Monday, 8 September 2014

Catfishing Basics

 A Primer on Where to Look for Catfish and What to Use

 CATF008.jpg - Photo © Ken Schultz

With the ongoing love-fest so many freshwater anglers have with bass, trout, and walleye, it happens that there’s a lot of flathead, channel, blue, and white catfish, plus bullheads, looking for anglers to make happy.
And they’ll make an angler very happy if that person does just two things: first, appreciate the impressive ability of catfish to adapt to their environment (they have much better sensory abilities than other species); second, meet catfish on their terms and don’t try to make bass, trout, or walleye out of them.

Those terms usually mean deep, or at least on or close to the bottom, and with deliberate, rather than impulsive, strikes. What some people confuse for lack of aggression in catfish is really their reliance on smell, touch, and taste rather than on sight, in waters where visibility is limited. The water is slightly to greatly turbid in a lot of catfish places, and in many you can’t even see a hooked cat until the fish comes to the surface for landing. This, plus their general bottom-hugging nature, the types of cover they are often associated with, and their relative lack of mid-water roaming and aggressive pursuit of forage, make catfish location-oriented and primarily susceptible to stillfishing and drifting.
Where to Find Catfish
In rivers, look for catfish along current edges and deep-cut river banks, near stream mouths, over gravel and rock bottom and, shallow riffle areas with a hard bottom, in river channels, and in pools below riffles. Deep holes or pools present an especially good river catfishing opportunity. Catfish may also be concentrated below a dam, especially where there is a dugout area followed by a hump.

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In big impoundments, try old riverbeds and channels. Ledges, or any place where the lake bottom drops off to deep water out in the main lake, also produce catfish, as do humps. Also try the mouths of tributaries, including small feeder creeks, and at the mouths of coves, backwater ponds, and sloughs.
Bullheads and small catfish are most likely to be found in soft-bottom backwaters and ponds with ample submerged vegetation. In ponds or small lakes where there is a weedline, bullheads may be found along the deeper edge of the weeds.
Go Natural for Bigger Fish
Items used to catch the various catfish include cut dead bait; live bait; prepared bait; and miscellaneous bait, which includes animal meat, cheese, blood, and sundry offerings.
Natural baits, live or dead, are usually the best offering because they are what is normally found in the catfish’s environment. Stinkbaits, chicken liver, and assorted non-natural items are not resident food, although it is possible in heavily fished locations that catfish can be conditioned to such foreign items if enough people use them. Natural bait is generally a better bet for larger fish.
Dead baits are usually fished without a float, whereas live bait can be fished either way. In big reservoirs, try fishing a lively bait deep with a slip float. Natural baits should be changed often to be most effective, and live baits should have spunk.
Use Circle Hooks
There’s no need to let a catfish run with the bait or to wait for a long period before setting the hook. Waiting is likely to incur deep-hooking, which makes hook removal more difficult and in most cases means killing the fish (which is okay if you’re keeping it, but not if you aren’t or can’t). Circle hooks are the best bet in any case, as they are far less likely to be swallowed if you apply pressure as soon as the pickup occurs. 


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