He’s back setting lines in the Missouri River again and he’s picking up right where he left off a decade ago. Keith Johnson moved to Ruston after living in Missouri for a few years but a job – and four grandchildren – called him back to the St. Louis area a year ago. Last week, Johnson published a photo of himself holding a 70 pound blue cat he had caught doing it just like he did 10 years ago.

As a young adult, Johnson got his training from one of the best back in the day. The late I. B. Emmons, demonstrated and taught the proper way to prepare fishing lines to attract some of Lake D’Arbonne’s big flathead (Opelousas) catfish.

Johnson was a good student and after moving his family to the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, he discovered some waters there he felt could produce some of the same quality catfish he’d seen Emmons haul into the boat years ago. After a 10 year hiatus, he is back setting lines in the Missouri River again.

Visiting with Keith, who happens to be my son-in-law, he shared how he used what he had learned about fishing D’Arbonne to convert the Missouri into a haven for catfish.

“After moving up here and hearing what good catfishing the Missouri River offered, I talked to some fishermen and did some on-line research. I was convinced that if those big old “Ops” would bite on D’Arbonne, they ought to do the same here in this river if I used the same techniques I.B taught me. However, this river has quite a bit of current so I knew I’d have to make some adjustments,” said Johnson. “The tackle and bait is the same we used in Louisiana; a heavy line, sinker and I’ve been
using 9-0 Mustad saltwater hooks. I catch some bluegills, put them in the live well to keep them
fresh, and bait my hooks with them. This river has wing dams and it’s typical to find log drifts up against the dams. Knowing that catfish like wood as well as the slower moving water under these drifts, I’ve been able to pick my spots and set my hooks there, and it’s paid off pretty well.” 

I’d say it’s paid off pretty well. During a three-week period when he first tried catfishing the river, he caught 12 flathead catfish with the largest weighing over 40 pounds.

“From what I’ve been able to learn, I have been fishing the river at a prime time; June and July are usually the best months. Fishing success will drop off between now and when cooler weather arrives in fall when it should pick up again,” said Johnson.

While most of the fish he has caught have been hooked by dangling his bait off the bottom near deep water, the largest was caught in five feet of water; the fish was buried up in a root ball and waiting for a bream to swim by. Fortunately for Johnson, one of the bream the big cat chomped down on concealed a Mustad hook.

The 9-0 hooks he uses have been sufficient so far in landing the dozen flatheads he has caught but one morning when he ran his hooks, Johnson found something that indicates he may have to move up to something bigger.

“I came to this one line, pulled it up and the hook was straightened. The fish that tied into this rig had also pulled the line so tight it had cut into the wood of a log it was lying across. I’d love to get a look at the whopper that was able to do that,” he said.

There is the possibility that last week, Johnson may have been able to get a look at the one that straightened his hook 10 years ago. Fishing the river with his son-in-law, Josh Ortego, Johnson was able to haul in and belly hug a whopping 70 pound blue cat, a fish he photographed and returned to the river to fight again.

Being away from his now favorite catfishing hole for 10 years, Johnson hasn’t missed a beat as he’s applying the lessons taught on catfishing Lake D’Arbonne to continue to haul in big catfish.

”Keith Johnson landed this whopper 70 pound blue catfish on the Missouri River.”


CANEY LAKE – The bass are schooling with some caught on topwater lures with soft plastics taking some beneath the breaking schools. Crappie are around the deeper tops in 16-18 foot water and have been fair on shiners and jigs. Bream fishing is still fairly good around the lake on crickets or worms. No report on catfish. For information contact Hooks Marina at 249-2347, Terzia Tackle at 278-4498 or the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
BLACK BAYOU – Bream and crappie fishing is still fair to good around the trees and bushes. No report on bass. Contact Honey Hole Tackle Shop 323-8707 for latest information.
OUACHITA RIVER – Bass fishing has been fair to good on a variety of lures. Bream are still hitting crickets and worms. The crappie bite has slowed with fair catches on shiners or jigs. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE D’ARBONNE – Bass fishing has been fair to good with topwater lures taking fish early with soft plastic working best later in the day. Crappie are fair with best catches made on shiners or jigs fished along the edges of the channels in 18 foot water. Bream are still fair to good fishing worms and crickets around shallow beds. Catfish are biting cold worms fished off the banks. For latest reports, call Anderson’s Sport Center at 368-9669 or Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE CLAIBORNE – Bream are still hanging around shallow beds and fishing is fair to good on crickets and worms. Crappie fishing has been best fishing around the lighted piers at night using shiners with some hanging around deep brush and hitting jigs and shiners. Bass have been schooling some and hitting topwater lures. Also fishing around and under the boat docks on soft plastics is working. No report on catfish. For latest information, call Kel’s Cove at 927-2264 orTerzia Tackle at 278-4498.
LAKE POVERTY POINT –Catfish have been good while bass, bream and crappie are slow to fair. For latest reports, call Poverty Point Marina at 318/878-0101.
LAKE ST. JOHN – Catfishing is while bass, bream and crappie are rather slow. For information, call Ken Mahoney at 318-201-3821.
LAKE YUCATAN – The water continues on a slow fall and fishing has been great this week for crappie, with some slabs caught mostly on shiners. Lots of catfish, barfish and small bass are being caught. For information, call Surplus City Landing at 318/467-2259.

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