Annual catfish electrofishing surveys show the overall catfish population in the stretch from south of St. Joseph to the Iowa border has remained stable the last few years after the floods in 2010 and 2011 provided a short-lived spike in numbers and excellent fishing in 2012 and 2013. The flood of 2019, and the prolonged high water throughout the summer of 2019 made fishing difficult, but fishing for Blue, Flathead, and Channel catfish should be excellent in 2020 if water levels are below flood stage. Flathead catfish are extremely popular species for rod and reel, as well as trotline and bank line anglers. Flathead catfish prefer habitats of woody drift piles, wing dikes, mud banks, sand bars, or rocky banks. Target flathead catfish with goldfish, creek chubs, or small green sunfish. Densities of smaller flathead catfish remains very high, with a chance at large fish over 40 pounds possible. Channel catfish can be found near the same habitats as flathead catfish. During summer and fall months, the best baits for channel catfish are prepared dip baits, nightcrawlers, or cut bait. In the winter and early spring, cut bait or shad guts in the deep holes behind wing dikes are very effective for eater-sized fish. Blue catfish numbers remain higher, and are continuing to grow to numbers higher than ever recorded in this stretch of river. Large numbers of 20 to 25-inch Blue catfish are sampled regularly during annual monitoring efforts, and should provide excellent action for the great fighting fish. Habitat modifications seemed to have enticed migrating blue catfish to stick around this new favorable habitat. Best locations to catch blue catfish include deep holes, modified (cut) dikes, the main channel, and especially near drop offs where the main channel cuts across the river. Favored baits include cut shad, cut goldeye, or cut Asian carp. Some blue catfish are reaching world class sizes and may exceed 90 pounds.
Shovelnose sturgeon, the protected and state endangered lake sturgeon, and the protected and federally endangered pallid sturgeon are all occasionally caught by anglers. Remember that all lake and pallid sturgeon must be released immediately, so brush up on your sturgeon identification if you are unsure how to properly identify sturgeon species. Anglers should use caution when boating in slack water areas of the Missouri River and its tributaries. Bighead carp and silver carp, which are invasive species, are abundant and tend to jump in front of and into moving boats, so anglers are urged to be cautious. Remember it is illegal to use bighead carp or silver carp as live bait, or to transport alive across statelines. Also, to slow the spread of invasive species like zebra mussels, all anglers should carefully inspect and wash their boats and trailers with hot water, and drain and disinfect live wells before moving to another lake or stream.