A License to Fish

In 1804, when the Lewis and Clark expedition began its ascent up the Missouri River, the group's fishing tackle for the two-year trip included about 10 pounds of fish hooks and fishing line. Nowadays, most Missouri anglers pack more tackle than that for a day of bass or crappie fishing!

Lewis and Clark didn't pack any fishing lures, and they didn't worry about fishing regulations or fishing licenses during their expedition. That's because artificial fishing lures and fishing regulations were not used until the late 1800s, and fishing licenses weren't required in Missouri until the early 1900s.

From 1816 to 1877, a number of game laws were in effect in Missouri, but Missouri's first official fisheries action occurred in 1878, when the first State Fish Commissioner, Col. John Reid, was appointed. The next year, the Missouri Fish Commission was formed when two additional commissioners were appointed.

In the early years, the primary function of the Fish Commission was to oversee the distribution of fish received from federal hatcheries and the construction of Missouri's first state hatcheries. In 1882, the Fish Commission obtained the first Missouri Fish Car--a specially outfitted, used railroad car. Between 1880 and 1887, the Commission stocked the first rainbow trout in Missouri, plus many bass, crappie, and other species.

Around 1890, the Missouri Legislature enacted two of our state's first fisheries regulations. One banned gillnetting and seining during the month of April, and the other stipulated that no person was allowed to prevent the free passage of fish in Missouri rivers and streams.

In 1895, Fish Commissioner J.T. Crisp wrote: "Let it be known and appreciated that if we would have our glorious rivers and streams and creeks swarm once more, as in the earlier days, when the crappie, bass, and channel cat were as common upon the tables of all as beef now is, that planting (fish stocking) and protection must go hand in hand." Commissioner Crisp also lamented the woes caused by the "trammel-netters and dynamiters."

Around this same time, sport fishing was becoming much more popular throughout the country. The fishing tackle industry was set to supply the needs of a burgeoning sport fishing market, while jewelers in Kentucky and Missouri were making some of the finest fishing reels ever made.

The period from 1905 through 1937 was one of the most interesting from a fishing standpoint. Missouri's first comprehensive game and fish law was enacted in 1905. The Walmsley Game and