Smallmouth bass fishing in the Smallmouth Bass Special Management Area is expected to be good in 2019. In this stretch, smallmouth bass are the most abundant black bass species present, and anglers can expect to see high numbers of fish 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 one in ten goggle-eye exceed the eight-inch length limit. Anglers are reminded the 15-inch minimum length limit on smallmouth bass and daily limit of one begins at Highway 8 bridge near the Phelps/Crawford county line and extends to Bird's Nest Access.
On the Meramec in the Crawford and Franklin county portions of the river, goggle-eye anglers can expect to encounter a fair number of legal fish in 2019, although the majority of fish caught will remain under the eight-inch length limit. Numbers of goggle-eye greater than seven inches in length 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 water willow and submerged vegetation stands in the backwaters can be productive, as well as among boulders on the margins of bluff pools. Artificial baits like crayfish-colored crankbaits, soft plastic jigs, and worms work well for goggle-eye.
Meramec black bass populations remain similar in size and species distribution to recent years. Numbers are rebounding from the late-spring flood in 2017. Smallmouth bass are generally more common in moving waters of riffle margins and runs at the beginning and ends of pools, and spotted and largemouth bass are usually more common in the pool and slack-water habitats. About 25 percent of smallmouth bass exceed 12 inches in length and 10 percent are greater than 15 inches in length. One-third of largemouth bass sampled were over the 12-inch length limit and five percent 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, and largemouth 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 pools and runs with boulders, rootwads and submerged trees. Several 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 2019. Gigging from September 15 to January 31 is a popular way to harvest the sucker species, 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 to 5 inch range, they can provide good fishing entertainment for anglers of all ages.