Smallmouth bass fishing in the Stream Black Bass Special Management Area between Scott's Ford and Bird's Nest should be good in 2016. Smallmouth bass are the most abundant black bass species present there, and anglers can expect that most fish seen will be in the 8-12 inch range, and to see fair numbers of fish in the 12-15 inch range. Fish greater than 15 inches are also present in low numbers. The minimum length limit for smallmouth in this section of the Meramec is 15 inches with a daily limit of one. The area will also provide good opportunities for largemouth bass and goggle-eye. On average, one in three largemouth bass exceed the largemouth length limit of 12 inches, and goggle-eye greater than the 8 inch length limit are found in fair numbers, with some even exceeding 9 inches.
On the Meramec outside of the Smallmouth Bass Special Management Area, goggle-eye anglers can expect to encounter a fair number of legal fish in 2016, although the majority of fish caught will remain under the 8 inch length limit. Numbers of goggle-eye greater than 7 inches in length increased since the minimum length limit regulation was put in place, with the indication that the number of legal 8 inche fish will continue to increase in future years. Large boulders, submerged trees, and vegetation alongside slow currents tend to hold the biggest goggle-eye.
Meramec black bass anglers can expect to see similar numbers and sizes of fish as in years past. Sampling in fall 2015 indicated slightly larger sizes of smallmouth bass than usual with about 1 in 4 smallmouth bass exceeding the 12 inch length limit and a fair to good number greater than 15 inches in length. One quarter of largemouth bass sampled were over the 12 inch length limit and a fair number were greater than 15 inches in length. A few largemouth and smallmouth greater than 18-20 inches range also sampled, indicating some opportunity to catch large fish outside of the special management area. Quality size bass were found in areas with either moderate to fast current, or in deep water with cover.
Spotted bass numbers are similar to past years, with about 1 in 10 fish being greater than 12 inches, but few fish reaching longer lengths. Many public boat launches are available in Franklin, Jefferson and St. Louis counties that provide good access to the Meramec in the area where spotted bass are most prevalent. Opportunities to catch channel catfish and flathead catfish are best in those areas as well, with most fish in the 16-20 inch size range, and a good number in the 20 inch plus range. We found most channel catfish in fast water, adjacent to root wads and downed trees.
Redhorse sucker species, northern hog suckers, and freshwater drum had impressive numbers during sampling, and sizes of these fish were typically in the 10-15 inch range, with several in the 20 inch plus range (most large fish were river redhorse). Anglers can expect to see good numbers and sizes of these species in 2016. From September 15 to January 31 when water clarity is high enough to properly identify target species, gigging is a popular way to catch these species, but they can also be taken by hook and line all year long.