Don’t bother checking your map for Catfish, Missouri. There is no such town, and you might wonder why. After all, catfish are the second most fished for and the second most popular game fish in Missouri. Anglers like them because they grow larger than most fish, they aren’t difficult to catch and they are scrumptious.
Missouri has three popular species of catfish: channels, blues and flatheads. All look like no other game fish in that they have fleshy barbels that will remind you of whiskers, a slick, scale-free, almost shaved look to their skin and spines that stick out of their dorsal and pectoral fins.
Each species is unique, however. Most noticeable is a difference in their sizes. The state records for channels, flathead and blues, respectively, are 34, 77 and 103 pounds. There are also differences in the fight, their markings and color, and the fins of each species that allow experienced anglers to easily identify what kind of catfish they’ve caught.
The Conservation Department manages Missouri’s catfish with an eye to pleasing anglers. In fact, they’ve drawn up their Catfish Management Plan using input provided by catfish anglers through surveys and at public meetings.
When given reasonable protection by regulations, catfish usually are able to replenish their numbers. However, the Department has set bag limits on blue, flathead catfish and channel catfish. Anglers can use rods and reels, trotlines and limblines and various other means of presenting bait to fish. Anglers generally believe that channel catfish are drawn to stinky dead bait, while flathead catfish almost always prefer their meals fresh and live, and blue catfish have tastes that fall somewhere in between.
Surveys have shown that what catfish anglers most want is an opportunity to catch nice-size fish. Delving into the survey responses, the Department learned that more anglers would prefer to catch four 5-pound catfish than 10 2-pound catfish.
They weren’t just after trophies, however. The catfish anglers also preferred catching those four 5-pounders to catching two 10-pounders or one 20-pounder. Like many anglers, they aren’t greedy, but they do like it when their fish have some heft to them.
There is no closed season on catfish. Because catfish reproduction absolutely requires the presence of adult fish to guard and care for the eggs and young, some protection would seem logical. However, catfish lifestyles help them protect themselves.
Many game fish, such as white bass and crappie, pump out eggs by the gazillions. Their