Missouri River Fishing Blues

2019 Flood Puts Dampener on Region's Anglers

Jeff Leonard


The flood of 2019 has many of us river anglers begging for conditions like this to return to our region!  When they do history has shown we may be in for some great fishing!

Farmers, landowners, and just about everyone affected by the destructive flood waters along the "Big Muddy" are extremely frustrated with the devastation left behind and rightly so!  


As a guy who likes to spend as much time as I can chasing big old blue cats with family and friends on the river, it's disappointing as well.   Normally, many of us would be spending the majority of our free time anchored up over a good spot waiting for a rod to double over, instead, we're sitting around watching Apps on our phone showing river stages and discharge levels and second guessing when we'll be able to get back to normal.  


As I'm writing this piece we're currently at 19.82' which is a stark improvement and discharge levels have been dropping, although slowly, to levels where many of us may soon be giving the river a run.  


Let's get a little perspective on how bad this flood was.  The Upper Missouri River Basin saw 11 million acre-feet of water in March alone according to to the United States Corps of Engineers (USACE).  That's 51% above the previous record of 7.3 million acre-feet set in 1952.


With levels on the drop for the time being, we are below the moderate stage of 21' and just above minor level of 17', we may soon be back on the water although I urge everyone to use great caution!  The river will be vastly  different than any prior trip you've had.   The channel may still be similar but dikes will be under water and who knows what we'll find when we're back out there not to mention the dangers of floating or submerged debris!


I don't want to be full of doom and gloom, so let's look at the brighter side.  History has shown that after big flood events like we've experienced the fishing on the river often becomes fantastic!  I've spoken to catfish tournament directors and fisheries biologists and without even asking, they all point out that after flood events like this, the fishing is usually spectacular for the next year or so.   Ask any veteran angler who's fished the river as far back as 1993 or more recently 2011...they'll agree the river produced some of the best fishing they've ever seen.


Mother Nature and other factors, have dealt a significant blow to the area  but as I said, history has taught us that we may be in for some amazing fishing in our future!  The Missouri River has and will continue to be ranked in the Top 10 as far as it's potential for numbers of big cats  and some monster fish.  How long we'll have to wait to experience it is up for discussion!  


Let me know your thoughts!

Check out the links below for some great resources!




J&B Outdoors

"Hope to see you out where the Roads End and The Great Outdoors Begins!"





The "former" World Record Blue Cat caught by Greg Bernal weighing in at 130 lbs. came out of the "Big Muddy"!  It's the potential to hook into a monster like this that draws many of us to the river!

(Photo by Missouri Department of Conservation)

Click on USACE Logo to see Navigation Charts for Missouri River from Rulo, Nebraska to Jefferson City, Missouri.  Click on the interactive numbers on the chart to see specific areas in detail.

Click on NOAA Logo to see current river conditions at St. Joseph, Missouri


·         Wear a life jacket!

·      Avoid commercial barges. Barges cannot make sudden stops or turns and often produce large   wakes. Always steer your boat into a large wake rather than taking it on broadside.

·       Look for navigation hazards like wing dikes, rock structures, submerged debris, sandbars, and  buoys.

·         Identify submerged hazards by “reading the water.” Recent flooding make this very important!

·         Any change in the water surface pattern usually indicates submerged structures.

·         Operate at slow speeds when outside the navigation channel, which is marked by red and green   buoys.

·         Anchor with the bow upstream and keep a knife near the anchor rope to cut the anchor free in     an emergency.


·         Be mindful of jumping invasive carp, especially when operating in areas with slow current.

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