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Anglers set dials for channel cats

March 28, 2004|by Bill Anderson

The channel catfish is one of the most underappreciated fish in our region.

We have some great catfishing in both rivers and lakes, in part because the fish are so adaptable.

Channel cats are best-known as a fish of heavy currents. They are found in the rolling waters below dams or rapids and along the edges of current breaks found in the fast moving rivers. They also do well in lakes and impoundments.

For example, West Virginia has an on-going lake stocking program for channel cats with many thousands of fingerling fish released each season. Many private ponds are also stocked with channel cats and the fish do well when introduced into a good pond with a decent forage base.

When I was growing up, a popular method of channel cat fishing was to use trotlines or bush bobs.

Trotlines feature a long main line with dropper lines spaced every few feet. The dropper hooks are baited with a variety of baits, some of which were not for those with weak stomachs.


By contrast, a bush bob is a single line attached to a stout tree limb, which would "play" the hooked fish like a rod until the angler returned. You seldom see trotlines or bush bobs these days. Kids have a lot more options such as video games and SportsCenter.

Like every other type of fishing, successful angling for channel cats is all about spots, or holes as the river rats call them.

The best spots vary by time of year and water temperature and my experience has been that where you fish is much more important than the bait you used. In rivers, some of best early season spots include eddies below riffles and dams or natural eddies created by bends in the river.

Early season channel cats will take a variety of baits. We use chicken livers a lot because they are easy to find at the local grocery store. Night crawlers can be good just after a rain and big minnow are always a good choice. The man-made baits seem to become more popular each season.

As the weather warms and the river drops to summer levels, wet wading is also a good technique for channel cats. When wading, you can move from spot to spot and work your baits through good holding waters. I like a slip bobber for this type of fishing, which makes it easy to adjust the depth of the bait.

Proven baits include live minnows, crayfish and hellgrammites, all fished with just enough weight to keep the bait near the bottom.

Channels cats are a great gamefish and they are available to all of us. There are many tactics that will work to take catfish, which makes them one of the most interesting and productive fishing opportunities found in this region.

n Problem Black Bear Euthanized The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a potentially dangerous black bear that was caught in suburban Cecil County last week.

Despite numerous attempts in recent weeks to remove human attractants to allow the bear to move to a more appropriate habitat, the bear was trapped late Wednesday night. The bear was then transported to a wildlife area for evaluation by DNR staff.

The bear, an adult male weighing 325 pounds bearing ear tags from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, was ultimately euthanized under Maryland's Nuisance Black Bear Response Policy. Pennsylvania officials confirmed the bear had previously been trapped and relocated after it had killed a goat and raised human safety concerns in Bucks County.

The bear was relocated to Schuylkill County, Pa. but eventually made its way into Maryland in mid-January, where it was recently responsible for the death of three pet rabbits in two separate incidents.

The DNR said that the bear failed to exhibit an appropriate fear of humans and dogs, routinely ignoring their presence and demonstrating behavior consistent with an adult bear that had become accustomed to living and feeding in suburbia.

The bear was tagged during hibernation season as a repeat offender in Pennsylvania, traveled more than 130 miles to Maryland suburbs and continued to act aggressively to people and pets. DNR officials said they are confident that this was the right decision for this case.

It's nice to see that the professionals are in charge of managing Maryland's black bear population.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be contacted via email at

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