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RESERVOIR FISHING FOR CHANNEL CATFISH

RESERVOIR (HOOVER) FISHING FOR CHANNEL CATFISH  
Jim Horan   7/99 Copyright ©  All Rights Reserved.  Updated 2013

On more than one occasion we've been asked, "why fish for Catfish?" There should be a really good single answer to such a question. We could offer several. Many would say, they taste so good. How about, they fight like crazy? Or maybe, they're so powerful in both their bite and after the hook up? Of course there's the obvious, they're the best shot at a big fish over 10 lb.. Here's a couple you may not have thought of. They're one of the most beautiful, well proportioned, intelligent fish in the lake. And another not so obvious reason. When Catfishing, one can relax and enjoy the stillness of the mornings/evenings and the ambiance of the environment. It's not a frantic, stressful activity while awaiting the bite. During the time spent Catfishing, one can enjoy the collegiality of a good friend and converse about a number of different thoughts.

What we're going to attempt to do in this piece is cover the basic information about what a Channel Catfish is and about what techniques are our favorite to catch these beauties. While we know almost everyone can say they have caught a Channel Catfish, this article is intended to assist those that would intentionally go out to catch Channel Cats specifically, and not by accident. This information pertains mainly to catching them in reservoirs and in particular, Hoover Reservoir. This is also directed at the person wanting to catch 8 - 15 lb. fish. We do not intend to be presumptuous enough to offer this as the definitive statement on Catfishing in Hoover. It's simply a sharing of what we have found to be true and successful over the past 30 years of fishing there. Others may have found different approaches to be equally successful.

 I. WHAT MAKES CHANNEL CATFISH SPECIAL

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) are found throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada. The physiology of the Catfish is what makes it most interesting. While it is not our intention to present a scientific paper (that has already been done many times), we will cover some of the more salient features that allow us to be better able to understand the species. It has 4 pair of barbels (whiskers) around the mouth that are specialized sensors, useful in seeking out and identifying food. In addition they possess a highly refined set of sensory organs along their lateral line. Of course they have nareal openings that also act as a sensory receptor. You'll also notice that the eyes are not particularly large for their body size. These features tell us that it's likely this fish can exist in murky waters and can rely on the greater use of senses other than sight to succeed. In plain English this fish hunts it's food by smell and taste as opposed to simple visual pursuit. Hence we find that baits which stimulate these senses are more productive. These sensory organs also are able to detect sound and vibration, which will explain how sometimes artificial baits will be attack.

They posses a wide frontal centered mouth and a very powerful, elongated scaleless body, with a powerful thick peduncle preceding the tail. This tells us they can eat large objects, and in fact are an opportunistic predator that can pursue its prey in a very fast manner. Looking into the mouth of this fish reveals numerous small teeth in the frontal portion of the jaws. These are quite small and when matched up with a powerful set of jaw muscles, indicate that Catfish can grasp their food to crush it before swallowing. They do not have large incisors that tear, but their teeth should still be regarded as a formidable source of discomfort for one to have one's finger or thumb caught between the jaws of a larger specimen. The mouth also should be regarded as being exceptionally sensitive. This last feature is of vital importance in determining the proper tackle to fish with.

II. MYTHS ABOUT CHANNEL CATFISH

Before we go further we felt compelled to dispel some of the many myths about Catfish. Ever hear about the "divers went down to survey the dam and came out scared due to the enormous size of the Catfish"? That's called an "Urban legend" and has been retold in every community in the U.S. that has a dam nearby. Channel Cats simply do not get that big. The world record is around 50 lb., and the Ohio record is around 30 lb.. There are other species of Catfish that exceed 100 pounds and some European Wels Cats may exceed many hundreds of pounds.

The myth prevails that Channel Cats are scum sucking bottom feeders. The truth is that they will feed where ever the food is and at times are most selective about what they consume. As we will later divulge, they have a varied and seasonal diet. Ever seen large Channel Cats appearing on the surface in a relatively calm lake doing a "porpoise act" as they pursue Shad? That's quite an impressive sight.

