For Missourians who enjoy catching hard-fighting smallmouth bass or hunting for the main ingredient of fried squirrel, the Memorial Day weekend is a much-anticipated annual event. For those who fancy both activities it can create a quandary. The best solution is to do both, float-fishing their favorite stream while taking time out along the way to pursue bushytails. Both the black bass and squirrel seasons open May 27.
Due to a quirk in the Missouri Wildlife Code, squirrel and black bass seasons used to open on the same day in some -- but not all -- years. The Conservation Commission eliminated that confusing situation years ago by setting the opening for both seasons on the fourth Saturday in May.
The term "black bass" includes largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Anglers can catch and keep black bass all year long in impoundments throughout the state, and they can catch black bass in streams statewide throughout the year. However, from March 1 through the Friday before the fourth Saturday in May, they can only keep black bass caught in streams north of the south bank of the Missouri River, in that portion of southeast Missouri south and east of Cape Girardeau following Highways 74 and 25, U.S. Highways 60, 67 and 160 and the west bank of the Little Black River to the Arkansas state line, or on the St. Francis River downstream from Wappapello Dam.
In the rest of the state -- essentially the Ozarks -- black-bass fishing is strictly catch-and-release from March 1 until the fourth Saturday in May.
In most of the state's waters, the daily creel limit on black bass is six, with a possession limit of 12. However, many areas are subject to special regulations regarding creel and length limits. These are outlined in the "2006 Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations, which is available from fishing permit vendors."
Anglers need to be aware that this year's fishing regulation summary contains an error in the opening date for black bass season on Ozark streams. On page 8 of the guide, the season opener is listed as May 28. The correct date is May 27.
Squirrel hunting regulations are simple compared to black-bass fishing rules. Season dates and bag limits apply statewide. The season opens May 27 and runs through Feb. 15. The daily limit is six, and the possession limit is 12 for fox and gray squirrels in the aggregate. This means hunters can bag any combination of fox and gray squirrels, so long as they do not exceed six squirrels in one day in total. If hunters bag a daily limit two days in a row, they have a possession limit of 12 squirrels. After that, they must eat or give away some squirrels before going hunting again in order to stay below the possession limit.
An abundance of stream accesses maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation statewide makes it easy to combine float-fishing and squirrel hunting. It is important to remember, however, that a hunting permit does not give hunters the right to trespass on private property bordering streams. The best places for this dual sport are where streams run through conservation areas or national forest land.