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Missouri's BIG Game FISH

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

use, plus hundreds more. There are even animated computer programs showing how to tie knots in slow motion. These are so foolproof that even Scout leaders can become experts overnight.

After the Scouts made several trotlines, we loaded into the canoes and searched for good places to set the lines. I taught the Scouts to look for trees and old logs that produce deep scour holes in the river channel. We checked the bottom structure with canoe paddles, searching for locations in the slow water pools with brush and other places for fish to hide. We tried to set the lines to cross a variety of depths while staying close to submerged cover.

We never failed to catch fish on these outings. The first year we caught a 45-pound flathead. The boys couldn't believe that such big fish existed in Missouri rivers. The problem was how to get such a big fish off the line without tipping the canoe.

After gathering the Scouts on the bank to discuss options, I appointed two "volunteers" to help me in the canoe. They raised the line slowly from both ends of the canoe. As the big fish came to the surface, I gently placed my hand, protected by a leather glove, into its mouth. Flatheads have very fine teeth that are pointed backwards. Their bony jaw is easy to grip, and the fish instinctively closed its mouth.

I was surprised at how calmly the fish accepted my hand. Then, everyone in the canoe leaned to the right and I pulled the fish over the left side of the canoe. It was a miracle that the canoe did not flip. Ever since that experience, I routinely wear a leather glove to remove big catfish from the trotlines.

Next, we hung the fish from a tree, and I showed the scouts how to remove the skin by making a shallow cut around the base of the fish's head and down the back to the tail. We removed the skin by pulling on it with pliers. Special skin strippers are also available for this job. We then removed two big fillets from the back, and one from the underside of the fish.

All of this activity delayed our arrival at our takeout point by more than two hours. Needless to say, there were some impatient and concerned parents waiting to pick us up, but their moods lightened when we parceled out the

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