Catfishing can be fun, as well as providing excellent table fare!!!
By Jim Porter
Here's a simple quiz to start this article off:
Q: Do you know when most anglers ply their sport?
A: During the daytime.
Q: Do you know when fish feed the most?
A: During the night.
That's a fact. Nearly all fish are nocturnal feeders. But, then, so are most of Mother Nature's creatures. While birds roost at night, the deer, fox, snake, bear and most others are out feeding. They then spend their days holed up in a thicket, catching some shut-eye. It is really something most of us never gave a second of thought about. But, the biologists state that nocturnal feeding and fish are synonymous.
If you have ever spent much time chasing old Mr. Whiskers, the catfish, you probably recall how many of your fishing buddies often said that night was the best time to go after big cats. I know that I have heard it all my life, but I am just to lazy to spend my sleeping time chasing fish. Lord knows, I spend enough of my waking hours doing it!! Besides, I am like those birds - I roost at night.
But, the fact remains that you will stack the odds of catfishing success more in your favor if you fish at night. It is also to be noted that catfish will come into the shallows much more readily during the hours of darkness than during the light hours. Maybe they have problem with the light and their sight. I really can't say why it is until I get to sit down and talk to a catfish, one on one. I have a lot of questions for him. But, I doubt that will happen anytime soon.
Let's see - so far we have noted that catfish feed better at night. And, we said they will come shallower when it is dark. We also said we ain't gonna fish at night. So, that means we need to stay a bit deep during our daytime fishing. We are learning as we go.
Contrary to popular folklore, catfish do not seem to prefer a muddy bottom. They actually seem to like gravel, grass and wood locations. Some of the best catfishing spots I have frequented were gravel and sand bottoms. For those giant blue cats of the eastern South Carolina watershed, we find them in timber and log jams on the edge of deep, submerged creek channels. These findings made me think a bit about catfish and how to find their hangouts. And, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed that they might not be so different from other fish. In fact, a catfish seems to prefer locations with many of the same characteristics as the popular Largemouth bass.
I do know one thing for an absolute, indisputable fact - catfish LOVE moving water!!! They will gather by the hundreds, maybe thousands, in front of a flowing dam or spillway. But, so do many other fish, the bass included. I have found them right in the main current flow, as well as holding in the calm eddies off to the sides.
Most catfishers will say that cats are purely bottom feeders. That is an old fable from long ago. I have observed cats actually feeding on the surface in front of some of those flowing water locations. And, when they are conducting their spring spawning ritual, they suspend in grass and around wood.
But, I will admit that cats do appear easier to locate by fishing near the bottom. (Note that I said 'near', not necessarily 'on' the bottom.) That means we are not locked into a big sinker and a bottom rig. We can just as easily use a bobber system, so long as we keep it within a few feet of the bottom. Catfish will go up, down or sideways to get to food. They have no depth particulars once they sense groceries in the area.
Here are the two best places I find for catfish. The first has to be in front of one of those flowing water locations. Because the current will wash your bobber rig downstream quickly, a bottom rig may prove best here. The bobber system is OK, if the eddy waters will allow it to stay put. A bottom rig for catfish in nothing more than a bass fishing Carolina Rig set-up with a small treble hook. The line below the weight needs only be 10-16 inches long. The catfish do not care.
The second place I find most productive is a flat that is just off a quick drop-off into an area of significant depth. A sandbar along a flowing channel is ideal, especially, if the water eddies back onto the bar.
If it is giant cats you are after, find the densest mass of logs or timber you can and fish right in or next to it. Big cats like the forest.
We did a 30-day bait test for catfish a few years ago. Mr. Whiskers did not prove to be overly picky about what constituted a meal. When all the dust had settled, sharp cheddar cheese cubes proved best as most dependable. Next was cut bait using sardines (note that these are ocean sardines and run around 6-10 inches long; we buy them frozen in 5-lb boxes at bait shops), then Coast soap cubes and everything else was about equal. Even the chunks of apple caught catfish pretty well.
Later in the tear, we found the cheese lost its appeal. But, the sardines ruled. Oily mullet was not even good and the soap lost its attraction, too. Miniature marshmallows worked, but not like the sardines.
Like any other fish, Mr. Whiskers is not too smart and is easily caught IF you find him. Hopefully, the above information will help you do that and then put something he likes in front of his nose.
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A common question that we get: "Is there somewhere close to get bait and tackle?" This is where we get our bait.
Pete and Tina Heinz / 9 South Mulberry St. / Fellsmere, FL 32948 / 772-571-9855
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