Shelley Tucker Interviews Bill Turner, Fisheries Division Chief with Missouri Dept. of Conservation
Text Transcript of Audio Interview
Shelly Tucker: Welcome to the law in your life. A Missouri Bar podcast for the public. I'm Shelly Tucker. Our guest is Bill Turner, Fisheries Division Chief at the Missouri Department of Conservation. We're discussing fishing regulations. Mr. Turner why can't a person just go out and put a fishing line in the water and go at it?
Bill Turner: Like everything else everything has a cost to it and it wouldn't seem that fishing probably would, but it definitely does. The Department of Conservation has to employ biologists and conservation agents to enforce regulations and also we operate a number of hatcheries which stock a lot of the fish around the state which people catch and so license fees go to paying for those various costs that we run into in managing our fishing resources.
Question 2: What’s the cost of a license and the penalties for fishing without a license?
We have a number of options for fishing. We have a one day tag for $7.00. We also have an annual tag for $12.00 and non-residents can come into Missouri and fish for the annual fee of $40.00. The fishing violation of not having a license is considered a Class A Misdemeanor with up to a thousand dollars and one year in jail fine. Now that is the maximum, those fines and times are set by the courts at the time of sentencing. And then there would also be some court costs generally added on to those fines.
Question 3: I understand the need for a fishing license but what if you only go fishing once a year?
For once a year we have a couple of options. One of course would be that daily tag of $7.00 and then another option is that each year on the first weekend after the first Monday in June, we have free fishing days for that weekend. In 2009, that’ll be June 6 and 7 and on those days everybody can fish for free.
Question 4: What are some of the least understood fishing regulations? I'm sure you get that question a lot that people just don't understand something about a regulation that's put before them.
Our most commonly misunderstood regulations have to do with what we call length limits. For instance down in Lake of the Ozarks for crappie fishing, the crappie needs to be over 9 inches long in order to keep the fish. Length limits are used to manage the fishery to spread out the harvest of fish over all the people that want to come and take fish. At the same time what's critical is to sustain the population over the long term. Those aren't easily understood by the public but they do allow us to manage the fishery for the betterment of all the people that want to fish.
Question 5: What if the neighbor has a pond and you want to fish in it can you take part in that activity there?
You sure can. There are a number of variations on whether you need a license or not on private impoundments. We recognize the contribution that private landowners make to fish and wildlife resources in the state and so if you own a piece of property that has an impoundment on it you do not have to buy a fishing license. Your neighbors that came in would need to buy a fishing license. Also if you would happen to have bought your fish and stocked the pond with them rather than obtain the fish from the state -- in that situation also you would not need a fishing license and you would not need to follow the limits and seasons set by the state.
Question 6: We know that noodling is illegal in Missouri. What is it? How do you describe noodling?
Noodling is – goes by a number of different names. Some people call it hand fishing. That’s the one that probably labels it so that it’s most easily understood. It’s generally directed towards catfish, primarily flathead catfish. It is the catching of fish with your hands and the reason that’s possible and quite effective with flathead catfish is that these fish spawn in cavities underwater during the early summer and mid summer and they do that because they lay their eggs in those cavities. Then the male fish guards that nest and fans the eggs with his fins in order to keep them well oxygenated with good water, and then protects the young after the eggs hatch. And so those fish are large brood stock that are very vulnerable to people who find those cavities and who can take the fish out of them. That’s what hand fishing is and it, it is illegal in Missouri because we need to protect those brood stock for all of the over 440,000 catfish anglers we have in this state. It is a legal method in a number of other states, although it is legal for – in most cases – for what is called non-game fish. And so in other states, catfish are considered what many people call a rough fish or a non-game fish and they just don’t cherish catfish in other states quite like Missourians do. So there lesser importance put on those fish and they’re allowed to take those fish in those states by hand fishing.
Question 7: Mr. Turner, can you just catch anything at the end of your line while you're fishing?
Mr. Turner: Well, yes you can. There is no restriction on what you can catch. The restriction comes in what you can keep, so that would be certain species, for instance, our popular game fish like large-mouth bass and catfish, of course you can keep those. However, an endangered species such as a pallet sturgeon you would not be able to keep. Same with the various restrictions we have on length limits. In a lake like Lake of the Ozarks, of course you can keep crappie, but you cannot keep a crappie less than 9 inches. So it is dependent upon the fisherman to understand the regulations on the body of water they're going to fish on so that they know what's legal to keep and what not to keep.
Shelly Tucker: Our guest has been Bill Turner, Fisheries Division chief with the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Law in Your Life provides general information about the law for the public. For your specific legal needs remember you can only get legal advice from your attorney. We hope you've enjoyed the segment. If you have any suggestions for future podcast topics, let us know here at mobar.org. I'm Shelly Tucker for the Missouri Bar and Law in Your Life.