Catfishing: Show Some Respect

You might think catfish are the Rodney Dangerfield of the fish world. Compared to bass, walleyes, muskies, northern pike and panfish, they don’t get any respect.

Don’t you believe it. Of the more than 30 million adult anglers in the United States, 7.5 million call themselves catfishermen.

The Minnesota-based “Catfish In-Sider” grew to a circulation of 50,000 in just three issues after hitting the newsstand in February, 1999. It took six years for its sister publication, “Walleye In-Sider,” to reach that mark.

And, why not?

* They inhabit rivers, lakes and reservoirs in more than 40 states and Canada.

* They grow to 100-pounds plus and they fight like heavyweight contenders. Only the white sturgeon, and alligator gar grow larger in fresh water.

* They are wary adversaries. Their senses of smell and taste are better than most fish species, and they have well-developed lateral lines. Contrary to popular myth, their eyesight is as good as most other species.

* They can be taken from shore as well as from a boat.

* And, they taste great!

Catfishing: Use Basic Tackle
Best of all, you don’t need to spend lots of dollars in tackle to catch them either. Any spinning or casting rod works. Six-footers are good, but longer stiff rods help make longer casts from the bank or help to control feisty fish and keep them away from anchor ropes in a boat. The best rods are built to handle 10-pound to 17-pound line. Any medium to heavy reel will do, but the best are built with “clickers” that emit a noise when a fish picks up the bait and starts to take line. Use 14-pound test when after the smaller channels, 17-pound when going after the larger ones.

Nighttime catfishing is fun. Spool up with fluorescent line and use a black light to watch for line movement.

Natural bait on the basic Lindy rig is the ticket. The standard Lindy sinker is good on smooth bottoms. The NO SNAGG Sinker is perfect in heavy cover. Both are rigged slip-style so the fish can take the bait without feeling any telltale resistance. Keep leaders short and use a 1/0 hook for most purposes.

Use live bait, like bluegills, when targeting huge flatheads. For channels, try nightcrawlers or dead minnows. Cut baits, like bluegills, work nearly anytime, anywhere. Try liver and fresh shrimp, not the iodine-treated frozen kind.

Prepared baits work like cheese bait work, too, especially in summer. Downsize your hook to a #6 or #8 treble. Some anglers use no sinker at all — the bait provides the only weight for casting and to sink itself to the bottom. The only exception to the rule comes when they slide on a small sinker to fish spots with current.

Catfishing gets hot right after ice out. Action continues right into the spawning period, which occurs in June or July when the length of days is right and water temperatures reach into the 70s.

Catfish Seek Current
Like walleyes, catfish move upstream in rivers until they meet an obstruction like a dam or rapids. In lakes, catfish will seek out places where current is present, such as neck-downs between points or where feeder rivers empty in the main body of water.

During spawning, look for cut banks on earthen shorelines. If tree roots are exposed or there are handy muskrat holes, all the better. Catfish seem to undergo a brief recovery period before they begin to feed in earnest again. Check out creek mouths after rain. The current seems to draw catfish.

Practice selective harvest. Take smaller ones for the frying pan. Release the big ones after pictures.

Ask a catfish expert like Doug Stange, editor of “Catfish In-Sider,” to name his favorite spot and out comes the quick response, “Minnesota’s Red River.” But, he also likes the Minnesota River, which offers big flatheads as well as channels.

“It’s common to go out on the Minnesota River and catch 25 nice fish from 1-1/2- to 5 pounds in a morning,” Stange said. “It’s also real common to catch two or three flatheads in the 20-pound to 30-pound range. That’s spectacular fishing.”

Show some respect.

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