Catfish action picks up early

March 19, 2006|By Bill Anderson

This spring seems to be running several weeks ahead of normal, and with the recent period of really warm weather, combined with relatively low river conditions, some excellent channel catfish action was reported in the region.

I received a recent e-mail from two young anglers who want to know the best way to rig tackle for catfish, and the best baits to use.

Catfish can be caught by a number of baits and by using one of many tackle riggings. The following are some ideas that are effective.

Bait. Fishing for channel catfish is all about using the right baits. Some favorites include fresh chicken livers, minnows and cutbait.


I have personally caught most of my big catfish on cutbait and live minnows. The cutbait that I have had the most luck with includes chucks of fallfish, suckers and sunfish. You can also catch plenty of cats on chicken livers, but live minnows and cutbait seem to catch the bigger fish.

Riggings. Depending on the water levels and conditions, different presentations can make a big difference. A good all-around rigging is the sliding sinker rig. The idea behind this rigging is to allow the fish to take the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker. There are several ways of doing this, but a good one is a variation of the "fish-finder" rig that is very popular with saltwater anglers.

When fishing most of the rivers of our region, you can usually hold bottom with small egg sinkers. First you thread the egg sinker onto the running line and tie the end of the line to a medium barrel swivel. Then attach a leader of about 30 inches to the other end of the barrel swivel. In most cases I like to use leaders of heavier line than the usual 12-pound test used on my medium casting outfits. Leaders made of 20-pound test mono are good. Yes, this is basically the same as the Carolina Rig for bass fishing.

The idea behind this rig is that when a fish takes the bait, the line can move freely through the egg sinker and not feel the unnatural weight.

Circle hooks. These are becoming very popular in all types of bait fishing. If you try them, you will like them for channel catfish. The most important thing to remember is that circle hooks work best if you do not set the hook in a typical manner. Just hold the pressure steady as the fish runs, and let the fish come tight on the line. The hook will turn hook securely in the corner of the mouth of the fish.

The catfish information above is not perfect for every catfishing situation found in our region, but for many situations, they will help you catch more and bigger catfish.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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