We've heard the myth that the "whiskers" will sting you. Nonsense. Those whiskers are soft tissue. What will sting you are the stiff pectoral barbs just below the gills, and the powerful erictile spine of the dorsal. Smaller Catfish (squealers) are more capable of inflicting injuries with these weapons than larger Catfish as they thrash around much more erratically when brought from the water. While these barbs do contain small amounts of toxin, one might compare a puncture similar to a bee sting. However, specific allergies to bee stings have proven fatal on very rare occasions. Generally washing such wounds out with soap and water and applying a small amount of antiseptic salve alleviates most problems.

Learning to grip the smaller fish with the hand curled around the fish and the hard dorsal being held between the thumb and fore finger in a confident manner is desirable. Larger fish require 2 hands around the fish, just behind the pectoral barbs. Another tactic is to enclose ones hand in a thick towel and then just "lip" it by grasping the lower jaw in a very firm grip. For those just learning this skill, be prepared for a few very painful bites and extreme pressure on the thumb. If one should ever find ones unprotected thumb clamped in a large Cat's mouth, it would be best to remember NOT to try and extract it by jerking away. The flesh removed from your thumb could take awhile to grow back. Simply insert an object like a pair of Long Nosed Pliers into the side of the fish's mouth and gently open jaws and extract a really flat thumb.

 A constant myth we've heard about Catfish at Hoover is that there are Blue Catfish. Not so, according to ODNR. Blue Cats, while they might occur from time to time in the Ohio River, would probably not thrive in the colder climates at Hoover in Winter. This myth likely comes from the metamorphous that occurs in the maturation of the Channel Cat. Young Cats have a "greenish" color with many black spots, hence the name "punctatus". Also they have a sharply forked tail. As they grow, their color darkens, their mouths widen, and their tails lose some of their pointedness, though remain deeply forked. Actually when Channel Catfish have entertained a high amount of Crayfish in their diet, which contain Carotene, they can be almost jet black in color. Hence, we assume these changes account for much of the myth.  When in doubt, look at the anal fin.  On a Channel Cat the anal fin is curved and has 24-29 rays.  On a Blue Cat you'll see the anal fin has a straight edge and contains 30+ rays. (Note: In October 2011 Blue Cats were introduced to Hoover.  See Blue Cats.)

There are probably many other myths pertaining to Catfish, as this species, while one of the most popular sport fishes in the U.S., is also one of the most UNDER studied. Recent attempts by In-Fisherman magazine in sponsoring a Catfish 2000 Symposium, hopefully will bring forth valuable information on the species, in much the same way that occurred with Bass Symposiums back in the 70's. Much has to be learned especially in the area of Lake Management and breeding habits of Channel Catfish. More on this when we conclude this piece with our "Soapbox".

III. FEEDING HABITS AND SEASONAL APPROACHES

It is not our intent to include every "bait" known to man in this discussion. We will simply list a great variety that we know others may use with some success. These include Liver, Hot Dogs, Cheese, Dip Baits, Sponge Baits, Chicken Blood, Lava Soap, Doughbait, Marshmallows, Clams, Dead Chubs, Catalpa Worms, Leeches, etc. etc. etc.. Obviously, many of these appeal to the compelling sense of smell possessed by the Cats. It should be also noted that the "attractants" sold in bait shops are not without merit.

At Hoover we are fortunate to have a wonderful forage fish base of Shad. This accounts for the richness of supply and the better size of many species of sport fish, Channel Catfish being no exception. It is without a doubt its' #1 food source. In addition Channel Cats feed on other small fish, i.e.: Minnows, Suckers, Crappies, Blue Gill, and Perch, to list but a few. Further items included in their natural diet include Leeches, Nightcrawlers, Crawfish and Carp Eggs. Carp Eggs? Yes indeed. More on this later.

Our year begins with the "ice out" at Hoover, generally early March. At this time the Cats are starting to stir and are setting out to fill up in a hurry on what I call "road kill". That would be dead Shad that did not survive the thermal shock of the thaw. Normally the first area to find this feeding activity is in the North section of the lake, around the convergence of the 2 creeks. At this time, normally in daylight hours, we find using cut strips of Shad to work just fine. It should be noted that the water temperatures are quite cold and therefore the fish are moving at a much slower pace. Letting them run a bit before setting hook rewards patience. Also one can discern an unquestionably less capable fight from the fish. Powerful, yes. Fast runs, no. We find these fish move around in the general area and move in and out of specific areas during the day. This activity likely occurs on down the lake as water temperatures rise. The North end, being the shallowest section of the lake, warms first.

