Fishing Missouri's Big Rivers

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

Illinois) and extends to the mouth of the Ohio River. In this stretch, a 9- foot channel is maintained by an extensive series of rock wing dikes and closing structures. After receiving the Ohio River's water, the volume of the Mississippi's flow is doubled, resulting in a much wider river, referred to as the Lower Mississippi River.

Big River Safety

  • Boaters should wear personal flotation devices when on the water. On the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, boaters should avoid commercial barges, which are not maneuverable. Barges also produce wakes that can capsize smaller boats. Throttle down when barges are in the vicinity and steer into a barge's wake rather than taking it on broadside.
  • Wing dams, closing dams and riprap can quickly damage a boat. Be alert for the distinct ripples caused by shallow submerged rock structure. The rivers also contain a large amount of floating debris, especially during and immediately after high water periods.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard marks the navigation channel with buoys. These can be difficult to see at night and present another boating hazard.

Big River Fish

The various habitats associated with the Missouri and Missis sippi rivers are home to numerous fishes. You will find crappie, bluegill, sunfish and largemouth bass primarily in off-channel waters. Look for species preferring swift water, such as freshwater drum, white bass, channel catfish, walleye and sauger in tailwater or main channel border habitat.

Channel Catfish

Also known as fiddler, spotted cat, pone and blue cat, the channel catfish is one of the most frequently caught sport fish in Missouri.

During low water, normally from July through September, channel catfish are found in deep water along main channel borders or along the upstream faces of rock wing dikes. At night they feed in shallow sandbar habitat. During spring high water, try fishing away from the main channel, in backwaters and tributary streams.

When tributaries are backed up by spring floods, try limb-lines baited with large minnows or worms for catching channel catfish. During cold weather, channel catfish move to deep "overwintering" holes at the ends of wing di kes and along lower tributary streams.

Several baits work well for channel cats, but the most common is a rubber worm dipped in stink bait and fished tight-lined on the river bottom. Stink bait, works best when the water temperature approaches 80 degrees.

"Sand worms" and "green worms" found along river banks in sandy soil have a distinctive odor and are excellent summer baits.

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