The Patron "Saint" of Panfish Anglers
Missouri has so many great float fishing streams that anglers often overlook the St. Francis River. This is a gentle stream that offers outstanding opportunities for catching bass, catfish and panfish.
My friend Victor Burns has fished the St. Francis River for more than 20 years. Like many anglers, he enjoys fishing the St. Francis for catfish and bass, but he best enjoys time on the river fishing for panfish.
The promise of great fishing on the St. Francis is how Victor persuaded me to float a 6-mile section of the river in Madison County, from Silver Mine Access to the take-out at Highway E. He told me that on a day's float - late spring through fall - an angler can usually catch all the panfish he wants to clean. The catch usually includes a half dozen or more different panfish, as well as a sprinkling of bass and catfish. Not knowing what's likely to bite next makes the fishing even more fun.
His report almost sounded too good to be true, but it sure was worth checking out. Soon after we launched the canoe, we maneuvered it through a riffle that flowed into a deep pool. We could see about 4 or 5 feet down into the clear water. On the right side of the river, a fallen red oak, bare of leaves, lay half in and out of the water. Victor angled the canoe next to the tree and told me to take my jigging pole and drop a crawdad-colored grub among the submerged branches. While jigging around one of the large limbs, I felt a strike and set the hook. After briefly wrapping around a branch, a fat, 8-inch goggle-eye came to the surface.
"That's a nice one!" Victor exclaimed. "Catch another!"
While I fished the downed tree, Victor cast his grub to the opposite bank next to a rock shelf and submerged boulders. Within 20 minutes he caught and released a white bass, two spotted bass and a smallmouth, all about 10-inches long. He also added two fat green sunfish to the three goggle-eyes that I caught.
"We could probably sit here for another 20 minutes and catch more fish," Victor said, "but let's move on. We've got a lot