Stream Fishing for Smallmouth Bass and Goggle Eye Under Review

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2015 9.10 blog twitter

If given one day left to live, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than float fishing an Ozark stream with my family. The beauty, serenity and flat out fish-ability of the rivers running through southern half of Missouri make these waters rarely paralleled across the country. Now, MDC is considering how to make them even better for fishing.

Each spring and fall I turkey hunt along the Big Piney in Texas County. Gobblers may be the main attraction, but I must admit, it’s the smallmouth bass and goggle eye fishing that keeps me committed to the property. I could hunt turkeys in many other places, but I love wading the Big Piney and collecting a stringer of goggle eye, then deep-frying them right along with wild turkey nuggets.

MDC is currently seeking public input about smallmouth bass and rock bass (goggle eye) regulations. The Department has conducted research that shows both species grow slowly. So slowly in fact, that many do not reach a quality size before dying from natural causes or being caught by anglers.

Over the past couple of decades, anglers have complained that smallmouth and goggle eye fishing has deteriorated. These same anglers also complain that the varying minimum-length limits and daily limits for smallmouth on rivers and creeks are too complicated and can be confusing. MDC is attempting to eliminate the confusion.

Certain rivers or stretches of rivers are under special regulations as “Special Management Areas” for smallmouth and goggle eye. Smallmouth have a statewide length limit of 12 inches. Goggle eye have no statewide length limit. In the Special Management Areas, smallmouth have a length limit of 15 or 18-inches and goggle eye have a length limit of eight inches.

The new proposed regulations include imposing a statewide minimum length limit of seven inches for goggle eye, and maintaining the current statewide length limit of 12-inches for smallmouth, but changing all smallmouth Special Management Areas to a 15-inch minimum length limit. Anglers could keep a limit of six smallmouth outside of Special Management Areas and a limit of one fish over 15-inches in the Special Management Areas.

The MDC is also proposing a new Special Management Area on the Current River and expansions of the Special Management Areas already in place on the Big Piney, Big River, Jacks Fork and Meramec rivers.

MDC is hosting eight open houses around the state to provide anglers and concerned citizens opportunities to provide in person comments and to engage with Department staff. The open houses are:
Sept. 29 in Van Buren at The River Centre at The Landing, 110 E. Carter St.;
Oct. 1 in Blue Springs at the MDC Burr Oak Woods Nature Center, 1401 N.W. Park Road;
Oct. 5 in St. Robert at the St. Robert Community Center, 114 J.H. Williamson Drive;
Oct. 6 in Farmington at the Memorial United Methodist Church, 425 North St.;
Oct. 8 in Kirkwood at the MDC Powder Valley Nature Center, 11715 Cragwold Rd.
Oct. 13 in Springfield at the MDC Springfield Nature Center, 4601 S. Nature Center Way;
Oct. 15 in Neosho at the National Fish Hatchery, 520 Park St.; and
Oct. 19 in Columbia at the MDC Central Regional Office and Conservation Research Center, 3500 E. Gans Road.

If you can not attend one of the open house, you may submit your comment online at or through U.S. mail to: Missouri Department of Conservation, Attn: Policy Coordination, PO Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

Our Ozark rivers and streams are national treasures. If you are a passionate angler who cherishes these fisheries, then please consider taking a few minutes to add your voice to the conversation about how they should be managed.

See you down the trail…

Brandon Butler


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