Fishing Missouri's Big Rivers

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

"ice-out" crappie are found near deep water structures along tributaries and backwaters. As spring progresses and the big rivers ne ar flood stage, crappie remain in tributaries and off-channel areas.

As the hot summer months approach, crappie seek cooler water and rock structures along the main channel border. With cooler autumn temperatures, crappie return to many of the off-channel areas and tributaries. Fallen trees, grape vines and other bank structure usually provide good crappie habitat.

One method for catching crappie is using a light action rod (or cane pole), bobber, sinker and a hook baited with a small minnow. Some anglers prefer leadhead jigs. A good rule-of-thumb when crappie fishing is to move to a different location if crappie aren't biting.


Also known as bream, sun perch, pond perch, perch or sunfish, bluegill prefer shallow, slow moving water in off-channel habitat, such as oxbow lakes, sloughs, chutes and tributaries.

A good time to catch bluegill is during their spawning season, which runs from mid-May (water temperature nearing 68 degrees) through mid-June. Bluegill use th eir tail fins to "fan out" saucer-shaped nests over sand or gravel in shallow water (2- to 4-feet deep). Male bluegills constantly guard their nests and a small artificial lure cast close to a nest will often catch them.

After spawning, bluegill move to deep water with cover (for example, submerged stumpfields, sunken trees, grapevines) where they remain until the river freezes. Experienced ice anglers also fish these areas. Bluegill bite on a variety of natural baits, such as earthworms, crickets, grasshoppers, wax worms and meal worms. A variety of artificial lures, including small popping bugs and wet or dry flies, also prove effective for catching bluegill.

Largemouth Bass

Also known as bigmouth bass, mossback, green trout or lineside bass, largemouth bass prefer off-channel habitat associated with cover. During summer, low water and poor water quality in many off-channel areas force largemouth bass to move to structures along the main channel border.

Good places for catching largemouth bass include wing dikes and reveted banks. Some anglers catch them near wing dikes and revetments constructed of large stone. Large rock is better habitat than small rock.

During winter, largemouth bass move to deep water, off-channel areas and remain until spring high water, when they disperse throughout off-channel areas. You can catch bass on a wide variety of artificial and natural baits, including baits that also catch bluegill and crappie.

Common Carp

Also known as German carp, European carp,

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