The Big Fishy

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

this moving smorgasbord without much effort. You will find fish around obstructions that break the force of the current. Such places include the upstream faces of wing dikes and the ends of sand bars sticking out into the channel. The slack water below wing dikes also can produce good fishing.

Shallow flats between islands and the main river channel can be fantastic fishing spots. During the day, fish patrol ledges where 3- to 4-foot water drops off to greater depth. The fish move up into the shallow water each night to forage.

The availability of current-washed food makes eddies and sheltered areas along the outside of river bends superb for fishing. The upper and lower ends of side channels behind islands often attract large numbers of fish, too. River banks covered with rocks (riprap) are good places to drift live crayfish at night.

Pay attention to the location of sand bars and other high spots in the river channel when the river is down. Visit these places when rising water covers them with slow-moving water.

In general, fishing is best when the river is rising, worst when it is falling.

The big three

Catfish are the most sought-after fish on the Missouri River. Each species of catfish has unique characteristics that affect when, where and how you catch them.

Blue cats are heavyweights. The average pole-and-line catch is 10 or 15 pounds, but the largest on record weighed 128 pounds. Blue cats are most often found in or near the main channel over sand or gravel bottoms. Live shad and skipjack herring caught with a throw net are excellent bait. Big fish usually require using big baits. Seven-inch shad are a good snacking size for big blues.

Flatheads are only slightly smaller than blues, sometimes topping 100 pounds. Flatheads are common throughout the river, but their highest densities occur in the stretch of river above Kansas City. Flatheads like to hide in root wads or other sheltered spots along banks, where they can dash out to snatch a meal. Voracious predators, they prefer live food and seldom take prepared or processed bait. Live shad, creek chubs, sunfish or crayfish all work well to catch flatheads.

Channel cats are generalists. They go everywhere on the river, and there's almost nothing they won't eat. Channel cats average only 1 to 5 pounds. However, 10-pounders aren't uncommon, and the world record is 58

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