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Scout it Out: Access to Access

Area Name: Boiling Spring Access, Big Piney River

Location: Texas County, 7 miles west of Highway 63 on Route BB.

For more info: visit our online atlas, keyword "Boiling".

Conservation Department accesses provide a means for the public to use and enjoy most Missouri waterways. Some of the accesses include paved ramps and fishing docks, but many of our accesses on smaller streams are just places where you can drive close enough to the water to launch a small boat or canoe. Often, however, even these less formal accesses offer such amenities as privies, parking lots, picnic tables and trails.

They’re also great places to fish or to launch a fishing trip. Boiling Springs Access on the Big Piney River, for example, offers access to a nice stretch of the river, but it is also a great place to start a float downstream. A decent daylong float down to the Conservation Department’s Mason Bridge Access takes you through six scenic miles of stream that contains good populations of bass, sunfish, catfish and crappie. This is a Category I, or “Easy” float, except during high water periods.

Look for access-to-access float fishing opportunities on your favorite stream by consulting A Paddler’s Guide to Missouri. (See A Seat With a View, Page 9.) Nearby liveries will rent you a canoe or raft and arrange transportation, or use your own boat and spot a vehicle at the downstream access.

Free Fishing Days

There’s nothing fishy about these free samples.

There’s no better time to go on a fishing float than the first Saturday and Sunday after the first Monday in June. On those weekend days (June 7–8 this year) the Conservation Department allows anyone to fish without a fishing permit, trout permit or daily tag. The only catch is that anglers still have to abide by regulations concerning seasons, limits and methods.

Fish and Float

Float fishing can be leisurely or productive—but not both.

If you simply cast lures or baits as you float along, you probably won’t have much action. If you stop your canoe to thoroughly fish the water, you’ll probably catch plenty of fish, but you’ll have to do a lot of walking.

It’s possible to stay in the canoe and move yourself into position for good fishing, but you’ll find boat control challenging, especially when you have to deal with snags, tangles or even fighting fish. You’ll also miss some of the fishier spots because you’ll be busy steering.

To make the most of your fishing float, beach the canoe and hit areas hard by wading. Two anglers can leapfrog down a river, each bringing the boat past the other angler and then fishing downstream from it.

Birds of a Feather: Belted Kingfisher

Not every splash you hear while floating a river is from a fish leaping or a turtle tipping off a log; sometimes it comes from a kingfisher plunging. Belted kingfishers (Ceryle alcyon) feed mostly by gravity. They fly or hover above the water then allow themselves to fall on prey, usually small fish and crayfish.

It’s easy to spot kingfishers. These stocky birds, somewhat larger than robins, frequent most Missouri streams. They often perch on snags and overhanging tree limbs, from which they can plunge-dive after prey.

Kingfishers are mostly bluish-gray above and white below, with a conspicuous white collar. The birds have small feet, a thick bill and a conspicuous ragged crest. Females also have reddish-brown markings on their chest and sides. In most bird species, males are more colorful than females.

The birds fly with a series of wing flaps followed by a glide. They are very territorial and often emit loud rattling calls.

If you don’t spot kingfishers, you’re apt to see their nest openings, which resemble pockmarks in earthen banks. A mostly horizontal tunnel, which might be as long as 8 feet, leads to a hollowed-out end where the female lays five to eight pure white eggs. Both male and female belted kingfishers scratch out the tunnel, incubate the eggs and feed the young.

A Seat With a View

River floats feature abundant natural beauty and close encounters with wildlife.

The seat of a canoe, kayak, raft or small flatbottom boat provides a great nature-viewing platform. Simply launch the vessel in a Missouri stream and let the current carry you through a constantly changing display of natural beauty. You’ll see towering bluffs, overhanging forests, fields of waving grass and a profusion of floating, climbing and hanging streamside vegetation, much of it speckled with exquisite flowers.

You’ll also spot lots of wildlife. Animals are used to objects drifting downstream, and if you’re quiet and don’t move much, they tend not to notice you. Keep a camera ready and you could capture some memorable photos of deer, mink, beaver or even otters. Streams are also a delight for birders. In addition to kingfishers, birders may encounter green herons, Louisiana waterthrushes, northern parulas and a variety of ducks.

For the best nature-viewing, choose slower streams and float on weekdays or during cooler months. Go slow and stop often.

A Paddler’s Guide to Missouri is a detailed guide to most the floatable Missouri streams. The book includes stream maps that show accesses and landmarks, mileage logs, difficulty levels and other valuable floating information. A Paddler’s Guide to Missouri is available for $6 plus shipping and handling and sales tax (where applicable) by calling, toll-free, (877) 521-8632 or going online to the MDC Natureshop.

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