Regulations

Fishing

Qualifications for Resident Permits

If you meet any of the conditions below, you can apply for hunting and fishing permits as a Missouri resident.

Have you lived in Missouri for at least 30 days?

Any person who does not claim resident privileges in another state or country, and whose actual residence and legal permanent home address are both in Missouri, and have been for at least 30 days before applying for the permit. Owning real estate or attending a Missouri school does not in itself make you a legal resident.

Are you military personnel, a veteran, or a federal employee?

All members of the U.S. armed forces stationed and residing in Missouri on permanent change of station status and immediate family members residing with them.

Any honorably discharged military veteran having a service-related disability of 60 percent or greater, or who was a prisoner of war during military service; must carry certified statement of eligibility from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs while hunting or purchasing permits.

Any member of the U.S. military currently assigned as a patient to a Warrior Transition Brigade, Warrior Transition Unit or a military medical center; must carry orders showing assignment to a Warrior Transition Brigade or Warrior Transition Unit, or admissions verification to a military medical center while hunting or purchasing permits.

Missouri residents employed by the United States in the District of Columbia or serving in the U.S. armed forces. (Immediate family members who reside with them also may purchase resident permits.)

Are you a student?

Nonresidents who are registered students attending a public or private secondary, post secondary, or vocational school in Missouri and who live in Missouri while attending school; must carry evidence of a Missouri residence and student status while hunting. Note: Nonresident students who qualify for resident permits must purchase them at Conservation Department offices.

Are you a Resident Legal Alien?

Immigrants who possess an I-551 Resident Alien Card and who do not claim resident privileges in another state or country, and whose actual residence and legal permanent home address are both in Missouri, and have been for at least 30 days before applying for the permit.

General Fishing Rules and Methods

Allowedfishing methods

You may take fish by pole and line, trotline, throwline, limb line, bank line and jug line. Ice fishing tackle, or tip-ups, are considered a pole-and-line method.

These methods are accepted for catching all species offish, although additional restrictions may apply to specific fishingareas.

Game fish not hooked in the mouth or jaw must be returned to the water unharmed immediately, except paddlefish legally taken during the paddlefish snagging season.Game fish include goggle-eye (commonly known as Ozark bass, rock bass, and shadow bass), warmouth, northern pike, muskellunge, tiger muskie, muskie pike hybrid, chain pickerel, grass pickerel, all species of catfish except bullheads, all species of black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted), paddlefish (spoonbill), all species of crappie, white bass, yellow bass, and striped bass, trout, walleye, sauger, and shovelnose sturgeon.

Allowed alternate methods

You may use permittedalternate methods in designated waters to take certain species, including paddlefish andnongame fish.Nongame fish include bluegill, green sunfish, carp, carpsuckers, suckers, buffalo,drum, gar, and all other species other than those defined as game fish or listed asendangered.

Permitted alternatemethods include:bow, crossbow, gig, atlatl, snare,underwater spearfishing, snagging or grabbing.Additional restrictionsapply to specific species andfishingareas. See fishing seasons, paddlefish snagging season,and area specific regulations for more information.

All of the above methods of taking fish are considered sport fishing methods.

Number of poles and hooks

If you use more than 3 poles (or 2 poles on the Mississippi River) at any one time, the additional poles must be labeled with your full name and address or Conservation Number. Regardless of the method or number of poles, you may not use more than a total of 33 hooks at any one time; except on the Mississippi River the maximum is 50 hooks at one time. If fishing on the Mississippi River and on other Missouri waters at the same time, no more than 50 hooks may be used and not more than 33 on waters other than the Mississippi.

Hooks on trotlines must be staged at least 2 feet apart. Hooks on any type of line, as well as the line itself, must be attended every 24 hours or removed.

Prohibited fishing methods

No one may use any explosive, poison, chemical or electrical equipment to kill or stupefy fish. Such material or equipment may not be possessed on waters of the state or adjacent banks.

