Big Muddy = Big Catfish
It was Thursday, and I was getting the jump on last year’s long Independence Day weekend with Ed Schneider, hog producer and occasional Missouri River catfish guide. We had met for the first time at a convenience store in Waverly, five minutes from the town’s nice new boat ramp. I was ready to catch fish. Big fish. Big blue catfish, to be exact, and everything looked promising.
For one thing, the river had stopped falling, and the water temperature was rising. A week or so earlier, a deluge had dropped 4 inches of rain on the area, bumping the river’s level up 4 feet and dropping its temperature to the low 70s. Now it was back to nearly 80 degrees. Just the night before, Schneider had experienced a good bite.
We were getting a break in the weather, too. The day’s high temperature was 85 degrees, and a pleasant breeze was pushing cotton-ball clouds around in an otherwise clear sky.
Schneider slid his boat, a 22-foot Bay Cruiser designed for coastal waters and powered by a 200 hp outboard, into the mocha-colored water at 3:30 p.m. An hour later, I boated the first fish of the day, a fat 10-pound blue cat caught at the edge of the navigation channel on the outside of a long river bend. It looked like this was going to be a long, productive evening.
The fish got finicky after that, so Schneider shifted operations to a spot below a wing dike where a clump of flood-washed tree trunks and root wads promised channel catfish action. Birds serenaded us as the sun sank toward the water upriver. The channel cats proved picky, too, but that was okay. We were just killing time until dark, when the main event would commence.
Schneider is a blue cat specialist. After a friend introduced him to river fishing a decade ago, he got a little obsessed with it.
“I liked the challenge of figuring out where the fish were,” he told me. “The Missouri is a tough river to figure out.”
Now that he thinks he has figured it out, he hires out as a catfish guide. With all the money he has tied up in his boat and fishing equipment, it is a stretch to call Renegade Catfishing a business in the conventional sense. It is more of a calling.
“I like to show my clients how to find catfish and how to catch them,” he said.