Catfish action on the Missouri River is starting to heat up and almost any trip on the river any day will reveal anchored anglers watching big rods and waiting for those whiskered leviathans to make their move.
Leviathans might be too big of a word considering most days catches of pan-sized channel cat are the rule. However, There was a 70-pound-plus class flathead caught just south of town and a 60-pound report of a blue cat. So the big ones are there. There is, however, a lot of fun to be had with channel catfish in that 2- to 3-pound size range.
That's what we discovered one evening last week when I joined catfish specialists Darrell and Pat Carter of Jefferson, S.D.
Our river run was a short one before Pat dropped the anchor and we cast out our rigs and let the river's current position them below our boat. We were using cut bait behind ounce barrel sinkers and it didn't take the feisty river cats long to begin pecking at our baits.
Then Darrell's rod bent down hard and he pulled it from the rod holder setting the hook into our first cat, a sleek two pounder which we admired before unhooking it and releasing it back into its watery home.
Our last outing together had been just about exactly a year ago. That time we fished Lewis and Clark Lake, a Missouri River impoundment at Yankton, S.D. Like all of the Missouri River reservoirs in South Dakota, this one is brimming with catfish. We drifted across the old river channel and picked up catfish from four-and-a-half pounds to nearly eight pounds.
Darrell joined the U.S. C.AT.S. Pro Trail series three years ago and finished season as the top points getter and then repeated the feat last year fishing with his brother Pat.
This year they have fished only one U.S. C.A.T.S. tournament. It was at Owensboro Ken., back in March and they took fourth place in addition to big fish honors with a 53.5-pound blue catfish. Meantime, they have been focusing on more local tournaments hosted by the Iowa Catfish Drifters organization. Last year Darrell and his son Matthew, 15, won anglers of the year honors in the drifters.
But right now, they have their sights set on their next tournament and it's right here in Sioux City July 24.
It's a U.S. C.A.T.S. Iowa division event which will blast off from the Sioux City boat ramp. Anglers will be able to fish anywhere up or down the river or its tributaries. Any angler or team of two anglers can enter by paying a $100 fee. An optional Big Fish Pot fee of $10 is also available.
Darrell has been distributing flyers about the tournament to most all local fishing outlets and reports good interest in the event. The tournament will have an 80 percent payback through the top four places and the Scheels Sporting Goods store is providing door prizes.
Fishermen will attend a 6:30 a.m. rules meeting before the 7 o'clock start and then weigh-in at 4 p.m.
The Carters will be fishing separately in the event, pairing with their sons instead of with each other.
The tournament will be real interesting. I think it will reveal that a lot of folks underestimate the channelized Missouri for catfish potential. It's been almost 15 years now since commercial catfishing was banned on the Missouri by South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri. My belief is the catfishing has improved because of that both in numbers and in size of average fish caught.
Our evening on the river seemed to bear that out.
We made four sets and boated 10 catfish, including one flathead of about two pounds.
These are fat, sleek and sassy fish which put up a good fight.
Tournament anglers shouldn't have any problem bringing in their limit of 10 catfish. After the weigh-in the fish will be released back into the river.
For more information about the tournament, call Iowa District President John Shultz at (319)-848-9048 or e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Darrell Carter at (605) 966-5685, e-mail Fishdays@longlines.com.
Anglers may also sign up online using Pay Pal at www.uscats.org and click on Districts and then Iowa District. Anglers may also sign up the morning of the tournament.
While channel cats should make up the bulk of the cats weighed in, the flatheads could make the difference for tournament anglers. And one good-sized flathead could weigh more than 10 channel cats. Problem is, flatheads don't like to bite in the daytime.
Now that poses a dilemma. But, that's a problem most cat men like to embrace.
Larry Myhre is editor of the Journal. Reach him at (712) 293-4201 or e-mail at email@example.com.