By Eric Fowler
One of the perks of working for NEBRASKAland Magazine comes when we work on a fishing story. Often, working those stories involves sitting in the opposite end of the boat with the subject you’re photographing. But since there are only so many angles from which you can photograph your subject, there comes a time to put the camera down and wait for him to hook a fish. And while you’re waiting you might as well fish.
In doing so, you not only have a great way to kill time, you also up your odds of getting a photo of a fish. I have, on occasion, out fished my subject, and on one occasion, even handed him my rod after hooking a fish and snapping away as he fought it. In Fishing, our special issue published in 2001, that’s my pike Randy Erb is landing on page 80. It’s not that Randy can’t catch fish, it’s just that he didn’t on that day. I caught 5, including a 35 1/2-incher.
But never did I imagine that while “killing time” last week while fishing with Bryan Mellage of Auburn on the Missouri River near Brownville that I would catch the three largest fish of my life – flathead catfish weighing 30, 39 and 58 pounds. All three came from the same hole in less than an hour.
I don’t regularly fish for catfish and have never targeted cor aught flatheads, but I may just start. What a hoot. When the fish let me, it didn’t take much effort to work them closer to the boat. But when they decided to run, there was no stopping them, especially the 58. Loosen the drag and thumb the spool to slow them down, Bryan said. The skin will grow back.
Bryan says fall is the best time for flatheads on the river, which he’s fished for 30 years. His secret is no secret: big bait for big fish. He prefers creek chubs, and ours measured 6 to 12 inches.
The photos will appear in a future edition of NEBRASKAland along with a story on when and where are the best times to fish the Missouri River, a very underutilized resource considering how many Nebraskans live such a short distance from its banks. But you don’t have to wait. Get some heavy tackle, throw some chubs out near a creek mouth and hang on.
See you out there.