said anglers can be found fishing for catfish in every southeast Missouri water body from the time water begins to warm in the spring well into the late fall months and MDC has responded to the immense popularity of channel catfish by annually stocking 8 to 10-inch catfish in public ponds and lakes that don’t sustain a natural population of catfish.

As part of regular catfish management in small bodies of water, MDC conducts hoop net surveys to assess catfish populations.  These nets, baited with cheese, are very effective at capturing catfish.  The survey results allow fisheries biologists to determine catfish population status and make adjustments to stocking rates if necessary.

“Past surveys conducted in many small Southeast Missouri water bodies have shown a trend toward low channel catfish abundance,” Reed said. “In addition, fish collected are typically small, often those stocked the previous fall.”

Biologists have traditionally responded by increasing stocking rates, with little or no improvement in overall populations.  Reed said this indicates channel catfish harvest in small Southeast Missouri water bodies is too high to overcome with higher stocking rates alone. The regulation change, combined with continued stocking, is anticipated to reduce that pressure and improve fishing opportunities in southeast Missouri.

Catfish caught at Hager Lake in Farmington. 

Catfish caught at Hager Lake in Farmington. 

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