OUTSIDE: Passion for native smallmouth bass spawns organization to protect and promote | Sports

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The upcoming Memorial Day weekend marks the start of black bass catch and hold season on southern Missouri waterways, including the Big River, its tributaries, and Joachim and Plattin County Creeks. Jefferson.

For most anglers, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass are fish that are always caught and released.

The closed season from March 1 to the end of May protects the fish in the spring, allowing them to spawn in streams where they already face challenges such as flooding and fast currents that are not as prevalent in the lakes and other reservoirs.

Regulations in many areas of the state further protect smallmouth bass with increased length restrictions and a reduced single fish limit, compared to other black bass. Knowing the rules according to each body of water is the responsibility of the fisherman. Learning the differences between the three basses provides insight into why the small mouth deserves special attention.

“It’s a gift, passed down from one avant-garde angler to another. Pay it forward. Free the fighter,” is the constant refrain of Ozarks Smallmouth Alliance founder Ryan Walker.

A full-time guide who focuses his efforts on the whitewaters of southwestern Missouri, Walker devotes his passion to protecting smallmouth bass at every level. He was spurred into action by a chance encounter with a pair of anglers and a notice that explained the slow growth rates of black bass in the streams.

“It’s funny how it started. I was on a small creek and had just seen a sign saying how long it takes for a small mouth to grow to the size of a keeper. A 12-inch smallmouth bass in those waters is 6 or 7 years old,” Walker said. “I came across a couple fishing, and they each had two or three little 14-inch mouths on a rope. I thought, ‘That’s three fish, 8 years old each. This represents 24 years of overall growth on each spar. Forty-eight years of growth is just over.

In fast-flowing streams, this growth is not easy. It’s not like the big lakes that have schools of baitfish that predators can gorge on. Smallmouth bass make do with any crayfish they can catch, aquatic insects, and small, wayward and injured fish that drift in their vicinity.

“Ozarks Smallmouth Alliance is a grassroots organization,” Walker said. “We’ve dedicated ourselves to what we consider to be the premier gamefish of the Ozarks, which is smallmouth bass, obviously.”

There are no registration forms or dues to be part of the alliance. The movement focuses on a blog and social media efforts with a few educational events to preserve, protect and promote smallmouth bass and their habitat in the Ozarks of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“The more we promote it, the more people do it, but without letting people know how special the resource is, you won’t be able to preserve and protect it,” he said. “Protection means raising awareness and telling people how long it takes for them to get that big, and teaching the proper handling techniques for catching and releasing. This resource deserves to be transmitted from generation to generation.

Preservation recognizes the fragility of the habitat and the adaptive capacity of the native smallmouth.

“They live in beautiful places. They are perfectly adapted to the rivers in which they live. They change color with the bottom and the clarity of the water,” Walker said. “There have to be changes to creel limits and length limits. More needs to be done to protect these fish. They live in one of the most beautiful and wildest places on the planet. One of my goals is to continue like this. »

While the summer season allows anglers to keep a few black bass on the waterways, the smallmouth bass enthusiast group members want everyone to think about protecting and preserving a particular resource.

Find out more on Facebook @Ozarkssmallmouth and Instagram @Ozarkssmallmouthalliance, or email [email protected]

John Winkelman is Marketing Director for Liguori Publications near Barnhart and Associate Editor for Outdoor Guide Magazine. If you have story ideas to share for Leader’s outside news page, email [email protected], and you’ll find more outside news and updates at johnjwink.com.

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