The Big Fishy

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

pounds. Commercial stink bait, dip bait, worms, chicken liver, cut shad and fish guts all work fine.

The Rest of the cast

The Missouri River is home to a number of hard-fighting, good-eating fish besides catfish. The most common are:

Black, bigmouth and smallmouth buffalo--These get their name from their distinctive humped backs. Black buffaloes may top 50 pounds.

Freshwater drum--Most of these run two to three pounds, slightly smaller than the average size of buffaloes, but they can top out at about 40 pounds. They are distinguished by the fins on their back, which are divided distinctly into two parts.

White and largemouth bass, crappie, walleye--Fishing for these familiar species is much the same on the Missouri River as in other locations. Mouths of tributary streams are hot spots in the spring. Bass and crappie are generally found in slow water away from the main river channel.

Leave your ultralight at home

River fish are rough customers, so choose your tackle accordingly. Use braided nylon cord for the main line of trotlines. Put a heavy barrel-swivel between the main line and the lines used to tie on hooks. This will keep fish from twisting off. Buy heavy, forged hooks to prevent bending.

For a rod, take anything from a heavy bass pole to deep-sea gear. Heavy baitcasting reels stand up to big fish better than spinning reels.

River fish and conditions are hard on line. Choose an abrasion-resistant monofilament or high quality braided line of at least 20-pound-test.

You'll need up to 8 ounces of weight to hold your bait down in stiff current. Outside the main channel, you can use less.

A dropper rig, suspending the sinker from a short line "dropped" from a heavy barrel swivel, is a good idea. By using a lighter line on the dropper, you often can break off a snagged sinker without having to completely re-rig.

For more information...

For daily limits and other Missouri River fishing regulations, see the 2003 Summary of Missouri Fishing Regulations. The Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Lower Missouri River Guide to Recreation and Visitor Safety is available at conservation nature centers in St. Louis, Jefferson City and Blue Springs.

Beware of flying fish

flying fishAs silly as it may sound, flying fish can be a safety concern for Missouri River anglers. The bighead carp, an Asian species, has become very abundant in the river. Powerful, athletic swimmers, these sturdy fish commonly reach weights of 10 to 20 pounds.

Bighead carp spend most of their time near the surface in slow-moving water off the main channel. When startled by a passing boat, they make frantic dashes for deeper water. If a boat gets between them and their chosen refuge, they rocket out of the water like dolphins. Their spectacular leaps are wonderful to see, but an angler unlucky enough to get clobbered by 15 pounds of flying sushi can be tumbled from his boat or knocked unconscious before he knows what has happened. To avoid such collisions, keep to the navigation channel whenever possible. Outside the main channel, move at idle speed, allowing bigheads to move ahead of you.

Missouri metro fishing spots

St. Louis area anglers will find a wealth of Missouri River fishing opportunities at the Howell Island, Weldon Spring and Columbia Bottom Conservation areas.

Good bank fishing spots in central Missouri include the Mokane, Chamois, Carl R. Noren, Marion and Taylor's Landing accesses.

Kansas City and St. Joseph area residents can wet a line at the Cooley Lake, Tom Brown, Nodaway Island and Payne Landing accesses, at Sunbridge Hills, Bob Brown, H. F. Thurnau and Arthur Dupree Memorial conservation areas and at LaBenite Park. On the Kansas side, you can reach the river from the Leavenworth and Atchison boat ramps.

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