Catfish for Fun and Food

Slick skinned with sharp spines that will stick right through your hand, catfish are hard to handle. Their beady eyes and wide mouth make them less than lovely to look at. Why do so many people try to catch them? They fight good, but it’s what’s under the skin that counts. They are some of the best-eating freshwater around!

Catfish are plentiful. They can be found in every part of the world. They come in a wide variety of types that can live under almost any conditions. Many grow to huge sizes and they are fun to catch. No wonder they are such a popular fish.

Putting out hooks at night has always been a popular way to catch cats in the southeast U.S. where I live. Trotlines, bank hooks, jugs, limb hooks and set poles all work and I have tried them all. Different ways work better for different conditions.

A trotline is a long line tied across a section of water like a cove or to two anchor points in the water. It has dropper lines and hooks every two feet are so. You can catch a bunch of fish because you have so many hooks in the water. My lines usually had from 25 to 50 hooks each but commercial catfish fishermen have lines of 200 or more hooks. I have always heard they were called trot lines because you trot out every couple of hours to check them.

Bank hooks and limb hooks are basically the same. A line is tied to a stake on the bank, the hook is baited and thrown out, or the line is tied to a limb hanging over the water and the baited hook dangles in the water from above. Limb hooks were always my favorite during the spring when the water was high and lots of trees had limbs over it. I would bait up with a live bream and tie the line so it just barely stayed in the water. Every time the bream moved it would make a noise, much like a topwater bass plug. This attracted the fish to it.

Set poles are usually cut on the bank of the creek or lake. A pole 12 to 15 feet long is usually just about right. A forked stick holds the pole up and the end of the pole is placed under a heavy rock or stuck into the ground. If the bank is clay, you often can stick the end of the pole into the ground far enough not to need a forked stick. A line dropped from the end of pole sticking over the water can be adjusted to the length needed to fish any depth you want.

Jugs are an interesting way to fish. A line is tied to something that will float – usually a small plastic bottle. The hook on the line is baited and the rig is put out to float around over productive water. When a catfish hits, it will pull the jug around until you come to pick it up. A quart size jug is best – it will not blow in the wind too badly and will keep most any catfish on the surface for you to catch. I caught a 12-pound blue cat on a quart oil bottle once. It would pull the jug under but not for long. It was fun chasing it around until we could grab it.

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