Missouri, Arkansas at odds over stocking bass

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Missouri and Arkansas are at odds over plans to stock a southwest Missouri section of a large lake with striped bass.

Despite opposition from Arkansas officials, the Missouri Department of Conservation has decided to stock a new supply of about 16,000 striped bass in the Missouri side of Bull Shoals Lake, a popular fishing lake that lies mostly across the state line in Arkansas. The department says the new stock will be introduced in August and September.

Striped bass, which grow to more than 60 pounds, could end up on the Arkansas side of the lake, where some people don’t want them. There are concerns in Arkansas that the striped bass will eat other popular game fish or compete with those fish for food, and that anglers who seek striped bass at other nearby Arkansas lakes will be drawn to Bull Shoals for fishing.

Mark Oliver, fisheries chief for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the two agencies hosted a total of five public meetings in Missouri and Arkansas during 2011. Each agency also visited with numerous anglers in 2011-12.

“MDC has been a valuable partner on many cooperative Arkansas/Missouri projects, but we simply can’t agree that this stocking is the best course of action at this time based on the comments we have received from our anglers,” Oliver said.

A.J. Pratt, who manages the Missouri side of Bull Shoals lake for the Missouri Conservation Department, says the state plans to release striper fingerlings every other year, using fish raised at MDC hatcheries. Stripers now in Bull Shoals are reaching the end of their natural lives, and the only way the fish will continue is with renewed stocking efforts.

Rick Eastwold, a partner in Bull Shoals Boat Dock, said he’s managed to not take sides. A question posted on the dock’s website drew many responses that were divided about stocking Bull Shoals with striped bass.

“There’s a perception that stripers eat everything, even other game fish,” Eastwold said. “I’ve never seen one cut open that had a bass or a walleye in it, but there’s still the perception.”

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