Mississippi River (Middle)


Annual Prospects Report

Anglers can expect catfish fishing to remain good on the Middle Mississippi River. Fish surveys in recent years revealed good numbers of both flathead catfish and blue catfish. Flathead and Blue Catfish 20 and 30 inches in length were common. Biologists also noted an abundance of young catfish and quite a few trophy-sized fish, with several over 70 pounds. Anglers continue to report lunkers being caught in the 60 to 90-pound range. Anglers pursuing blue catfish will find them on the current breaks downstream from dike tips and notches and near revetted shorelines with swift current. Blue catfish also frequent deep holes near structures such as parked barges, bridge piers, and docking structures. Good baits for blue catfish include fresh cut Asian carp, shad, skipjack herring, goldeye, and live sunfish or goldfish. Flathead catfish are found in moderate current around dikes, along riveted shorelines and cut banks, especially if woody cover is present. Flathead catfish prefer live bait, such as sunfish and goldfish. Try fishing for channel catfish in slower moving water in side channels, near cut banks, or above and below dikes. They can be caught on a wide variety of baits including nightcrawlers, chicken livers, and stinkbaits.

Other fish of interest on the middle Mississippi River include freshwater drum and common carp which are easily caught on nightcrawlers or other baits. Carp congregate around woody structure in off-channel habitat and drum can be caught almost anywhere. During the fall, look for white bass and hybrid striped bass near tributaries and below rock dams such as the Chain of Rocks area. Try jigs, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits. Paddlefish can be snagged in these same locations. Crappie fishing can be exceptional in the spring in tributaries of the Mississippi River. They can also be found in sloughs behind islands.  Walleye and sauger can be caught by drifting a nightcrawlers or a minnow-tipped jig near wing dikes and rocky shorelines. 

Three species of sturgeon: shovelnose, pallid and lake sturgeon can be found in the Mississippi River. All can be caught on worms, but the shovelnose sturgeon is the only species of the three that is legal to harvest. Pallid sturgeon and lake sturgeon are both protected species and must be released immediately if caught. Anglers are encouraged to educate themselves on sturgeon identification, as pallid and shovelnose sturgeon are often confused. If you catch a sturgeon, please check it for a tag in order to help provide valuable information to fisheries biologists.