Catching Big River Blues

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

culminating achievement began a few weeks ago, when In-Fisherman’s Catfish Insider writers and photographers accompanied him to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. They wanted to document his methods of catching blues by rod and reel.

Fishing was slow, but Carl managed to catch a 35-pounder on the second day. The icing on the cake came a week later when, during a three-hour photo shoot for this article, he took my friend Kevin Krause to one of his favorite spots on the Missouri River. Kevin, with a lot of help, boated an 80-pound behemoth!

So, is Carl Roberts special, or can anyone learn to boat big blues on big rivers? There is no doubt that Carl is above average as catfish anglers go, but with a little education, persistence and common sense, most anglers can gain access to quality-sized blue catfish in Missouri’s big rivers. This article provides some introductory education. The reader is responsible for the persistence and common sense.

Stalking the cat

The Missouri and Mississippi rivers are home to the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus), the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and the flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris). Anglers should learn to identify these three catfish and become familiar with the regulations that apply to them on Missouri’s big rivers.

Because blue catfish and channel catfish are similar in appearance, they were formerly lumped together under the same Missouri regulation, which allowed anglers to keep up to 10 channels and blues in any combination each day. In order to better manage blue catfish, which are very different in size, range and abundance from channel catfish, the Department of Conservation has enacted a separate creel limit, effective March 1, 2006, for blue catfish (five per day) from that of channel catfish, which will remain at 10 per day. Ultimately, the new regulation should provide a better opportunity for more anglers to catch quality-sized blue catfish.

Blue catfish are common in both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers throughout the state of Missouri. Their numbers have declined in the Mississippi River upstream from the mouth of the Missouri River, but they are still taken in those waters by savvy anglers, especially in the tailwaters of the locks and dams.

Carl fishes for blues in areas that vary in depth from 6 to 20 feet or more, but always chooses areas with current, sometimes right out in the main channel of the river. Blue cats are often found near

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