The main portion of Bull Shoals Lake lies in Arkansas, but several of the lake's arms extend north across the state line into Ozark and Taney counties in Missouri. Missouri anglers have enjoyed the benefits of a one-time stocking of 19,000 striped bass -- commonly called stripers -- by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) in 1998. Some of the survivors of that stocking now weigh nearly 70 pounds -- record-class fish on either side of the state line. Missouri's current pole-and-line record for striped bass is a 60-pound, 9-ounce fish caught at Bull Shoals Lake last June.
"This fishery has received national attention and has gotten very popular with anglers," says MDC Fisheries Field Operations Chief Brian Canaday. "Any time you consider starting a stocking program, there are a lot of factors to consider, and we try to be sure we cover all those bases first."
Canaday says factors MDC is considering include cost, likelihood of success, angler preferences, public opinion and lake ecology.
"You might think this decision would be simple," says Canaday. "Striper fishing is very popular with some anglers. We want to accommodate that demand if possible, but first we need solid biological data coupled with public input to help make the right decisions."
Throughout the decision-making process, says Canaday, MDC will continue to work with the AGFC to manage border waters like Bull Shoals for the citizens of both states.
MDC and AGFC held several open-house meetings in the past 18 months to gauge angler opinions about striper stocking. MDC plans to seek further angler input and gather more biological information before making a final decision.
Striped bass are native to the eastern United States. They spend their adult lives in the Atlantic Ocean and swim upstream to spawn in rivers along the East Coast. Artificial culture of striped bass began as a means of sustaining the species in waters upstream from dams, which stopped their spawning runs. The species now is widely stocked in reservoirs throughout the United States.
MDC currently manages striper fisheries at Norfork Lake and Lake of the Ozarks. Because stripers do not reproduce naturally in reservoirs like Bull Shoals, periodic stockings are required to sustain these inland fisheries. If MDC does decide to stock stripers at Bull Shoals Lake, it likely would do so every other year, using fingerling fish reared at an MDC hatchery.
Anglers can express their opinions about possible striper stocking by contacting MDC's West Plains Regional Office, 551 Joe Jones Blvd., West Plains, MO 65775. You also can comment at mdc.mo.gov/contact-us/contact-form