Editor’s Note: Catfish are hard-fighting and delicious to eat. The equipment you need to catch cats is inexpensive and easy to find, and the ways you can catch catfish successfully are numerous. The largest catfish on record is a 9-foot long, 646-pound Mekong giant catfish caught in China.
Some of the most overlooked, highly-productive areas to catch plenty of catfish are in the thousands of small streams and little rivers throughout the nation. You’ll often find these streams close to home or within easy driving distance. Some of these waters may be no more than 20-yards wide. The fisheries section of your state’s department of conservation usually can tell you the location of small streams and little rivers that may hold catfish.
You can pinpoint catfish hotspots – like current breaks and boulders that form eddy pools on their down-current sides – from the banks of these small waters. Cast a live redworm out to the eddy pool, and you’ll instantly hook a catfish.
Another successful technique for fishing small waters is to float them in a canoe, a kayak or a flat-bottomed johnboat equipped with a depth finder. Use the depth finder to locate sharp bottom breaks and underwater boulders. Once you’ve pinpointed these places, anchor upstream, and let your bait wash into these regions where catfish will hold. These underwater catfish hot spots often go virtually unfished and generally will hold plenty of cats for the catching. Small boat anglers enjoy using the Humminbird Helix 7 G3 Fish Finder with its clear, sharp underwater views for seeing 200 feet to each side of the boat and the Humminbird Fishin’ Buddy MAX Dl, and the PiranhaMax 4 that features a narrow and a wide beam for great detail, helping you identify catfish, the structure and contours of the bottom under the water. https://www.humminbird.com/learn/fish-finder-buying-guide
Limblining: If you’re fishing down small rivers and creeks, you can fish for catfish by setting out limblines and set poles, also called bush lines, along the bank. By tying a line of braided nylon twine with a hook and a bait to a tree limb that’s overhanging the water, you can fish a large area with a small amount of tackle to improve your chances of catching catfish. Always be sure the limb you tie your line to is green and not brittle. Since a nice-sized catfish will put pressure on a limb, the branch should bend and not break under that pressure. Also set your lines at different depths to determine where the fish are. A shaking bush usually means a fish dinner.
Landing a big catfish on a limb line is much like landing a cat on a jug. Don’t try to wrestle the catfish to the surface with the line. Often the catfish will dive and either break the line or jerk it off the limb. Instead, gently lead the catfish to the surface, and slip your net under it.
Set-Poling: Set-poles are similar to limb-lines, except a set-pole is a small limb or a river cane that has been sharpened on its big end and then stuck into the soft earth of the bank and baited. Remember with this method to position the pole at about a 45-degree angle, so that when the catfish takes the bait, the pole will bend and not pull out from the bank, while awaiting your return to check it.
Yo-Yoing – Billy Blakely, a fishing guide on Reelfoot Lake near Tiptonville, Tennessee, for Blue Bank Resort http://www.bluebankresort.com/ on the Mississippi River near the borders of Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri, names Yo-Yos as, “The best catfish-catching machines in the world. On an average 4-6 hour trip, in the daytime or at night, each Yo-Yo will produce about 1 1/2-pounds of catfish. Yo-Yo fishing will produce catfish on almost any lake, river or stream in the nation. You can fish Yo-Yos for catfish in the South when the temperature soars over 100 degrees or through the ice in the North in winter’s below-freezing temperatures.”
A Yo-Yo, an automatic fishing reel produced by Mechanical Fisher, http://yoyoreel.com/products/ consists of a stainless-steel spring enclosed in a sheet-metal frame. The small circular device has a line attached to the top end that you use to tie the Yo-Yo to a green limb of a tree hanging out over the water. The lower end of the Yo-Yo contains 20 feet of coiled trotline staging with a snap swivel on the end of the line. To fish with the Yo-Yo, attach a No. 2/0 hook to the snap swivel, and put a small piece of shot lead 6 to 8 inches up the line from the swivel.
As you pull out the line on the bottom end of the Yo-Yo, the stainless-steel spring will coil tighter and tighter. When you’ve pulled out the desired amount of line to fish the water depth you want, you engage a small wire trigger on the side of the reel. The trigger holds the reel in place, and the spring inside the reel is coiled tightly. When a catfish takes the bait, it trips the trigger, causing the spring to uncoil quickly, which sets the hook and keeps tension on the line. As the catfish swims away from the Yo-Yo, the stainless-steel spring becomes even more tightly. When the catfish quits swimming, the spring jerks the line, pulling the fish back under the tree.
If you fish with the Yo-Yo instead of the standard limb line, the Yo-Yo will:
* set the hook with a quick jerk,
* keep constant pressure on the hook, preventing the catfish from escaping,
* add more pressure to the line the further the catfish swims away from the tree,
* keep the line from getting tangled in underwater logs and limbs by pulling the catfish up and away from the bottom each time it runs,
* play the fish as it runs from the tree and then pulls the catfish back to the tree and
* pull the catfish’s head up out of the water or near the surface to let you know you have a fish on the line, day or night.
Although some fishermen just grab hold of the line and swing the cat in the boat, serious catfish anglers know they’ll lose far fewer cats by sliding a dip net under them and using the dip net to bring them into the boat.
To learn more, check out John E. Phillips’s book “Reelfoot Lake: How to Fish for Crappie, Bass, Bluegills and Catfish and Hunt for Ducks” http://amzn.to/XNVVKw.
Tomorrow: Why and How to Troll for Catfish