The entirety of the main stem of the Big River is a Smallmouth Bass Special Management Area in which only 1 smallmouth bass 15 inches or greater may be possessed daily. This includes all water between the Council Bluff Lake Dam to the confluence with the Meramec River.
In 2020, the Big River should provide quality fishing opportunities for black bass, rock bass, and channel catfish. Anglers could catch all three black bass species during a single trip to the river downstream of the Leadwood Access in St. Francois County. Upstream of this access, the Big River is only accessible for wade fishing or floating, but provides good bass fishing. Rock bass catch was the highest within this reach and most fish were legal-sized of 7 inches or larger. Anglers can also expect to catch quality-sized smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Downstream of the Leadwood Access:
Smallmouth bass fishing has been good in prior years and the 2019 surveys suggests this is likely to continue. Fish larger than 12 inches exist in good numbers, with the majority being legal-sized of at least 15 inches. We have consistently seen smallmouth bass over 20 inches and captured a few in 2019- one 5 pounder! Anglers should fish areas with a combination of quality cover (rocks/rootwads/downed trees), moderate current and sufficient depth.
Largemouth bass fishing should continue to be only fair. Catch of this species was lower than the other two black basses. Despite low catch, the majority of largemouth seen were larger than 12 inches and fish over 19 inches were captured. Target pools and backwater areas with downed trees to catch this species.
Spotted (Kentucky) bass fishing should be very good especially in the lower river. They are abundant in slower moving water with rock/log cover. Anglers are urged to harvest all spotted bass caught, any size, up to the daily limit of 12. This species has not been captured in surveys upstream of the Leadwood Access.
Rock bass (goggle-eye) should provide good spring fishing once again. Fish over 7 inches exist in good numbers and at least half of the rock bass captured in the survey were at least this size with some over 9 inches. To catch rock bass fish the structure, aquatic vegetation and boulders with jigs and minnows.
Channel catfish numbers in 2019 were even better than what was seen in the past which were some of the strongest seen in recent years. Many fish were 16-20 inches and several were over 28 inches. Fish for channel catfish in fast or moderately moving water near wood.
Flathead catfish over 25 inches were seen in the 2019 survey, but catch continued to be low. Try for this species near large rootwads and downed trees using live bait.