The next really active time we have found for pursuing larger Cats is in May, as the water temperature heads towards 60 degrees. At this time a real phenomena takes place. If you're fishing around shoreline Willows, in 3 - 5 ' of water and you hear the Carp splashing, there's a good chance that during the evening hours the Cats will come forth to feast on those Carp eggs which have been cast. When Carp spawn, they throw an adhesive egg. If you witness their spawning you'll observe a very physical activity as the male literally rams the female, causing her to expel the eggs, which he fertilizes as they leave her body. There is no nest. These eggs adhere to whatever they first come in contact with. In this instance the Willows provide a collection site for the eggs, as well as a "holding area" for the male to thrust against the female. We discovered years ago, Willow buds in the gut of fish we were cleaning. At first we erroneously believed Cats ate Willow buds. Not so. It was the adhering Carp eggs they were stripping off the branches and happened to also gather some submerged Willow buds.

During this period we have been successful using a bobber, placed right next to Willows. Baits suspended 2 - 3 ' beneath the bobbers have included Softcraws, Minnows, Nightcrawlers and Shrimp. This is tough cover and one must be prepared to forfeit some bobbers and as well as lose some fish. But big fish are in this cover during the Carp spawning period. Many a Crappie or Bass angler has been surprised by an encounter with a big Cat during this period.

Another specialized feed that Cats go on is for searching for Crawfish. This generally occurs in June, depending on 2 happenings. The lake must be in a warming stage and the water should have started to recede from its Spring high, thus pulling the Craws down as water drops. We then go to riprap around bridges in early mornings and use Softcraws or Shrimp suspended 4 - 5 ' beneath bobbers, fishing in 6 - 7 ' depth. This feeding normally, but not always, only lasts about 2 hours and then the Cats return to deeper channels. On some occasions it has been observed they also return to feed in these locations in evening hours. However, early mornings seem to be more consistent. This encounter is very specialized and these 2 baits are superior to all others in our experience for this situation.

We digress a moment here to talk about Shrimp. Why Shrimp? It's not found roaming around Hoover. Hey…remember our discussion in the beginning about what a Catfish is about? He's about smell, and Shrimp stinks! What kind of Shrimp? We like the Green (in the shell with tails) Shrimp, about a 35-40 count per pound size. Get it on sale, get it spoiled, whatever. We freeze it in small parcels (12-18 Shrimp) and then we treat it. Treat it? Yep. Freeze and thaw it 3 times. Get's it good! Best to be careful licking your fingers after baiting up with this. That "coating" on the Shrimp is bacterial in nature, which causes the rich aroma. (If one is contemplating a "quick divorce", place in freezer uncovered. If one wishes to continue in a state of bliss and harmony within the home, we found it best to triple bag those puppies and place an open box of Baking Soda next to them.) We leave the shells and tails on and hook completely through the middle of the Shrimp.

The next three areas we'll discuss occur after we've had our fishing on riprap. These areas are where we'll usually fish the remainder of June, July, August and September.

There are the flats. We fish these normally from early morning throughout the day into the evenings until the water warms an excessive amount and lower oxygen levels cause the bigger fish to seek more favorable conditions. This high heating also generally equates with a lowering of the water levels to 2 - 3' on these flats when the Cats move elsewhere. We fish on the bottom with Shrimp and look for areas that appear to be calmest. A key here is to look for "activity" on surface and/or feeding Gulls and Cormorants. This tells us where the Shad are and likely the Cats are right there feeding.

We've found that moving around a general area and fishing 20-30 minutes each anchorage works best in locating the fish. Remember we're looking for bigger Cats and not Squealers. These big Cats move in and out and around as the Shad do, which sometimes is dictated by the direction of the wind.

The next area that we explore is along the Eastern Shore in both Middle section and South section of the lake. Early mornings and late evenings we've found fish come up on the shoreline in 6 - 12 ' depths for several hours. Here again, we prefer Shrimp and fish them on the bottom. Most likely we start catching them in shallow and gradually relocate the boat into deeper and deeper water as they start to move out. We've found when the squealers, Perch and Blue Gills move in and start pecking the bait, it's time to move on as the big Cats are likely gone.