Spearguns may not be possessed on unimpounded waters or adjacent banks, and spears may not be propelled by explosives.

It also is illegal to attempt to take fish by hand, with or without a hook, and to intentionally leave or abandon any commonly edible portion of any fish.

Only live-bait traps are allowed

Fish traps, including slat and wire ones, may not be possessed on waters in Missouri or on adjacent banks. However, live-bait traps are allowed.

Labels required on traps and lines

You must place a tag of a durable material with your full name and address or your Conservation Numberon live-bait traps, trotlines, throwlines, limb lines, bank lines, jug lines and live boxes.

Use of Lights

As an aid to fishing methods, an artificial light may be used only above the water surface. However, while fishing by pole and line only, underwater lights may be used to attract fish. Underwater lights also may be used when bowfishing on lakes, ponds and other impoundments.

Check Special Area Regulations

Special fishing restrictions exist for particular areas. Always check before you fish.

Search Special Area Regulations

Conservation Area Regulations

Search the Atlas for Conservation Area-specific information before fishing.

Search ATLAS

Possession and Length Limits

Daily and Possession Limits

You may possess no more than the daily limit of any given species while you are on waters, or on the banks of waters, where daily limits for those species apply. Any species taken into actual possession, unless released unharmed immediately after being caught, shall continue to be included in the daily limit of the taker for the day. 

Where only catch-and-release fishing is allowed, fish must be returned unharmed immediately to the water after being caught.

The possession limit is twice the statewide daily limit. Fish you take and possess must be kept separate or distinctly identifiable from fish taken by another person. If you are away from your catch, the device holding the fish must be plainly labeled with your full name and address.

Length Limit Definitions

Many fish species and fishing areas have length limits.

A minimum length limit means that fish below a designated length must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught.

A slot length limit or protected length range means that fish within a designated length range must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught.

A maximum length limit means that fish above a designated length must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught.

Regardless of where taken, fish that are not of a legal length cannot be possessed on the waters or banks where length limits apply. The head and tail must remain attached to the fish while you are fishing on waters where length limits apply.

Learn how to measure fish correctly.

Possessing, transporting, and storing fish

The fish you catch in Missouri, or elsewhere, may be possessed and transported as your personal baggage, if you have the required permit. Fish may be stored, preserved or refrigerated only at your home, camp, place of lodging or in a commercial establishment. Stored fish must be labeled with your full name, address, permit number, species of fish and the date placed in storage. Fish taken in another state by methods not permitted in Missouri may not be possessed on waters of the state.

Approved Aquatic Species List

Fishes

  • Shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus)
  • Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula)
  • Spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)
  • Longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus)
  • Shortnose gar (Lepisosteus platostomus)
  • Bowfin (Amia calva)
  • American eel (Anguilla rostrata)
  • Gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum)
  • Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense)
  • Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
  • Golden trout (Oncorhynchus aquabonita)
  • Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii)
  • Brown trout (Salmo trutta)
  • Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
  • Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
  • Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)
  • Northern pike (Esox lucius)
  • Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)
  • Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
  • Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
  • Common carp (Cyprinus carpio)
  • Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis)
  • Golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)
  • Bluntnose minnow (Pimephales notatus)
  • Fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)
  • River carpsucker (Carpiodes carpio)
  • Quillback (Carpiodes cyprinus)
  • White sucker (Catostomus commersoni)
  • Blue sucker (Cycleptus elongatus)
  • Bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus )
  • Black bullhead (Ameirus melas)
  • Yellow bullhead (Ameirus natalis)
  • Brown bullhead (Ameirus nebulosus)
  • Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)
  • Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
  • Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)
  • Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis)
  • White bass (Morone chrysops)
  • Striped bass (Morone saxatilis)
  • Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
  • Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus)
  • Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus)
  • Orangespotted sunfish (Lepomis humilis)
  • Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
  • Longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)
  • Redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
  • Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
  • Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
  • Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
  • White crappie (Pomoxis annularis)
  • Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)
  • Yellow perch (Perca flavescens)
  • Sauger (Sander canadensis)
  • Walleye (Sander vitreus)
  • Freshwater drum(Aplodinotus grunniens)

