Missouri's BIG Game FISH

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

The cold pierced our bones. Rain came down in buckets, filling the bottom of the boat with water despite the bilge pump and our attempts at bailing. When the lightning raced across the sky, we caught a glimpse of the shoreline. I knew it was dangerous to be in an aluminum boat on the water with lightning flashing, but we couldn't find our campsite.

Four hours earlier, my partner and I had baited, with live carp, eight trotlines in wooded coves on the upper end of Truman Lake. Every May, we camp at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sparrowfoot Campground south of Clinton and fish for flathead catfish. This time we decided to stay on the water after dark to check the lines and re-bait with goldfish. The vicious storm caught us completely unaware.

Now we were both soaked and hopelessly lost at night on the lake. Our 2-million candlepower spotlight was useless because of the way the rain diffused the light. Except when the lightning flashed, we couldn't even see the front of the boat. For four hours we blundered around in the dark and rain before we finally made it back to camp.

At 3:45 a.m., I crawled into my wet tent, shivering from the cold and thankful to be out of the rain and lightning. But as I went to sleep, I had a good feeling. The rain would make the reservoir rise, and years of fishing for big flathead catfish had taught me that rising water would bring the flatheads out to feed.

Sure enough, the next morning we caught a 62-pound flathead and several more in the 30- to 50-pound class.

RESERVOIR TROTLINES

Trotline fishing is the most dependable and probably the easiest way to catch big catfish out of our reservoirs and rivers. It's a lot of fun, too. I usually set my trotlines in about 10 feet of water and try to keep the lines 3 feet off of the bottom. I run the lines between trees. For my main line, I use #60, 580-pound test, nylon braid. Flatheads are found in submerged brush or old flooded trees, and you need line that won't break easily.

If the hooks snag on the brush, I can wrap the line around a canoe paddle, brace the paddle on the inside of the boat and pull the hooks free using the boat motor. The line never breaks.

The hooks are large, usually 9/0 steel

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