The Missouri River is a tremendous resource flowing through the Kansas City Region. The river produces good numbers of catfish over 50 pounds, even in downtown Kansas City. True trophies travel the waters of the Missouri with the state records for blue and flathead catfish being broken in 2010. Reports of large blue cats continued in 2014 and sampling records were broken as well. Variety abounds, you can also catch fish such as sturgeon that are armored with bony plates instead of scales and have long sucker-type mouths, several catfish species, carp, buffalo, sauger and even crappie in the mouths of some streams. Hybrid striped bass have even been caught in the Kansas City area, probably a result of fish getting washed out of Kansas reservoirs in 2011. Flathead catfish in excess of 20 pounds are available to those who are willing to venture out on the big river. Flatheads are caught fishing around brush piles or off the ends of the wing dikes. Flatheads prefer live bait. Green sunfish, bluegill and creek chubs work well, but bullheads are the best bait. If you can't get live fish try a big hook full of nightcrawlers. Blue catfish are numerous and fish over 50 pounds are not uncommon. Blue catfish will take a variety of baits from live fish to cut shad. They often feed on the shallow flats between wing dikes, usually in the evening. During the day they will often be found in woody cover along the banks. They can also be caught in the deep holes off the ends of the wing dikes during cooler months. A bait that is gaining in popularity is the use of cut bait from the invasive bighead and silver carp. These Asian carp do not take bait, but often one will jump in the boat if you drive behind a dike. It is illegal to move live silver carp, so kill them and place them immediately on ice if you get one. There is also the chance of seeing an ancient fish should you catch a sturgeon. Be sure to release any sturgeon that you cannot positively identify as a shovelnose sturgeon. Pallid and lake sturgeon are protected and must be released. Any sturgeon 30-inches or longer must be released. Trotlines and limb lines are used by many anglers to fish large stretches of the river. Don't forego rod and reel fishing though. Battling a large flathead or blue catfish on a rod in the swift Missouri River currents is a unique challenge. That means your tackle needs to be heavy. The minimum would be a heavy bass rod with 20 pound test line, but a heavy catfish rod with at least 40 pound line is typically used. Channel catfish bite the traditional catfish baits and can be found along cut banks, sand bars and on shallow flats. Dough baits and worms can be good baits for common carp which are caught just about anywhere on the river. The best areas for carp have slower current and are shallow.
Access to the river is good; you can normally access the Missouri River above Parkville from MDC's Schimmel City Access located on the lower Platte River. A new boat ramp was built in Parkville in 2014 and provides excellent access to the river above downtown. Fishing in downtown Kansas City can provide a unique experience. This stretch is accessible by boat ramps at the old Riverfront Park just upstream of the Chouteau Bridge and at Kaw Point Access at the confluence of the Kansas River on the Kansas side. Below Kansas City, Sugar Creek maintains a boat ramp in LaBenite Park at highway 291 that is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Missouri Department of Conservation has an access with a boat ramp on the Cooley Lake Conservation Area, about two miles east of Missouri City off Highway 210. There is also a boat ramp near Fort Osage in Sibley. Regardless of where you are fishing on the Missouri River, you may encounter a tagged flathead, blue catfish or shovelnose sturgeon. Tagging studies are being conducted on the Missouri, Platte and Grand Rivers. You will find the tags on the back of the fish just below the dorsal fin. Should you catch a tagged fish, but want to release the fish, cut the tag off and call the number on the tag. The catfish tags are worth either $25 or $150 and the information you can provide to biologists about the fish's location, size, etc. can prove invaluable. An angler fishing in the Missouri River near downtown Kansas City will not experience crowds and possibly never see another boat all day. Those boating the river should take a few precautions and use common sense when navigating and fishing the river. Keep your boat well maintained, avoid floating debris and wing dikes that stick out from the banks, and make sure to wear a life jacket. Navigation maps can be obtained from the US Army Corps of Engineers.