Smallmouth bass fishing in the Smallmouth Bass Special Management Area is expected to be good in 2020. Anglers are reminded the 15-inch minimum length limit on smallmouth bass and daily limit of one now begins at Highway 8 bridge near the Phelps/Crawford county line and extends to Bird's Nest Access. In this stretch, smallmouth bass are the most abundant black bass species present, and anglers can expect that most fish will be in the eight to 12 inch range, and good numbers of fish in the 12 to 15 inch range. Fish greater than 15 inches are also present in good numbers. 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 eight-inch length limit are found in fair numbers, with some even exceeding nine inches.
On the Meramec in the Crawford and Franklin county portions of the river with an eight-inch minimum length limit, goggle-eye anglers can expect to encounter a fair number of legal fish in 2020, although the majority of fish caught will be under the length limit. Numbers of sublegal goggle-eye have been on the increase since the minimum length limit regulation was put in place, with the indication that the number of legal eight inch fish will continue to increase in future years. Goggle-eye fishing around submerged trees in flowing water and along the edges of large mats of vegetation in the backwaters can be productive, as well as among boulders on the margins of bluff pools. Preferred artificial baits include crayfish-colored crankbaits, soft plastic jigs, and worms.
Meramec black bass populations are recovering from the effects of the historic 2017 spring flooding. Anglers can expect to see increasing numbers and sizes of bass more typical of years past. Smallmouth bass are generally more common in the faster moving waters in riffle margins and runs at the beginning and ends of pools, and spotted and largemouth bass are usually more common in the pool habitats. About one in five smallmouth bass exceed 12 inches in length and a fair number are greater than 15 inches in length. One-third 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 18 inches or longer can be found throughout the Crawford and Franklin county portions of the river. Anglers report that plastic worms or grubs, crayfish crankbaits, or buzz baits will provide some of the best results for catching smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and rock bass.
Spotted bass numbers in Franklin and St. Louis counties are similar to past years. Spotted bass can reach up to 15 inches, but are most common in the 10 to 12-inch range. They are most prevalent in Franklin and St. Louis counties, and several areas provide good access to the Meramec in this area, including Redhorse Access, River Round Conservation Area, Choteau Claim Access, Robertsville State Park, Pacific Palisades, Allenton Access, and Route 66 State Park. There is no length limit on spotted bass and anglers can harvest a daily limit of 12 spotted bass, if no other black bass are taken. Channel catfish and flathead catfish can be found in this section as well in deep pools and runs with rootwads and submerged trees. Many catfish longer than 20 inches are present, and can be caught using limb lines, set lines, and trotlines.
Redhorse sucker species and freshwater drum are also common in the Meramec in Crawford, Franklin, and St. Louis counties. Anglers can expect to see good numbers and sizes of these species in 2020. Gigging season has been extended 15 beginning in 2020; from September 15 to February 15 sucker species and other nongame fish can be harvested by gigging, but they can also be taken by hook and line all year long.
Longear sunfish are abundant in most sections of the Meramec, and although most are within the 3-5 inch range, they can provide good fishing entertainment for anglers of all ages.