Crustaceans

  • Freshwater prawn (Macrabrachium rosenbergii)
  • Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei)
  • Virile (“Northern”) crayfish (Orconectes virilis)
  • White River crawfish (Procambarus acutus)
  • Red Swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii)
  • Calico (“Papershell”) crayfish (Orconectes immunis)

Do Not Harvest List

Fishes that appear on the state or federal threatened or endangered list, or fish that closely resemble a protected fish, should not be harvested. Help protect the species listed below. If you catch a fish on this list (or one that looks like it), do not harm it, and release it immediately.

Commercial Fishermen: Don't take shovelnose sturgeon!

Commercial fisherman may not take shovelnose sturgeon from the entire Missouri River nor from the Mississippi River below Melvin Price Locks and Dam near Alton, Ill. See Commercial Shovelnose Fishing Restricted.

Fish Measuring and Identification

Learn to measure and identify the fish and other aquatic life you catch so you can abide by Missouri's seasons, daily limits, length limits, and other regulations. When in doubt a fish's identity or legal length, play it safe, and return the fish to the water unharmed immediately.

How to Measure a Fish

How-to-measure-fish diagram

Total length is measured from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail, with the fish laid flat on the ruler, with the mouth closed and the tail lobes pressed together.

Measure a Paddlefish

Measuring a paddlefish

Paddlefish are measured from the eye to the fork of the tail.

Measure a Shovelnose Sturgeon

Measuring a sturgeon

Sturgeon are measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail. Only shovelnose sturgeon are legal to keep.

Missouri Game Fish

Click on a fish's name to view detailed information about it.

Game Fish
Common Name Scientific Name Family
Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus Sunfish
Blue Catfish Ictalurus furcatus Catfish
Brown Trout Salmo trutta Trout
Chain Pickerel Esox niger Pike
Channel Catfish Ictalurus punctatus Catfish
Flathead Catfish Pylodictis olivaris Catfish
Goggle-eye (Northern Rock Bass) Ambloplites rupestris Sunfish
Grass Pickerel Esox americanus Pike
Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides Sunfish
Muskellunge Esox masquinongy Pike
Northern Pike Esox lucius Pike
Paddlefish Polyodon spathula Paddlefish
Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss Trout
Sauger Sander canadensis Perch
Shovelnose Sturgeon Scaphirhynchus platorynch Sturgeon
Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu Sunfish
Spotted/Kentucky Bass Micropterus punctulatus Sunfish
Striped Bass and Hybrids Morone saxatilis Temperate Bass
Walleye Sander vitreus Perch
Warmouth Lepomis gulosus Sunfish
White Bass, Yellow Bass, and Hybrids Morone chrysops Temperate Bass
White Crappie Pomoxis annularis Sunfish

Related Content

Do Not Harvest List

Porous-Soled Waders Ban

To prevent the spread of didymo, an invasive alga, the use of shoes, boots or waders with porous soles of felt, matted or woven fibrous material is prohibited at all trout parks, trout streams, Lake Taneycomo and buffer areas.

Use of porous-Soled waders, boots or shoes is prohibited on the following waters:

Trout Parks

  • Maramec Spring Park
  • Bennett Spring State Park
  • Montauk State Park
  • Roaring River State Park

Lakes and streams

  • Barren Fork Creek in Shannon County
  • Blue Springs Creek in Crawford County
  • Capps Creek in Barry and Newton counties
  • Crane Creek in Stone and Lawrence counties
  • Current River in Dent, Texas, and Shannon counties
  • Dry Fork Creek in Crawford and Phelps counties
  • Eleven Point River in Oregon County
  • Hickory Creek in Newton County
  • Lake Taneycomo and its tributaries in Taney County
  • Little Piney Creek in Phelps County
  • Meramec River in Crawford and Phelps counties
  • Mill Creek in Phelps County
  • Niangua River in Dallas and Laclede counties
  • North Fork of White River in Ozark County
  • Roaring River in Barry County
  • Roubidoux Creek in Pulaski County
  • Spring Creek in Phelps County
  • Stone Mill Spring Branch in Pulaski County

