Christopher Smith

Missouri Smallmouth Stream Management

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1797_619547881394679_1757565699_n1-008efb473c78c4e24993aee35687a8b6095e0cdcWe’ve previously reported on Missouri’s proactive efforts of monitoring and managing smallmouth bass fisheries.

The cool thing is that the MDC takes this job seriously and knows the value of smallmouth bass angling in the state. They understand that it doesn’t take much change in the habitat to see bass quality and populations decline.

Smallmouth bass are more sensitive to environmental changes compared to other species and close monitoring and management are needed.

Smallmouth bass surveys are a big part of this process:

As his rubber boot-clad foot presses a pedal on the floor of the boat, probes that are suspended from circular booms deliver electric currents through the water.

The currents attract and momentarily stun a dozen or so fish, giving Beckett the few seconds he needs.

Like a pelican, he is precisely on target with the long net he holds: into the water, scoop a smallmouth; back into the water, scoop a goggle-eye. In a continuous movement, he then swivels 180 degrees and deposits his haul into a large livewell — a holding tank for the 15 minutes the clock is running.

Then it’s back to focusing on the water.

When his time is up, Missouri Department of Conservation fisheries biologist Rick Horton, who is manning the motor at the stern, will guide the boat to the stream bank. There, he, Beckett and forestry resource assistant Jake Hughes will get down to business.

“We’ll measure them, weigh them and release them,” Horton said. “There’s no keeping any of these.”  Source

Missouri has been actively managing smallmouth bass populations, sizes and limits since 1965 and managing habitat improvements since the early 1980s.

There are always yearly fluctuations in results of the surveys. It is important to monitor bass populations frequently over an extended period of time to look for trends.

There is great variability in survival of smallmouth bass young of the year, depending on rain, flooding, etc so it can be misleading to look at a single year’s results. Over time, however, we can truly understand what effects anglers, the environment and management practices have on our beloved “bronzebacks”.

So next time you’re complaining about the cost of your fishing license, keep these things in mind.

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