If you are a Missouri River angler and like chasing monster blue cats or enjoy a meal of fresh flathead catfish, the Missouri Department of Conservation wants to know your thoughts on the statewide catfish management plan's proposed management strategy for these catfish.
You can express your preferences at one of four meetings in central Missouri or send your ideas by mail or e-mail.
The Conservation Department has been conducting field research for several years to lay the foundation for effective, science-based catfish management.
With much of the needed data in hand, the agency is nearly ready to launch a pilot study of new catfishing regulations on an 82-mile section of the Missouri River from Glasgow to Jefferson City and on the Lamine River from its confluence with the Missouri River to Highway 50 in Morgan County.
Also included in tentative plans is the 6.2-mile section of the Blackwater River from Blackwater Access downstream to its confluence with the Lamine River.
First, however, the agency wants to let anglers know what experimental regulations are under consideration and find out what anglers think of them.
Fisheries Field Operations Chief Rich Wehnes said the agency wants to hear from anglers.
To involve anglers in the process, the Conservation Department has scheduled the following meetings, each to run from 7 to 9 p.m.
* July 31 at Boone Electric Cooperative, Columbia.
* Aug. 7 at Laura Speed Elliott Middle School, Boonville.
* Aug. 9 at Glasgow High School, Glasgow.
* Aug. 16 at Marshall High School in Marshall.
"Our statewide catfish plan called for investigating the potential for improving the size of catfish in the Missouri River and its tributaries," said Wehnes. "As a result of the first round of catfish plan meetings four years ago, we've focused on a 82-mile reach of the Missouri and its tributary, the Lamine River. Some portions of the catfish population here are getting hit pretty hard."
Wehnes said the Conservation Department is particularly interested to learn angler reactions to the kinds of fishing regulations that might be possible to improve the population and maybe even develop a trophy fishery.
Two options under consideration are limiting the harvest by reducing the daily limit or imposing a minimum length limit.
He said the Conservation Department's experience with other fish species, such as largemouth bass and crappie, provide strong evidence that catfish populations can be improved.
"Anglers have an important role to play in the success of such a project," Wehnes said.
For a meeting agenda or a copy of the statewide Catfish Management Plan, contact the Missouri Department of Conservation, Central Regional Office at 573-884-6861 or visit www.missouriconservation.org.
Anglers who are unable to attend the meetings can call the same phone number to comment or use the online comment form at www.mdc.mo.gov/contact/.