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Missouri River

The Missouri River is known for its channelized riverbanks and fast currents, and therefore can be a little intimidating for some anglers. But if catfish is your species of choice, the Missouri River offers some of the best fishing in the state.

Fishing for channel and flathead catfish has historically been best along the main channel and in backwater areas. Look for fish behind wing dams (artificial structures that extend partway across the river), submerged sandbars and near brush piles. People typically fish for channel cats with prepared commercial baits, cut bait or live bait (chubs and sunfish).  Anglers targeting flathead catfish use live bait like sunfish or bullheads.

Other Species
In April and May, anglers do well catching shovelnose sturgeon behind wing dams and along sand bars using night crawlers fished on the bottom.
During the fall and winter, anglers can catch sauger and walleye behind wing dams or at the mouths of tributaries using a jig and minnow.

Backwater areas like Middle Decatur (southwest of Onawa in Monona County) and California (west of Modale in Harrison County) at times produce pan fish like bluegill and crappie.

Smallmouth bass fishing can be excellent in the area around Sioux City, downstream to Monona County, especially when the river is low. Typically fish are located along the outside bend and around the points of wing dams. Anglers usually fish with soft plastics (jigs) and crank baits. 

Overall, the DNR predicts good spawning and rapid growth for many species for the coming years because of high waters and flooded brushy areas along the river and backwater areas.

Additional Missouri River Information
Several government agencies and regional organizations are working to restore the Missouri River to some of its natural flow and ecosystems. Find complete details about the Missouri River Recovery Program at

Iowa-Caught Fish Are Safe to Eat

The vast majority of Iowa’s streams, rivers and lakes offer safe and high-quality fish that pose little or no threat to human health if consumed. Some limitations may apply for young children and pregnant women. Here’s a Fish Consumption Fact Sheet from the Iowa DNR and the Iowa Dept. of Public Health for more information. Here is a list of current fish consumption advisories for Iowa lakes and rivers.