We've been asked if we ever fish deep for bigger Cats. Sure, sometimes. Right off drop-off's around the submerged islands near North Shore in 20 - 25 ' in early mornings we've had occasion to get some really nice Cats, but not consistently. The same holds true for Cats just off drop off at mouth to Lake of the Woods and areas just north of there.   Generally the Cats in deeper water are not as actively feeding and hence we prefer those that "come for dinner and stay awhile".

It should be noted here that in no way are these areas we mentioned to be considered the only good areas. Hoover is too big for that. We've just listed a few we like and one can take the pattern and apply it to other areas of the lake that will produce every bit as well. In all honesty we must confess that we prefer the North end and the solitude it sometimes offers to the most actively boated areas of the Mid and South ends. Maybe we're just getting into our "Curmudgeonhood".

One last specialized fishing period comes in late Fall. Prior to first hard freeze, we find a very interesting occurrence. On mud flats, in 2 - 3 ' and even shallower, one can see really big Cats "tailing", much like one might see Redfish in FL feeding on a flat at low tide. These are not small Cats that participate in this activity. The sight of those huge tails sticking out of the water as they forage the bottom is rather spectacular. We don't know for sure what they're feeding on, but it appears like the last hearty meal before Winter. It could be Leeches or Crawfish burrowing into the mud for Winter. More likely it’s YOY Shad schooling in the warm shallows. Whatever it is the Cats are there. Seems like they come into these flats when the sun is up and the winds are calm. Last vestige of Summer's warmth perhaps. We again fish the bottom with Shrimp. In this instance one must take precaution approaching these fish. They'll spook, so a slow quiet entry with the boat, low noise level and long casts are called for.

IV. CAST NETTING FOR BAIT

As mentioned earlier, Shad represents the main forage for Catfish at Hoover.  Last year, late in the year, we added the use of a Cast Net.  This offered a whole new fishing experience with both rewards and challenges.  In Ohio a Cast Net must be 10' diameter (5' radius) or less and only forage fish may be kept for use as bait. The rewards are obvious, in acquiring a fresh, lively and decent size bait at a most economical cost.   For the first time we were able to actually hook up a live 8-10" Shad to try for the bigger Cats.  We did use this size bait several times.  A Circle Hook was put through the bait, just behind the dorsal fin, and as far down the body of the bait as the hook gap would allow.   Casting this large and heavy a bait requires a stiffer rod than usual and a bit of trial and error as one can send a large Shad into orbit sans hook, if one isn't careful.   Of course using this large bait along with Circle Hooks, also mandated allowing the "run" to be longer before hook set.  (As a side note, while expectations were high for really large Cats, we only C&R 24" fish on 3 occasions.  Hmmm . . . a 24" fish eating a 10" bait!)  There were times we took the larger Shad and cut into 3-4 chunks, with good results. After using Shad most all of this year, we're convinced it's a superior bait. The old "match the hatch" theory at work. We favored trying to catch 4-5" Shad and slitting their sides from the gill back about about an inch. This allows them to bleed into the water, creating a scent trail.

Now to the challenges.   Learning to throw the Cast Net is challenge #1.   Fortunately, we had learned a technique (there is more than 1 technique) years ago while in Florida.  Our technique, and note we're right-handed, is to grasp and gather the net about 1/3 of the way down in our right hand, after attaching and coiling the line to our right wrist.   The coil of line is held against the net with our right hand.  Next comes the tasty part.  We put the bottom of the net into our mouth, yes that's right . . . in the mouth.  Then with the left hand, we gather some of the net (maybe 2-3') and place it over our right forearm and then grasp the bottom of the net with our left hand.   Now we're loaded up and ready for the throw.  The throw begins with a turn to the right of the upper body.  Next in a quick movement we spin to the left, releasing the net from both hands, with the left hand releasing a split second after the right hand.   The throw should be upward and outward.   It's also a real fine idea to release the net from the teeth just a split second before it puts you in the "gotta find some teeth" store.  That's why one should not bite down hard on the bottom cord of the net.  Just hold it in your teeth.   After your first attempt, freely feel that expletives are justified and it's highly recommended that the learning period of throwing the cast net be done outside the hearing of children, timid dogs and those easily offended.  Like any new manual dexterity endeavor, it takes some practice to get it right.  The object is to have the net land on the water in the widest, most circular pattern possible.  Be prepared to throw a few "bananas" at first.   We'll tell you there are other ways to throw the net without putting it in the mouth, but we never perfected it and fall back on easier methods, if less tasty.  By the way, there are videos available demonstrating various techniques.  Generally instructions come packaged with the net when purchased.

