Jack Thompson, Bolivar, Mo., is happy to see the Fourth of July come and go because that is when he starts getting serious about going after the catfish in area lakes and ponds. Last year, on July 6, Thompson landed a 47-pound blue catfish and that was just the beginning of a lot of catfish hooked by this catfisherman last year.
"I like to set lines baited with everything from minnows to shad," he said. "Missouri waters hold a lot of big cats and although I think you can catch them all year long, I love to go after them in July by using trot lines, jugs or limb lines. The largest catfish I caught was a 54-pound flathead, but I have caught a lot of fish that weighed more than 30 pounds over the years."
Summer is catfish time. Thompson, like a lot of area anglers, can recall how a bullhead catfish might be the first fish they ever caught. Don Kilpatrick, Lee's Summit, Mo., recalled how he used to bring home a lot of bullheads from a small stream when he was growing up.
"I couldn't wait until school was out so I could go catfishing," he said. "Several of my buddies would dig a can of nightcrawlers and head for the stream where we knew we could catch catfish. You don't forget those times. I have taken some big cats from the big lakes also including a 36-pounder from Truman."
Charlie Davis, Independence, Mo., is another catfisherman who hits Truman and streams for catfish around this time of year. One of his favorite streams to set lines is the Blackwater River near Marshall, Mo. "I used to have a camper near the river, but after getting flooded out several times, we just take it with us each time we go catfishing," he said.
Backwater was and still is a good catfish stream. However, it is one of those streams that has a big watershed and when there is a big rain upstream, you had better be on guard because it can rise very fast.
There have been times when Davis would set out lines and before he could get very far away, he would see that a fish had already hit a line he had just set. He has caught a lot of limits in the month of July.
Davis also does a lot of catfishing on Truman. He has found a bait that hooks lot of channel catfish, but won't disclose all the ingredients in it.
"I stumbled upon how to attract catfish with this bait and now catch more with this bait than ever. I may try to market it later," he said. Davis caught seven channels that weighted more than 6 pounds each while fishing at dusk last week.
"Catfish aren't ugly," said Brent Hutchinson, formerly of Oak Grove, Mo. He published a magazine touting the virtues of the catfish. "More and more people are starting to find out that the catfish is a great fish in the Midwest," he said. "They are fun to catch and are extra good on the table."
Meanwhile, catfishermen around Truman have mixed feelings about the proposed rule pertaining to blue catfish. The regulations today call for a five fish daily limit and they can be any size. However, the proposed change would increase the daily limit to 10 blues , but there would be a slot limit imposed. Fish that fall between 25 and 35 inches would have to be released and only one or two fish that measured more than 35 inches could be kept.
Fisheries biologists say there are lots of blue cats in Truman, but most of them are small and they would like to see the cats grow to a much larger size with the proposed rule change.
However, catfishermen like Fred Morris, Lee's Summit, like the regulation as it is. "I have taken a lot of catfish from Truman and if the proposed regulation would go into effect next March, a lot of the fish I bring home today would have to be released," he said.