Live Bait Regulations

Live Bait Species

Live bait includes crayfish, freshwater shrimp, southern leopard frogs, plains leopard frogs, cricket frogs, and nongame fish. Bullfrogs and green frogs taken under season limits and methods also may be used as bait.

  • Bighead carp and silver carp may not be used as live bait but may be used as dead or cut bait.
  • Live bait taken from public waters of Missouri may not be sold or transported to other states.
  • Game fish or their parts may not be used as bait.

Methods

  • Live bait may be taken by trap, dip net, throw net, pole and line or seine.
  • Live-bait traps must have a throat opening not more than 1-1/2 inches in any dimension, and must be labeled with the user’s full name and address, or Conservation Number.
  • Traps must be removed if they cannot be checked at least once every 24 hours.
  • Seines must not be more than 20 feet long and 4 feet deep, with a mesh of not more than 1/2 inch bar measure.
  • Live bait, except fish, may be taken by hand.
  • Crayfish also may be taken by trap with an opening not to exceed 1-1/2 inches by 18 inches.

Length Limits

  • All bluegill, green sunfish and bullheads more than 5 inches long and other species of nongame fish more than 12 inches long must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught by any of the methods listed above except pole and line. The daily limits for nongame fish apply to the large fish taken by pole and line.
  • There is no length limit on bighead carp, common carp, gizzard shad, goldfish, grass carp and silver carp when used as bait.

Seasons

Live bait may be taken throughout the year.

Daily Limit

  • A combined total of 150 crayfish, freshwater shrimp and non-game fish.
  • 5 each of southern leopard frog, plains leopard frog and cricket frog.
  • A combined total of 8 bullfrogs and green frogs. Bullfrogs and green frogs may be taken only from sunset June 30 through Oct. 31.
  • Any number of goldfish and bighead, common, grass and silver carp.
  • Any number of live bait, when purchased or obtained from a source other than the waters of the state or a licensed commercial fisherman; must be species on the Approved Aquatic Species List and angler must carry a dated receipt for the bait.

Other Species That May be Used as Bait

  • Nongame fish of any size, except bowfin, if taken according to the non-game methods and seasons.
  • Mussels and clams legally taken by sport fish methods.

Alabama Rig Regulations

The Alabama, umbrella and similar rigs may be fished in Missouri so long as they use only three lures or baits. The remaining attachment points can include similar baits so long as their hooks have been removed or other hook-less attractors such as spinner blades are used. This rig is intended to be fished using a rod and reel.

The Alabama rigs we have seen have more than three wires and attachment points. These rigs may be used but only with up to three hooks. (Each bait or lure counts as a hook.) The additional wires and attachment points can be used. However, whatever is attached may not include a hook. You may also clip the extra wires and attachment points off or not use them at all.

Examples of allowed Alabama rigs

modified umbrella rig
This is a standard Alabama rig “modified” to meet the Missouri Wildlife Code. Note that two of the baits have had the hook removed to meet the three-hook limit.
Photo by: David Stonner
legal umbrella rig
This rigging is consistent with the Wildlife Code. Each lure is considered one hook byWildlife Code definition. Spinner blades were added as attractors to the “extra” attachment points.
Photo by: David Stonner
fishhooks
This is a collection of hooks you typically find on the sporting good rack.
Photo by: David Stonner
one-hook lures
Any one of these lures used independently is considered "one hook" by definition in ourMissouri Wildlife Code.
Photo by: David Stonner

Examples of prohibited Alabama rigs

illegal umbrella rig
This rigging would NOT be legal in Missouri. You cannot fish five hooks on a pole and line. To comply with the Code, you would need to clip the hooks off two of the baits, OR remove and replace two of the hooked baits with hookless baits or attractors.
Photo by: David Stonner

Maximum number of poles and hooks

Anglers must not have more than three 3 unlabeled poles and not more than 33 hooks in the aggregate, for any or all fishing methods.

