Minimum length proposed for blue and flathead catfish on Mark Twain Lake

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Conservation Commission gave initial approval during its Aug. 27 open meeting in Jefferson City to a proposed regulation by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) that sets a minimum length limit of 26 inches for blue catfish and flathead catfish on Mark Twain Lake in northeast Missouri. Under the regulation amendment, blue catfish and flathead catfish caught from Mark Twain Lake that are less than 26 inches in total length must be returned to the water unharmed immediately after being caught. The proposed regulation will not apply to channel catfish. There is a current daily limit on Mark Twain Lake of five blue catfish and five flathead catfish with no size limit.

MDC staff assessed blue catfish and flathead catfish populations in Mark Twain Lake from 2012 through 2018. Findings indicate that a minimum length limit could improve catfish numbers in Mark Twain by increasing the abundance of preferred sized catfish (30-inch) and memorable sized catfish (35-inch) with minimal or no reductions in the yield, or pounds harvested by anglers.

MDC gathered public input online and through a mail survey to anglers returning tags from blue catfish caught in Mark Twain Lake. About two-thirds of the surveyed anglers support a minimum length limit for blue and flathead catfish at Mark Twain Lake. In addition, about half of anglers who responded to the surveys valued the opportunity to catch a large catfish more than keeping catfish to eat. MDC biologists say that this regulation balances angler desires to keep catfish to eat and to have a better opportunity to catch a large fish.

The next step in the rulemaking process is for MDC to have a public comment period during October. MDC invites public comments during October online at mdc.mo.gov/about-regulations/wildlife-code-missouri/proposed-regulation-changes. Comments received will be considered and final proposals will go to the Commission for further action at its Dec. 10 meeting. If enacted, the changes will become effective Feb. 28, 2022.