The blue and channel catfish have been big news around our area and on the big lakes. Whenever the water began to rise following the mega rains, the old whiskered catfish started a feeding frenzy, so to speak.
Locating catfish haunts amounts to about the same thing as locating spots where bass hang out. They will likely be found along drop-offs, near brush and along the banks when there are rises in water levels. The exceptions are that catfish will be found many times in deeper water than the other fish can easily tolerate. They will also feed more readily at night than during the daylight hours most of the time. Yes, the bass will feed at night, but that is not their primary pattern.
Besides those things, the largemouth black bass are predators that will strike by sight or sound. The catfish of all species will feed by using their sense of smell and their feelers to locate their food. There are rare occasions when both blue and channel catfish will strike a lure and so will the Opelousas catfish. With the modern fishing lures that are either sprayed or impregnated with baitfish odors, more of the catfish seem to take the lures. In my opinion, those situations do not take place often enough to head out catfishing using a lure.
I remember a time when some friends of mine and I were setting out trotlines in a marsh lake. There was going to be a shortage of bait for some reason. Whenever that happens, it may take some human ingenuity to cure the situation. One of the group was a carpenter. In his boat was a full box of the shiny discs that are used to hold nails in tarpaper siding insulation. So we used much smaller pieces of bait and attached the shiny discs. During the night, a really high-powered, windy thunderstorm blew in. When we checked the trotlines the following morning, there were a mega number of big blue catfish on the lines.
What the trick was is not a real secret. This was on a large private lake where there would be no others fishing there. The lines were placed so that those baited disc hooks were only a few inches beneath the surface. When the wind would blow they would flash, especially when there was lightning. I assume that is when the big old whiskered fish would take the disc. By the way, this will work on full moon nights when there is a wind or enough breeze to move them. Do you need a piece of bait to also be on the hook to attract the catfish? Not necessarily. I have had blue cats take just the disc-baited hook on several occasions. There are times when some hungry catfish will even just take a shiny hook.
Methods other than trotlines for scoring well on catfish are numerous. One of the now favorite fishing methods is noodleing. For many years, the local boys would simply gather up some milk jugs, oil bottles, or Clorox bottles and use them as floats. On each they would place a good strong line, preferable green or brown in color, a hook or two, enough weight to hold the bait down and set the baited hooks and jugs afloat. That type fishing is now, for the most part, illegal. There are specific colors and numbers for the jug lines now. This has evolved into the fishermen using what are called noodle lines. They still keep the same floating principal. It’s just that they are more durable, and yes, they cost more to purchase.
Noodleing works on all of the lakes and bayous and it requires the anglers to keep in touch with their lines. By setting those noodles out in scattered areas, it is likely to locate where the better action is taking place. That when you move the non-productive lines over to the more productive areas.
Even though the shiny disc will pay off on noodleing lines, I do not recommend using them in our south county bayous. There are too many redfish present, and they will strike the disc. They are illegal to retain when they are caught on anything other than rod and reel or pole and line.
Rod and reel fishing over or near deepwater structure will produce catfish. For the blue and channel cats, practically any natural bait will do well. For the Ops, live bait is best.
Billy Halfin can be reached by e-mail at bhalfinoutdoors [at] aol [dot] com.