On the Mississippi River, an angler may not have more than 2 unlabeled poles and not more than 50 hooks in the aggregate at one time. While fishing concurrently on the Mississippi River and other Missouri waters, not more than 50 hooks in the aggregate may be used and not more than 33 of those hooks may be used in waters other than the Mississippi River.

While the absolute total number of hooks is either 33 or 50, depending on whether you or not you are fishing on the Mississippi River, you may not use more than 3 hooks per pole.

Definitions

Pole and line: Fishing methods using tackle normally held in the hand, such as a cane pole, casting rod, spinning rod, fly rod, or ice fishing tackle commonly known as a tip-up, to which not more than 3 hooks with bait or lures are attached. This fishing method does not include snagging, snaring, grabbing, or trotlines or other tackle normally attached in a fixed position (rule 3 CSR 10-20.805 (44) in the Wildlife Code).

Hook: Single- or multiple-pronged hooks and the ordinary artificial lures with attached single- or multiple-pronged hooks and dropper flies. A multiple-pronged hook or 2 or more hooks employed to hold a single bait, shall be considered a single hook in counting the allowable total in use (rule 3 CSR 10-20.805 (30) in the Wildlife Code).

Rule 3 CSR 10-6.410 (Fishing Methods) sets the number of poles and hooks.

The current interest in the use of Alabama rigs is noteworthy. Some of the conversations would lead one to believe they are always fish magnets. Time will tell. Plastic worms and electronic fish finders have not produced negative impacts to our bass populations. Fortunately, we have length and daily limits to protect such sport fisheries. We will continue to monitor the use of Alabama and similar rigs and will take action should it be warranted. In the meantime, we will appreciate the excitement this new rig has brought to fishing.

Jug Line Regulations

Check anchored jug lines daily, ensure the anchor is secure

Anchored jug lines may not be left unattended for more than 24 hours. 

The anchor must be sufficient to render a jug immobile so that wind, current or large fish will not move the jug. A line that does not meet this standard is considered unanchored. Under normal fishing conditions, a 2-pound weight for a 2-liter soda bottle would be an appropriate anchor. Use a heavier weight to anchor larger floats or during times of high wind and current.

Closely attend unachored jug lines

Keeping track of your unanchored jug lines reduces catfish waste and jug-line litter. Unanchored jug lines in streams must be personally attended at all times. Unanchored jug lines in lakes must be personally attended at least once per hour. Personally attended means that the angler whose name is labeled on the jug line:

  • Is in visual sight of and close proximity to the jug line
  • Can see the jug line bob and move when a fish is hooked and can retrieve it
  • Can see and talk to a conservation agent checking the line
  • Can get the attention of or deter anyone who is tampering with the jug line.

Anglers who cannot personally attend their jug lines can still enjoy jug fishing by using anchors.

Label your jug lines

You must place a tag of a durable material with your full name and address or Conservation Number on each jug line.  Your Conservation Number in nine digits long and can be found on your fishing permit or on the back of your Heritage Card.

Culling

Any fish you catch is included in your daily limit unless you release it unharmed immediately. You may not replace smaller fish in your possession with larger ones caught later. You need to make a keep-or-release decision as soon as the fish is caught.

There is one exception: if, from September through June, you are a participant in a bona fide catch-and-release black bass tournament (one after which all bass are released alive) that requires entrants to have a boat livewell with adequate capacity and a pump constantly adding fresh or recirculating water, the black bass you release unharmed from the livewell need not be included in your daily limit. At no time may the daily limit be exceeded.

