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HEAVYWEIGHT CATS

We thank Dave Golowenski for his article in Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, May 22, 2005 and to the Columbus Dispatch for giving us permission to reprint it here.


OUTDOORS

HEAVYWEIGHT CATS OF WORLD

Masters of the good fight, channel cats rule at Hoover

Published: Sunday, May 22, 2005

By Dave Golowenski

FOR THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH


Photo caption: Jim Horan gives his boated channel cats a kiss for good luck before freeing them.

Catch this

* Besides being a cat fisherman, Jim Horan of Columbus compiles the Hoover Fishing Report (fishandtales.net/hoover.htm), a weekly compilation of fishing activity at Hoover Reservoir that includes general fishing information and humor. _______________________________________________________________

A coin flip might have been the only scientific way to determine which whiskered face was gasping harder for air, Jim Horan's or that of the 31-inch channel cat he'd just fished out of Hoover Reservoir on Wednesday.

Anyway, Horan was the only one of the two doing any real talking as he held up for display the living trophy won in a literally breathtaking confrontation.

"Hey, I didn't say I was as fit as an Olympic champion,'' he would say later, the sweat long evaporated from his 64-year-old brow.

Horan was trying a new spot along the western shore of the north-most pool at Hoover. This time of year, though the time is nearing an end, the channel cats hang out where willows tread water in shallows that in weeks to come will be high-and-dry shoreline.

Water at Hoover has been higher than normal for the last couple of years, drowning and flushing away the willow thickets from a spot a few hundred yards north that both Horan and the cats used to frequent. Thus, the Columbus fisherman explained, came this spring the need for a move.

"This is the first time I've fished this particular spot,'' he said.

Exactly one week before and at a different location, Horan and a buddy had boated 28 channel cats and lost another 10 or 12 -- not to mention too many hooks, line and bobbers -- to snags and catfish muscle. The fishing May 11 had almost reached the point of being too good. Almost, Horan emphasized, realizing the potential blasphemy.

No, the growing weariness from all that tugging and pulling hadn't been the problem.

"I didn't have time to light a pipe,'' Horan said.

A single not-nearly-so-frantic day on the water had intervened between that Wednesday and this. Horan was wondering whether the channel cats already were beginning to abandon the shallows and head for deeper water, as is their normal pattern as summer approaches and water warms.

It was looking, though, that speculations about the need to follow the migrating cats over to the riprap near the Sunbury Road bridge were somewhat premature. One of two 30-inch-plus fish Horan would land in timber Wednesday was having its way with bait dangled about 2 feet under a slip bobber.

"I'm not in control,'' Horan said, his voice quivering in the excitement mode known among sky divers, mountain climbers and riders of the great roller coasters.

Rod almost doubled over, line pulled so tight that a finger pluck might have produced an A-flat, the catfish rolled and ran and zigzagged as if it didn't much care for the game played by the chunk of dead shad that it thought deserved to be all his.

Instead, the game was all Horan's as a landing net skimmed one enormous channel cat, nabbed but not tamed, from the water surface.

"What a beast. I love 'em over 30 inches,'' he said. "When you hit 30 and above, you're talking about some horsepower in the engine.''

Most anglers don't know what they're missing, Horan said, because most anglers pass on channel cats. Largemouth are favorites because they get almost as much TV time as poker players, saugeye and crappie are tasty, smallmouth seem exotic and feisty. And, well, let's not say more about those uppity trout.

Fishing for channel cats, to hear Horan tell it, is kind of like walking into a gym and taking on a Buster Douglas heavyweight. He just can't figure why anybody would bother pummeling on a midget fake wrestler when there's a chance to go a few rounds with the champ.

"Somebody asks me why I don't fish for crappie,'' Horan said, "and I tell 'em I never heard of anybody catching a 10- or 15-pound crappie. If somebody catches a 15-pound crappie, maybe I'll start fishing for 'em. Besides, my wife kicks my butt when it comes to crappie.''

Horan would boat nine channel cats Wednesday afternoon, two of them Fish Ohio specimens and each bigger than a school of crappie. A slew of channels got away, and so did a mini-flotilla of bobbers and a scrap heap of hooks.

The channel cat that had just taken Horan's breath away lay inside the landing net on the deck of his pontoon boot. Horan, pliers in hand, reached down to disengage cold steel from fish. When the channel opened its gaping mouth, however, out popped a hook impaled on a shad head but not in the least connected to the lip or cheek of a catfish.

"He wouldn't let go of that shad,'' Horan said. "If he'd just have opened his mouth, he would've gotten away.''

The closed-mouth cat did return home forthwith, after first surviving a household custom Horan performs on his boat. So there it was. A kiss for luck and the big cat was on its way.

outdoors@dispatch.com