Another challenge will confront you.  Now you have learned HOW to throw it, so you'll next need to find out WHERE to throw it for best possible results.  In the early part of the year when the reservoir is full and water temperatures have hit the 60's, we find Shad in shallow (4-5').  Later they move deeper in 18-20'.  When they're that deep and schooled up, they're easy to find.  Just travel the lake and look for your fish finder to "light up".  You're most likely looking at huge schools of Shad, though there may be other species amongst them feeding up.  We've found it is possible to capture suspended Shad.  While the depth may show 20+', many times the Shad are suspended at 7-10'.  When this happens sometimes it is not necessary to let the net fall all the way to the bottom.  Let it fall 10' or so and jerk it closed.    Sometimes looking for protected areas where they can school and not be subjected to fighting the waves in a strong winds when they are shallow can be productive.   You'll also benefit from finding relatively smooth bottom, free of stumps and large sharp rocks.  While there is an abundance of inventory of Cast Nets in stores, one can successfully use the same one for many years, if it doesn't get torn to sheds from the above mentioned articles.  This Fall we found huge schools of 3-4" Shad by watching the birds dive into them in shallow water.  In fact on many instances we would get far more than we could use in a single throw and would cull out the larger ones for use and return the smaller ones to the lake as quickly as possible for future growth.    As with any fish specie, it's prudent to conserve and take just what is needed.   Depending on the time of day and time of year, you'll have to spend a little time figuring out where the Shad are located.  Like any fish specie, be aware that these locations change from time to time, just as the location of Catfish change.   With Cast Netting, you get to go fishing twice.  Once for bait and then it's off to fish for Cats. 

One last note.  When Cast Netting, be well aware you will net other species of fish from time to time.  Please use care to return these unharmed to the lake.  It's not only the smart thing to do, it's the law!

V. TECHNIQUES AND TACKLE

So far we've discussed what the Cats are about and where they're likely to be. Now comes the critical area of "how" to catch them. We've used a variety of techniques over the years, starting with "tight lining" them when we were small boy back in Iowa in the 40's. That's how everyone did it. Of course, as we look back, we don't ever seem to recall having Dad show us how to get a Cat larger than 18". Mom must have really loved Dad as she always said, "Bring me home some of those smaller ones as they taste best." It took me years to appreciate the love in that message, 'cause that's the only size we ever caught.

Today through vastly improved technology we have some extraordinary tools at our disposal. Before we get into the specifics of the tackle, please recall some of the physiology of the Cats we talked about back at the beginning. Remember we talked about their intelligence and also their sensitive mouth. Therein lie the keys to successfully fishing for bigger Cats. They didn't get old and big by being dumb and not paying attention to the tools that Nature provided them.

The most importance element in presenting the bait to the Cat is to not identify it as something foreign. In all the years we've fished with others, we've constantly out caught those that didn't understand the importance of terminal tackle. We've had folks come aboard with snap swivels, wire leaders, clamp on sinkers. All the stuff you don't want. Keep it simple. Remember that sensitive mouth. This fish got old by being careful and if it doesn't feel right, he'll drop it in a flash. We've found you've got to let 'em run and get the bait inside the mouth before you can set the hook. And they won't run if it doesn't feel right. Oh sure, you could happen upon a great big Cat on a frenzy feed and maybe you'll get lucky with piano wire line and a sash weight for a sinker. But time and time again, we've found the less tension you have on the line the more likely the big ones will run with it.

Our basic bottom fishing setup is a 3/8 - 3/4 oz Lindy type sinker or Barrel sinker. We determine weight by distance we need to cast and wind factor. Below the sliding sinker and acting as a stop is a small barrel swivel. Attached to the barrel swivel is ~18" of 30 lb. Braided line (ProPlus) which is tied directly to a  4/0 Gamakatsu Octopus Circle Hook, which we sometimes make barbless. A typical Lindy rig. No heavy line. In this setup, the fish can pick up and run with the bait without feeling undue weight or tension. We strongly urge you try the Circle hooks as they are far superior in getting "lip" hook-ups instead of deep throat or gut hook sets. This protects the trophies that you want to release will minimal stress. As with any new technique these take a little getting use to. You do NOT set a Circle hook. As the fish run with the bait, you decide they have taken the slack and simply lock up the reel and make a sweeping motion to place the barb in the corner of the mouth. A sudden jerk, as with regular hooks, pulls the Circle hook out of the mouth entirely, in most instances. (NOTE: In most recent years we’ve also had good success with a “Kahl-like” 1/0 hook from Mustad.  It has a wide gap enabling the hook point to penetrate through a chunk of bait leaving the barb exposed.)