Reciprocal Fishing Privileges

Fishing privileges on boundary waters common to Missouri and an adjoining state are mutually agreed upon by the two states. It is your responsibility to know which state you are fishing in and the regulations that apply to the waters where you are fishing. You must be licensed in Missouri to fish in Missouri tributaries of the Mississippi, Missouri and St. Francis rivers. You may not fish in the tributaries of these rivers in a state where you are not licensed.

Reciprocal Fishing Privileges
Properly licensed or exempted anglers from Missouri: Missouri River (Kansas, Nebraska) Mississippi River (Illinois, Kentucky*, Tennessee) St. Francis River (Arkansas) Des Moines River (Iowa)
May fish in the flowing waters of either state. X X X X
May fish in either state’s adjacent backwaters and shared oxbow lakes X X*   X
May fish from the bank or attach to the bank of either state. X X*    
Must abide by the regulations of the state in which you are fishing, regardless of where you are licensed. X X   X
Must abide by the regulations of the state where you are licensed, regardless of where you are fishing.     X  
Must abide by the most restrictive of the two states’ regulations when fishing the other state’s waters. X X   X

* For the purposes of these reciprocal fishing privileges with Kentucky, the Mississippi River is defined as the main channel and immediate side or secondary channels or chutes. It does not include oxbow or floodplain lakes, or backwaters that extend onto the floodplain or up tributaries when the river level exceeds 33 feet at the Cairo, Illinois, gauging station.

For more information on adjacent states’ regulations and permits, contact:

  • Arkansas Game and Fish Commission: 800-364-4263
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources: 217-782-6302
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources: 515-281-5918
  • Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks: 620-672-5911
  • Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources: 800-858-1549
  • Nebraska Game and Parks Commission: 402-471-0641
  • Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency: 615-781-6500

Why "No" to Noodling?

Science Shows Noodling Hurts Local Catfish Populations

Flathead Catfish Caught by Illegal Handfishing
Conservation Agent Eric Abbott nabbed four men handfishing and possessing this fish in the Tarkio River in Atchison County in August 2012. Abbott released the large flathead, topping 40 pounds, back into the river.
MDC Staff

Q: What is noodling?

A: Noodling is a common term for hand-fishing.

This is the method of reaching underwater into natural cavities formed in riverbanks or by tree roots, logs, or rocks and capturing a catfish by hand. When the catfish bites onto the hand, the noodler pulls the fish off the nest and out of the water. This method is primarily used to catch flathead catfish and blue catfish in Missouri when these fish are spawning or nesting in small rivers or streams.

Q: How popular is noodling or hand-fishing?

A: The common estimate is about 2,000 people in Missouri hand-fish. That number could top almost 13,000 if the practice was legalized.

A Missouri Department of Conservation survey of Missouri anglers shows that about 4.6 percent of those surveyed would be “very likely” to participate in hand-fishing if it was legalized. Based on fishing permit sales, that number could amount to almost 13,000 noodlers statewide.

Q: If other states allow hand-fishing, why does the Conservation Commission of Missouri oppose it?

A: In Missouri, flathead and blue catfish are valued as a top game fish and are therefore regulated under the state’s Wildlife Code.

According to survey information from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, catfishing ranks second in Missouri in both number of anglers and days spent fishing. It contributes almost $157 million annually to the Missouri economy. While some other states allow hand-fishing for catfish, most classify one or more catfish species as non-game fish.

Q: How would legalizing hand-fishing hurt our catfish numbers?

A: Research shows that legalizing hand-fishing could severely deplete local catfish populations and put the abundance of a top Missouri game fish at risk.

Catfish are very vulnerable during the nesting season (June and July) because they lay their eggs in natural cavities and then do not leave the nest. If they’re taken away, their eggs quickly die. Catfish on the nest are not vulnerable to being caught by traditional sport-angling methods.

