The Missouri Department of Conservation is considering creating a trophy area for flathead catfish in a stretch of the Missouri river from Glasgow to Jefferson City.
The department first proposed making anglers throw back any flatheads smaller than 30 inches caught in that area, which includes Columbia. But after a public debate in Columbia on Thursday, state officials say they might consider trading a less stringent length regulation for an increase in the area the regulation would affect.
“The public seems to be more tolerant of regulations if we allow them to catch something under 30 inches,” said Kevin Sullivan, resource scientist with the department. It may not increase the flathead population, but “it may satisfy more people,” he said.
The department also wants to reduce the number of flatheads that could be taken in the trophy area. This number has not been set, but it would be less than the current possession limit of five flatheads per day.
“We are attempting to produce much bigger flatheads,” Sullivan said.
The Glasgow-to-Jefferson City area is being considered because there are no major tributaries to the river in that stretch, which would allow the department to monitor populations. The department is hoping the flatheads will stay in the area so they can grow and mature, Sullivan said. The area is also ideal because it’s in the center of the state, and conflicts with neighboring state’s regulations could be avoided.
Concerns raised by anglers at the Columbia meeting included how the regulations would be enforced and how they would affect fishing with a rod and reel.
One rod-and-reel fisherman, Gary Mitchell, said he won’t be able to catch very many flatheads with a minimum length limit.
“This just penalizes the rod-and-reel fishermen,” he said.
The proposal and public comment will be further reviewed by a committee within the department.