Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 18

RM

| OUTDOORS

Blue Cats

Jordan Stoner hoists a
23.6-pound blue catfish
caught in the Missouri
River near Craig. The
Big Muddy has produced fish more than
five times as heavy.

of the Big River

Anglers hit the water in search of Missouri's mighty whisker fish
by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

I

t's a clear, warm night on the Missouri River. Frogs and crickets converse
with their neighbors in Nebraska, and underneath it the muddy water murmurs. Suddenly, creaking through the night sounds is the hesitant clickclick-click of line rolling off the reel. Dinner is served.
Whether catching them for fun or the fryer, there are few river monsters who
can match Missouri's whisker fish for thrills on the water. And during the dog
days of summer, the nights belong to the big cats.
"When a 50-plus pounder grabs it, you know you've got something, there's no
doubt about that," says Jordan Stoner, a keen catfish angler from Craig. "As far
as the fishing we have around here, there is nothing like it."
It's a rare summer night when the Atchison-Holt Electric Cooperative member isn't out in his boat on the river landing blue, flathead and channel cats.
From July through September when the big fish leave the nest,
the bite is the best.
"I was out on the river with my dad, aunts and uncles before I
Craig
could even walk," Jordan says. Like most folks who fish the Missouri his family ran trotlines, but Jordan chose a different path.
"For some reason I never caught on to that. I always wanted to
catch them with a rod and reel."
A well-known culinary delight of the southern and midwestern
United States, catfish are catching on with tournament anglers, particularly in northwest Missouri. In July, the Reed Chevrolet Catfish
Classic in St. Joseph paid out $12,000 for first place from a total
purse of $27,350 - the sort of prize money typically associated with
bass tournaments.
Kyle Koehler, president of the Pole Bendin' String Stretchin' Flathead Club,
says higher payouts have drawn more attention to the sport over the past five
years. The PBSS tournaments organized around White Cloud, Kansas often
draw 50 two-man teams and pay $2,000 for first place. Bonus money is awarded if the big fish of the night beats the club's flathead record of 86.45 pounds or
the five-fish total weight record of 225 pounds.
"You put out some money, that draws a lot of boats and everyone thinks, 'I
can go out and do that' - and anybody can," Kyle says.
For avid tournament anglers the primary goal in competition is sheer weight.
Personal experience has taught Jordan that blues are more active than flatheads, and he and his tournament partner, Kyle's brother Kodie Koehler, will
each run three lines from their boat to up the odds of landing the big one. In
one tournament last year the duo landed $3,000 for first place by total pounds.
Among the catch that night was a 71-pound blue, which won one tournament's

18

RURAL MISSOURI | AUGUST 2018

"Big Fish" category. But lurking in the Big Muddy are fish almost twice as heavy.
Missouri's current pole and line and trotline records for blue catfish are 130
and 120 pounds, 8 ounces, respectively. Both were caught in the Missouri River
within the past eight years.
Jordan and Kyle agree there's a sort of code assumed by the rod-and-reel
fishermen on this part of the river that anything over 10 pounds lives to fight
another day. Practicing catch and release, particularly in the tournament setting, is important because while the behemoths may not be the best eating they
are imperative for maintaining the quality of the sport.
"You want your bigger fish out there for laying eggs and watching nests," Kyle
adds. "If you take those trophy fish out, it hurts the river. If everyone is keeping 200 or 300 pounds of fish a weekend, that's not good. It's going to hurt our
fisheries."
For the rod-and-reel set, landing big fish means using big tackle: Heavy action
rods, 60- and 80-pound test line to handle brush, rocks and debris moving
downstream and large hooks baited with chunks of skipjack herring or live
gizzard shad. It takes some effort and practice to cast the weight into the
right spot, but even with all of that gear a 20-pound fish can give the
catfish angler a battle worthy of Hemingway.
"When you put the time and effort into catching one of those big
blues or flatheads, then you watch that full slam and start feeling
the drag, it's an adrenaline rush," Kyle says.
Having a boat makes it easier to locate and work a fish, but Jordan says bank fishers can still find big catfish near the mouths
of smaller rivers and in the scour holes behind wing dikes. He's
seen at least one 100-pound cat caught by a fisherwoman off the
boat ramp at H.F. Thurnau Conservation Access just west of Craig.
It proves a point Jordan knows well. All the years of fishing experience plus the
tips and tricks an angler learns along the way runs head-to-head with luck in
the end.
"Sometimes you go out and might not get a bite, then you go out again and
catch 150 pounds in one night," Jordan says. "It can be really good and out of
nowhere it can be the toughest fishing."
Still, there is something mysterious about fishing on the river that brings the
catfishers back to the murky, rushing waters of the Missouri.
"Part of what keeps us going out there is the unknown," he adds. "You just
never know."
For more information on PBSS' August and September catfishing tournaments
on the Missouri River - or to see some big catches - go to www.facebook.com/
PbssFlatheadClub.


http://www.facebook.com/PbssFlatheadClub http://www.facebook.com/PbssFlatheadClub

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2018

Contents
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Intro
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Contents
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 4
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 5
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 6
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 7
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 8
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 9
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 10
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Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 18
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Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 20
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 21
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Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover4
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