Our research shows that less than 25 percent of catfish migrate from large rivers to smaller tributaries. This degree of migration depends on seasonal water levels. Hand-fishers have easy access to these smaller wading streams and the nesting cover catfish use, making these catfish especially vulnerable. A survey of hand-fishers conducted by the University of Missouri–Columbia Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism reported that 90 percent of hand-fishers prefer to fish in smaller rivers or streams, which are most vulnerable to over harvesting.

Catfish are long-lived (reaching ages of 25 years or more), are relatively slow growing, and can reach weights exceeding 75 pounds. They also lay many fewer eggs than other sport fish.

In north and west-central Missouri, in particular, streams have been greatly altered over the past 100 years, reducing catfish habitat. Hand-fishing would place more pressure on these local catfish populations, which already have high harvest rates from current fishing practices.

Surveys show that hand-fishing tends to be highly successful. Because of its high success rate and focus on removing larger, older, sexually mature fish from their nests, hand-fishing could jeopardize local populations of this popular game fish.

According to a survey of hand-fishers conducted by the University of Missouri–Columbia Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, hand-fishers report being successful at capturing a catfish 60 percent of the time. That is an extremely high success rate compared to other angling methods.

Hand-fishers reported their average catch weighed approximately 20 pounds, which they considered to be a minimum-size catch. They preferred to catch larger, trophy-size, 50-pound flathead catfish.

Q: Has the Department of Conservation ever considered legalizing hand-fishing?

A: In responding to ongoing requests by hand-fishers to have the activity legalized, the Department of Conservation offered an experimental hand-fishing season in 2005 and 2006.

The experimental season was part of a larger, comprehensive research study of flathead catfish and blue catfish in segments of eight rivers in Missouri. It included the potential impact of hand-fishing on catfish populations. Hand-fishing was allowed in parts of three rivers in Missouri. Hand-fishers were required to purchase a special hand-fishing permit and complete a report of their activity at the end of each experimental season.

Based on research findings that showed hand-fishing could have a significant negative impact on catfish numbers, the Conservation Commission voted to end the experimental hand-fishing season in April 2007. Project results since 2007 have not provided evidence to alter the decision made by the Commission.

Q: What do fishing organizations think about hand-fishing?

A: Other Missouri conservation and fishing organizations are also opposed to hand fishing.

The Conservation Federation of Missouri — the state’s largest citizen conservation group — strongly opposes hand-fishing, and so do the Federation’s many affiliated fishing groups.

Related Content

Catfish

Blue, Channel, Flathead

Commercial Shovelnose Fishing Restricted

Shovelnose Sturgeon
Of Missouri's three sturgeon, only the shovelnose is common. It may not be harvested under a commercial fishing license.
Joe Tomelleri

In a nationwide effort to protect declining populations of the federally endangered pallid sturgeon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) ruled in early October 2010 that shovelnose sturgeon must be treated as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act because of their similarity in appearance to the pallid sturgeon.

This action terminates the commercial harvest of shovelnose sturgeon and shovelnose-pallid sturgeon hybrids where they commonly coexist with the pallid sturgeon or where their ranges commonly overlap. Under this federal ruling, sturgeon caught by commercial methods in these areas must be immediately released with all roe (eggs) intact. The ruling does not apply to sport fishing.

As a result of this federal ruling, the harvest of the flesh or roe of shovelnose sturgeon and shovelnose-pallid sturgeon hybrids by commercial fishing methods is prohibited in Missouri in the entire Missouri River and in the Mississippi River below Melvin Price Locks and Dam near Alton, Ill.

MDC fisheries biologist Craig Gemming describes some of the main physical characteristic differences between the pallid, shovelnose and lake sturgeon.

Possession Requirements for Sturgeon and Paddlefish Eggs

Extracted paddlefish and shovelnose sturgeon eggs may not be possessed while on waters of the state or adjacent banks and may not be transported. 

