Spring fever brings sore backs, muscle pain and weariness for a special set of fishermen.
It’s no easy task, trying to snag a paddlefish that can weigh 100 pounds or more. You try spending hours jerking heavy weighs and oversized hooks through the water.
But for many, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. In Missouri, there is always a chance of snagging into a true giant.
“We’ve been out collecting fish that we tag, and we’ve already seen several over 100 pounds,” said Trish Yasger, who leads the paddlefish program for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “They’re fat, healthy fish.
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“They do well in the waters where we stock them.”
Dreams of catching one of those heavyweights attract thousands of fishermen when the season opens each March 15. There’s always a chance …
No, it isn’t an automatic. It still takes plenty of work and a bit of luck to hook into one of the giant paddlefish. But Yasger said the populations of fish in Table Rock Lake, Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake are in good shape, with a good mix of sizes.
When fishermen hit those three reservoirs and their tributaries Tuesday, hopes will be running high.
“We usually don’t see a lot of big fish caught on opening day,” Yasger said. “Harvest early in the season is typically dominated by local fish and small males.
“As water temperature and flow increase, you will start seeing more of the larger females.”
With the unseasonably warm weather, Yasger said the males could start moving toward the tributaries, where the fish make their spawning run, ahead of schedule. But one important ingredient is still missing.
“We need some rain,” Yasger said. “We need more flow in these rivers.
“That, plus water temperature and length of day, is what triggers the bigger females to move.”
Whenever that run starts, Yasger expects good things. The department stocked an unusually large number of fingerlings in Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake and Table Rock Lake in 2008. Those fish should provide good fishing this year.
Snaggers can play a big role in the management of paddlefish.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is in the second of a five-year tagging project to monitor paddlefish numbers and improve management. Metal jaw tags have been inserted into the jaws of up to 6,000 paddlefish across the state. Yasger encourages snaggers to report tagged paddlefish and to not remove tags from undersized fish.
All returned or reported tags will be placed into an annual drawing for cash prizes.
Tags or photos of the tags must be submitted to be eligible. Snaggers must report the date caught; location of the catch, including the reservoir or river, mile marker and county; the tag number; fish length from eye to tail; and the snagger’s name and complete address.
Tags can be reported by calling 573-579-6825 or by mailing the tag to Missouri Department of Conservation, 3815 Jackson Blvd., Jackson MO 63755.
Spring training at Cabela’s
Fly fishermen and turkey hunters will prepare for spring when the Cabela’s store in Kansas City, Kan., has its Spring Great Outdoors Days.
At 2 p.m. Saturday the sixth annual fly-tying competition, hosted by the Heart of America Fly Fishers, will take place.
Entry is free, but preregistration is required. Call 913-328-0322.
On Saturday and Sunday, Cabela’s also will host the Turkey Classic, which will include seminars, product demonstrations and a chance to talk to representatives from major hunting companies.