I have had a lot of questions regarding the Missouri culling rule. Here is what I know to be fact.
From July 1 through Aug. 31, no angler in Missouri may release bass after putting them in a live well.
JEFFERSON CITY-If you think summer is uncomfortable for you, put yourself in a fish’s place. Your home heats up, oxygen gets scarce, and there is no air (or water) conditioning or fans to turn on. That is why Missouri fishing regulations prohibit anglers from “culling” during July and August.
Culling is the practice of releasing one fish that was caught previously so you can keep a larger one. When anglers put the last fish of their daily limit in a live well, they no longer can keep any fish of that species that day. However, under certain conditions, anglers fishing in tournaments can continue to fish if they stop one fish short of a limit and release a living fish from their live well before replacing it with a fish they just caught. This allows them to “trade up,” replacing one fish with a larger one.
Tournament bass anglers may cull live bass from September through June. July and August are the months the no culling rule applies. The rule is meant to reduce the number of tournament-caught bass that are subject to higher mortality during the hot summer months. The rule also heightens tournament anglers’ awareness of the factors that influence fish mortality.
Missouri’s limit on black bass is six per day. This includes any bass that are not released immediately, whether they are in live wells for one minute or for eight hours. Once you placed a sixth bass in your live well you may not replace any of the bass with another. However, if you are fishing in a tournament in which the limit is five bass, like Joe Bass Team Trail and you have five bass in the live well, you can replace one fish, one time.
If a bass dies in your live well it cannot be replaced with a live one, any time. If you have caught your sixth legal bass and have placed all six fish in your live well for any length of time, you can continue fishing but you must release any bass caught immediately, regardless of size.
Fisheries Field Operations Supervisor Kevin Richards said some anglers – and even some tournament officials – are not as familiar with the culling rule as they should be.
“Let’s think about why Missouri has a no-culling rule in the summer and see if there are ways we can use new tournament formats to increase survival of bass during the hot water months,” said Richards.