Shovelnose sturgeon must remain intact while on waters of the state or adjacent banks.

Paddlefish eggs may not be bought, sold, or offered for sale.

St. Louis Region Special Fishing Regulations

St. Louis Region Special Fishing Regulations

Statewide regulations apply for all St. Louis area lakes, except for those listed below.

Please check the posted regulation signs at the lakes before fishing.

August A. Busch Conservation Area Lakes
Lake Black Bass Daily Limit Black Bass Length Limit Catfish Combined Daily Limit Crappie Daily Limit Trout Daily Limit Muskie Daily Limit Muskie Length Limit All Others Combined Daily Limit
Lakes 1, 2, 15 Closed to public fishing. Reserved for aquatic education programs only.
Lake 12 Kids fishing only; daily limit = 2 fish combined
Lakes 3, 22, 23 2 15” 4 15 4 N/A N/A 10
Lakes 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 19, 20, 24, 26, 27, 30, 34, 36, 37, 38 2 15” 4 15 N/A N/A N/A 10
Lakes 21, 28 2 15” 4 15 4* N/A N/A 10
Lake 33 2 18” 4 30 N/A N/A N/A 10
Lake 35 2 18” 4 15 N/A 1 36” 10
Lakes 16, 31, 32 Catch-and-release, artificial lures only
Lake 8 Closed to fishing

 

St. Louis Urban Fishing Program Lakes
Lake Black Bass Daily Limit Black Bass Length Limit Catfish Combined Daily Limit Crappie Daily Limit Trout Daily Limit All Others Combined Daily Limit
Benton Park,
Blackjack (Veteran’s Mem. Park),
Fairgrounds Park, Fountain (Bellefontaine Park),
Horseshoe (Carondelet Park),
Hyde Park,
Lafayette Park,
New Ballwin Park,
North (Willmore Park),
North Riverfront Park,
South (Willmore Park)
2 18” 4 15 N/A 10
Boathouse (Carondelet Park),
Carp (Suson Park),
Island (Suson Park),
January-Wabash Park,
O’Fallon Park,
Vlasis Park
2 18” 4 15 4 10
Jefferson (Forest Park),
Tilles Park
2 18” 4 15 4* 10
MDC and Community Assistance Program (CAP) Lakes
Lake Black Bass Daily Limit Black Bass Length Limit Flathead Catfish Length Limit Catfish Combined Daily Limit Crappie Daily Limit Trout Daily Limit All Others Combined Daily Limit
Bee Tree Park,
Sunfish (Spanish Lake Park)
2 18” 24” 4 15 N/A 10
Bilderback 2 15” N/A 4 N/A N/A 10
Bluegill (Bellefontaine CA) 2 18” N/A N/A N/A N/A 10
Community Club,
Creve Coeur Park,
Jarville (Queeny Park), Kluesner Moore,
Preslar,
Simpson Park,
Skate Park,
Spanish Lake Park,
Upper Fabick,
Westside
2 18” N/A 4 15 N/A 10
Fire, Prairie (Weldon Spring CA) 2 15” N/A 4 15 N/A 10
Koeneman Park,
Walker,
Wild Acres Park
2 18” N/A 4 15 4* 10
Lincoln 12 N/A N/A 4 30 N/A 20
Logan CA lakes,
White CA lakes
2 12-15” slot N/A 4 30 N/A 20
Glassberg CA, Young CA 2 12-15” slot N/A N/A N/A N/A 10
Port Hudson 2 18” N/A 4 30 N/A 10
Bass Pond, Catfish Pond, & Hybrid Pond (Bellefontaine CA),
Catfish Cove, Cypress, &
Fishtail (Forest Park),
Suson Park Rearing Pond
Closed to public fishing. Reserved for aquatic education programs only.

* = Catch and release, artificial lures only, November 1 – January 31.

N/A = Not available or no limit exists.

12-15” slot = all bass in the 12-15” size range must be released.

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Fishing Regulations Summary