View Full Version : Surveys don't show otter damage to smallmouth bass.

06-17-2001, 05:15 PM
Surveys don't show otter damage to smallmouth bass.

By Tim Renken Of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

River otters have been perceived by some as a threat to smallmouth bass, but so far studies have not backed up the claim.
(Denis Magee/AP)

To hear the Ozark stream anglers tell it, you'd think river otters are eating lots and lots of smallmouth bass and are wrecking the bass fishing in the streams forever.

It might be true, but the scientific data doesn't show it. Studies continue, however, and it might be years before conclusions can be made.

The perceived threat to the stream smallmouth fishery is at the heart of the controversy over river otters. Much of the heat on the Missouri Department of Conservation about river otters has come from the stream anglers. Most vocal are members of the Missouri Smallmouth Alliance.

River otters, once native here, were restored by stocking that began in the 1980s. They multiplied and spread faster than predicted and now are found in almost every watershed in the state. The statewide population is estimated at 11,000 to 15,000.

They are most abundant in southeast and south-central Missouri, the heart of smallmouth country, and that's where most complaints about them originate. Many river landowners and anglers say that otters threaten to wipe out fish populations in small-to-medium Ozark streams.

Critics say that otters damage bass populations by preying on them in the winter when they are concentrated into small areas and are too sluggish from the cold to elude gangs of otters.

This alleged decline, though, has not shown up in the annual surveys of the department's fish biologists. Last year the biologists compared the results of their surveys taken before otters moved in and after. They didn't have data going back that far from all streams, but they did have it for some of the most important smallmouth streams, including the Gasconade, Meramec, Big Niangua, Big River, Big Piney, North Fork, Osage Fork, Bourbeuse and Eleven Point.

Some of the data went back as far as 1986, but most only to the early 1990s, according to Kevin Meneau, a biologist who helped in the study.

"None of the data showed a decline in numbers or size structure in smallmouth or rock bass," he said. "Most streams showed stable or improved populations over time."

Some have said that the data isn't up-to-date, that the most recent surveys cited were made in 1998 and don't cover the recent dry years. That isn't true, said Meneau.

"The fact is, our data includes two of the last three years of low flows (1998 and 1999) and some included 2000 data as well," he said. "No otter impact on smallmouth or rock bass could be documented."

Meneau acknowledged that otters might be hurting bass in small headwater streams, many of which lack cover and room for fish to escape. He also acknowledged that recent low water on many of the Ozark streams might have resulted in more stream stretches in which bass are most vulnerable.

"But the data, some as recent as last year, doesn't show that on the major streams," he said. "Of course, we'll keep watching. We're at least as concerned about this situation as anglers are."

06-18-2001, 11:22 PM
I don't recall hearing anything about Smallmouth Bass problems in streams but have heard plenty of things about Otters wiping out fish populations from farm ponds/small lakes. ###It's said they jump from pond to pond.....


06-19-2001, 11:11 AM
I would like to have a nice otter coat. ### ### ### ### Fubar

06-19-2001, 06:23 PM

I read some posts from the guys in the MDC Cafe talking about the smallies getting scarce on the rivers, they were blaming the otters. I hadn't seen otters in years and the past 4 or 5 ###years I see them deer hunting. I watched 2 otters last year in Chariton Co. play along the Yellow River. They have way too much fun.

06-29-2001, 03:39 PM
jesse ,i have seen otters on the "rooby-doo" and signs (ie slides)of them while floating the big piney. fishing on the roubidoux has been slower the last few years esp. for smallies and goggle eyes. i cant say for sure it is otters though .

07-01-2001, 03:37 PM

I got to get back and do a float trip with you guys. I miss that bad. Where do you float the Rubidoux? How about next year we do a float? You guys have the canoes or are you renting them? I'll stop with the interrogation now.

07-01-2001, 04:02 PM
no rentals on the roubidoux but we have a canoe....i do more wade fishing there anyway....the big piney has several liveries with boiling springs being the best.....did a 5-6 mile float on the big piney with my daughter a few weeks ago....fishing a little slow but i did manage to catch a few 12-13 inch ###smallies......it would be great to float the adsh weekend dont you think? great ###weather usually and the beer stays cold

07-07-2001, 12:46 PM

I'm game for a float ADSH weekend. I can come in early or stay late to float the Thursday or Friday or the Monday after, or do you want to do the float on the weekend?

Goggleeyes eh? I almost forgot what they look like.

07-07-2001, 05:55 PM
anyday is good for floating....i most likely will not get there until thurs pm because the wife and i are going to vegas for few days before the ADSH (gotta butter her up 1st you know).....but maybe friday or saturday.....a float would be a 1st for the ADSH so maybe we'll start a new tradition