Can I have some catfish fishing instructions?

I need some simple beginner instructions for catching catfish.

As an “entry level” point for the sport of angling, in general, “catfishing” is a great choice, because of the wide distribution of catfish, in terms of both world geography and ecological settings, combined with their eagerness to bite, their large potential size, their incredible fighting power, and their top eating qualities. Few other fish measure up in so many aspects, in spite of the catfish’s failure to make the “sport fish” list. Luckily for many seasoned anglers, they know better, and pursue catfish at every opportunity. The wide range of catfish size, and the wide range of places where cats can be found, makes for a wide variety of fishing methods that might be applied in catching them, including slipweights, jug fishing, trotlines, limblines, and drift fishing, to name only a few. Still, there are some basic truths that can be applied to most catfish species, and some good pointers to help get you started in the right direction. For a general point to begin with, most all catfish are deep, dark water dwellers, and as such, they have limited use for their eyesight, and instead, depend on their much more effective olfactory senses (sense of smell) and their barbels, or “whiskers”, which are equipped with taste buds on their ends, to locate and qualify food items in their world of darkness. Next, and a point related to the catfish’s love of deep, dark holes, is that they are the most active, meaning, they feed more, and are easier to catch, during the dusk and nighttime hours, when the lower ambient light levels let them comfortably roam around, often moving across many different depth zones, rather than staying in their holes, as they tend to, in the daylight. The next general point, and one also related to the catfish’s particular adaptations to low-light living, is that the best catfish baits are virtually always highly-scented, and those that are also natural in source, and presented in a way that makes them look like real, floating, naturally dead and stinky food, are the pinnacle of successful choices, as a rule. This said, many smaller cats will go for almost anything that even resembles food, so other baits may prove to be most effective, in certain locales. Finally, almost all cats prefer a higher current situation, making deep, narrow lakes, reservoirs and rivers the prime locations for finding a whiskered warrior. So, once you’re in a likely location, some evening, a little bit upstream of a deep hole in a flowing waterway, use a small (2″- 4″), dead and preferably somewhat ripe fish, or a piece of one (smelt, or shad chunks are a thought), and hook it up to a sliding ledger, or slipweight tackle rig, as a good starting point. This is basically a main line fed freely through the eye of a conical “bomb” sinker, and “stopped off” with an appropriately-sized inline swivel, to keep the sinker on. A two-foot leader from the other end of the swivel to an appropriately-sized hook completes the rig. If you don’t have fish (probably the best bait, overall), lots of other options may work well, as I said above. Everything from cheese, to bacon, and meat chunks, to chicken livers, weiners, and soap (no kidding) have been used to catch cats. Cast your bait upstream of the deep spot in the waterway, so that it will hit bottom in the hole, when the current carries it downstream a bit, as it sinks. Let it sit, and be patient, for not less than 15 minutes. Don’t move the bait or touch the line, after you cast out. Use good tackle, including a stout rod, and a very strong reel, or the fish will win the fight, and fast. You’ll need a good-sized landing net, too. Do not underestimate the power and size of what you are trying to catch, here. When you get a hit, first off, pick up your rod and hold it out from your body, pointing right at the fish, and let the cat take up the line slack this creates, before you set the hook home. If you don’t get a hit, it may be because your bait is, as yet, unrecognized by the local fish. Changing to a locally-available natural bait may help. Also, chumming, using some small bits of your intended, unrecognized bait mixed into the chum, for a couple of evenings, before you fish again, will probably make all the difference, once it introduces the fish to what you’re offering. For smaller fish, under ten pounds, a fish fry, if you are so inclined, will yield one of the best fish meals anywhere. However, always catch and release fish over ten pounds, to make sure that the lunkers survive to make little baby lunkers for future fishing days. Following these basic concepts, in general, and adapting them, using whatever fishing method you choose, will likely end up in a great catch for you, and introduce you to a surprisingly tough adversary you can fight again and again, for years to come.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

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