Caring for fisheries the right way


Mar 11, 2001
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March 22, 2002

Charlie Farmer, Springfield News Ledger

Caring for fisheries the right way

Some anglers gripe, others don’t care, and then there is the right way.

This is a story based on the right way.

The story is about Joe Richardson, who was born and raised in Houston, Mo. He grew up in town. But, fortunately, his dad had a cabin on the Piney River since the early 1960’s. Richardson is lucky. He now lives at the Peaked Rock Hole on the Piney, about 20 minutes by boat from Highway 17 bridge.

Richardson is the local dentist there. And if you are into fishing and hunting, you are lucky because there is bound to be some news about turkey hunting and goggle-eye fishing.

For relaxation he shoots quail and frequents his beloved Piney River. Richardson knows that the Piney has changed. There is gravel mining, livestock pollution and bank erosion.

His early years on the river are all good memories. There was deep water and limestone bluffs, lots of fish and easy floating. He realizes there have been changes in the area, just like changes at other places where fish and game were abundant.

Richardson knows the last two years have been poor because of dry conditions. The Piney River went two years without a rise. Only recently has the river experienced a good flushing. It looks like the river of old.

This angler has not caught as many goggle-eye the last five or so years. He says it’s just not like the old days. Joe talks about the 9-inch regulation for goggle-eye. He’s really not complaining because he fishes for pleasure and love of the Piney River.

The angler however has wondered why the Missouri Department of Conservation’s 9-inch limit has won out over closing the season in winter. He has heard too many stories about goggle-eye gathering in warm spring water during the winter months and, as he puts it, “get hammered from fishermen. Generous limits get ignored as goggle-eye leave the stream in buckets. Some catch one after another until the last fish bites.”

Richardson feels if we want to help our goggle-eye river population, why is the 9-inch limit a better solution than closing the goggle-eye season for three or four months in the winter? This concerned angler wonders that the 9-inch limit plays a role in the winter fisherman’s decision when he discovers a pocket full of rock bass on a 9-inch limit stretch of the river in February.

Richardson asks: “Does the 15-fish limit play a factor in the angler who walks into the spring branch mouth and finds it is full of goggle-eye in December?

“Is this fair to those of us who might float all day in the summer months, and feel fortunate to have enough of a mess of goggle-eye to warrant a meal? This has always been a concern of mine.”

Instead of griping or doing nothing, Joe contacted Mike Roell. Roell is the goggle-eye biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Richardson talked with Roell on Wednesday. Roell indicated that his goggle-eye study was nearing completion. MDC would then re-evaluate the situation on the length limit stream stretches.

“He said my stretch of the Big Piney was given the 9-inch limit rather than the 8-inch imposed on the Osage Fork of the Eleven Point due to heavier fishing,” Richardson said. He said that Roell figures it will be lowered after the final results are published.

Concerning a closed season in the winter, the biologist did indicate that goggle-eye gather in warmer water pockets around the end of November and can stay around these areas into April.

Joe told the Roell not to be too protective. “I told him a fellow needs a few goggle-eye to eat to keep his energy level up during turkey season!” Richardson said.

Richardson added that Roell scared him when the biologist said the rock bass season could reasonably shut down through May, similar to smallmouth bass in streams.

There’s a good ending here. Joe feels confident that MDC will do the right thing for goggle-eye, with Roell himself being a devout goggle-eye angler.

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