Some anglers are lucky enough to fish all year. Others have to wait for a season opener. Whether you can fish anytime for your favorite species or have to wait depends on where you live. Some states have abundant populations of fish so anglers can pursue them all year, while other states have scarce populations of certain species and need to establish seasons to protect from overfishing.
Fishing laws are intended to conserve and improve fish populations. Fisheries biologists study bodies of water to check on fish numbers and the health of fish populations. If there is a decreasing or limited number of a fish stock, regulations are created to help keep the fish population healthy and abundant.
State By State
One way state conservation departments manage fish populations is to establish fishing seasons. Fishing seasons protect fish during spawning and limit the catch on heavily fished waters. These seasons determined and imposed by local governments dictate when anglers are allowed to fish for certain fish.
I am lucky enough to fish year round for bass on reservoirs in my home state of Missouri because our lakes have consistent spawns and recruitment of bass that leads to bountiful fish populations throughout the state. Missouri does have a black bass fishing season for most streams south of the Missouri River because these streams have bass populations susceptible to overharvesting. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) closes the bass season on the streams from March 1 through the fourth Saturday in May to protect the fish during the spawn and help ensure good numbers of yearlings in the streams annually.
Natural reproduction of trout is limited in many Missouri waterways, so the MDC has to stock trout in Lake Taneycomo and various spring-fed streams throughout the state. The MDC keeps trout fishing open year-round at Lake Taneycomo and certain streams in the state. However in the state’s four trout parks the MDC establishes a season from March 1 to October 31 for the put-and-take fisheries. The parks limit stocking trout during the winter to allow the hatcheries to replenish their stock, but the parks do allow a catch-and-release season for weekends throughout the winter.
Fishing Seasons Up North
Black bass reproduce naturally in Northern states, but their spawning success rates aren’t as prolific as those in the Southern states. Conservation departments in many Northern states try to protect the bass spawn by establishing fishing seasons for bass.
New York is a classic example of how a Northern state establishes a season for bass to properly manage the population and protect the spawn. New York’s trout fishing is supported by the state hatchery system, but the state has no bass propagation program for stocking bass, so the bass fishery must depend on Mother Nature. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation protects the bass spawn by allowing only a catch-and-release season from Dec. 1 until late June. The traditional harvest season for New York bass opens the third Saturday in June and remains open until Nov. 30.
To find out if your state has any fishing seasons, check out the web site for your state’s conservation department.
Written by: John Neporadny
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