Mississippi fishing

I’m going to paddle the Mississippi in June from Lake Itasca to Mile 0. I have thought about taking some fishing gear to add variety to my diet. I have a neat little Daiwa untra-light spinning rig I sometimes take on trips but am leaning to something more basic like a hand line rapped around a beer can.

I am not a fisherman. Give me some tips on what will work, 'specially something I can do on the fly. What can I expect to catch? Would I be better off setting a trot line at night?

Interesting question…
You could probably catch enough fish to eat over most of the length of the Mississippi simply with a hand line and some hooks and sinkers. You could probably dig up earthworms by scratching in the leaf litter along the riverbanks, and use them for bait. Most of the Mississippi is full of catfish of several different species that are catchable and edible. However, what works on the upper river, above Minneapolis, won’t work as well in the impounded portions between Minneapolis and St. Louis, and what works there won’t work as well in the river below St. Louis. If you don’t know a bit about fishing and fish habitat, I certainly wouldn’t DEPEND upon catching fish for dinner. Knowing where the fish will be is the most important thing…if you know that, you can put the bait in front of them and they’ll probably take it. But much of the Mississippi, even above Minneapolis, is big water and the fish aren’t everywhere on it, so finding them can be tough. Setting a trotline has the same drawback…you gotta know where to set it or you won’t catch anything.

If I was a novice angler and wanted to fish while paddling down the Mississippi, I’d get a medium size, medium action spinning rod and reel, fill the spool with one of the braided lines that are readily available and very strong, something like 30 pound test or heavier (the braided lines are very thin diameter for their strength and are usually classed by both pound test and their equivalent pound test in a monofilament line of the same diameter, like 10/30–ten pound test diameter, 30 pound test strength.)I’d take a lot of hooks in size 2 or so, a lot of lead sinkers of various weights, and plan on both buying worms at marinas and towns along the river and getting your own bait when available. You can drag the bait behind the boat as you paddle, but you probably won’t catch many fish that way. When you stop for the night you just look for eddies and obstructions in the current and cast your bait out in such places if they happen to be available where you’re camped. One thing to remember, however…catfish are notorious for grabbing a bait and RUNNING with it. Don’t leave your rod unattended unless you have it tied down very well, or a catfish might just yank it away.

The most interesting thing about Mississippi fishing with worms or nightcrawlers is that you never know just what you’ll catch. It can be anything from sunfish and smallmouth bass in the upper river, to flathead, channel, and blue catfish, carp, suckers, gar, bowfin, sturgeon, eels, and a bunch of other fish.

Find a can that your hand fits in snugly. Put a dowel or something for a handle across the inside of the can. This is the deluxe version.

I’m gonna . . .
. . . try to get my hand on a commercial version (Cuban YoYo) and might take a short trotline. The trotline has the advantage of doin’ it’s thang unattended. Anything I catch I will probably try to grill whole because I only carry rudimentary cooking gear.