Catching monster catfish with Capt. CaseySeptember 19, 2018
Column by Brandon Butler
The Mississippi River is an intimidating body of water — it’s called the Mighty Mississippi for a reason.
When you stand on the bank looking at the water rolling by, you can see how fast it’s actually moving. What you can’t see is just how strong the current is. The Mississippi is not to be messed with, but it is to be fished, and no one does better while adhering to safety in the St. Louis area than Captain Ryan Casey.
Casey is the only full-time guide pursuing trophy catfish on the Mississippi River near St. Louis. Many of his trips take place right in front of downtown with the Arch as a backdrop. People sometimes mistakenly think fishing is something you only do out in the country far away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. That’s not the case. There is often great fishing around major metropolitan areas, and St. Louis is certainly an example.
Catfish in the Mississippi River grow to be very large, with the largest topping out at more than 100 pounds. Two previous world record blue catfish were caught near St. Louis, weighing 124 and 130 pounds. Fish like those are strong. To thrive in a river as powerful as the Mississippi, fish have to be tough. Tangling with a giant catfish on one of Casey’s trips is a fight you’ll never forget.
“We’re looking for trophy blue catfish. We catch a lot over 50 pounds, and quite a few much bigger than that,” Ryan said.
Catfish can be caught from the Mississippi at anytime, so Casey guides trips all year. If you’re looking for numbers, he suggests a summer trip, but says the fish of a lifetime can show up on a trip any time of the year.
“We do a lot of drift fishing. The fish are scattered, so we drift down the river bumping baits along the bottom. This is a fun way to fish, because when you get a hit, they really slam it,” Casey said.
When the water cools down in the late fall and winter, the catfish school up in holes. Casey knows where those holes are, and will position his boat so his clients can cast their bait into them. Then you can set the rod in a holder and wait for a catfish to bite.
Casey takes fishing and fish seriously. He cares deeply about the resource. With a degree in conservation and wildlife management, he believes being a fishing guide allows him to pair his loves of conservation and fishing into his career. He especially likes to teach people about fishing.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner who has never been on the river before, a serious angler trying to learn new techniques or you’re looking for the fish of a lifetime, I’m excited to help you accomplish your goals. This is a service business. I am here to serve my guests,” Casey said.
Big river catfishing requires specialized gear. You can often use the same rod and reel to fish for bass, bluegill, crappie and trout, but you can’t use that equipment to go after these monster catfish. You need much heavier gear. Unless you are going to start fishing regularly for giant catfish in the Mississippi River, it doesn’t make sense to invest the money in buying your own when you can hire a guide for a day and use all of his equipment.
“I provide everything you need, from the fishing rod to the bait. I can even take pictures for the clients and email them, so you don’t even have to bring a camera. We’ll pick you up and drop you off, all you have to do is jump in the boat and go fishing,” Ryan said.
See you down the trail…
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