Tension? Yeah, I forgot to mention that the other end of the line is attached to a Shimano Baitrunner reel. This is beyond a doubt the most important piece of tackle we use. It has a patented feature that lets one keep the bail closed but allows the line to feed out continuously by freeing the spool with a lever on the back of the reel. This is in additional to the conventional fighting drag that all reels have. We don't understand why Shimano doesn't market this reel especially to Catfishermen. We've been using older models of the Baitrunner model 250 for almost 14 years. The newer models have improved aluminum spools. We acquired a model 3500 and find it great for the task of Catfishing. Another feature is the clicking sound when a Cat begins a run. This is most valuable when fishing early morning or late night. The tension can be adjusted on the Baitrunner to allow for free swimming live bait. However, when using dead baits, we set the tension to the least allowable. In addition we always make sure that the pole is setting in the boat with an eyelet resting on a railing while we await the bite. Again we do this to make sure that no unnecessary tension is put on the line and the Catfish can run feeling no resistance. At a point during the run, we flip the Baitrunner drag off and allow the Cat to take out all slack. When the pressure of the run pulls the pole tip down, we simply bring the pole back in a sweeping motion and not a jerk, so that the Circle Hook may engage itself in the lip or side of jaw of the fish. If one does not use this particular reel, one should arrange the reel being used to either be set with bail open or if it's a bait caster type, release all tension on the drag. Of course to set a fish in this manner, one must make allowances to reset the drag before the hook is set. There are several good bait caster reels on the market that have built in "clickers" and spool releases. The pole we prefer is an 8' MH fiber glass.

We have found over a period of time that due to the sensitive receptors of Channel Cats, the further we fish away from the boat, the better the catching. This possibly could be as simple an explanation as having them driven off by the lapping of waves against the pontoons.

Another tactic that we have used in helping us locate Cats from time to time is jugging. We take 1/2-gallon plastic milk jugs, tape the top and secure a line to handle. The line is premeasured either 6 ' or 10 ' and the jugs so marked. In addition the jugs are all labeled with our name and address to comply with Ohio law. We attach a 3/8-oz weight which makes the bait stay down as the wind can sometimes move the bottles along. The jugs are baited with a Shrimp and dropped into the lake in a line that will allow the wind to move them all together. The shorter lines are dropped off closer to shore and the deeper lines farther out in the deeper sections of the lake. We only use these for identifying the location of the fish and then we collect the jugs and fish with rods and reels where the best activity occurred. What fun is it to just collect a jug in the net as opposed to having the enjoyment of a real fight on rod and reel?  These jugs are not all that easy to collect in a pontoon boat, especially when a large Cat is hooked, as we can not always maneuver quick enough to net the jug on the first pass. We've heard of folks painting these jugs with a reflective paint so they can be used at night. These jugs must be attended. Be sure to check Ohio law for the complete rules and regulations regarding jugging.

Lastly, we have been known to troll for Cats. Troll? With artificial baits? You bet. When the Cats are being elusive there are times that trolling a 4 " Shad Rap (Perch color), tipped with a Nightcrawler has been productive. The largest Catfish we've heard caught in past couple years at Hoover was 36 " and was caught on a White Spinner bait by a Bass fisherman. Many are the trolling Walleye/Saugeye fishermen who have caught big Cats while trolling Erie Dearys, Worm Harnesses and the like. Recall we said this specie was a predator and had a keen sense of sound and vibration, as well as smell.  Also drifting for Cats with long lines and weightless baits (Shad, Shrimp) is becoming popular.

VI. SOAPBOX

Unfortunately today the Channel Catfish does not receive the respect it is due. Nor does it receive the protection it deserves. This is a fine eating fish, no question. However with no restrictions placed on daily catches it's becoming harder and harder to find larger specimens. We understand that the State of Ohio is considering placing some restrictions in the future on Catfish. This will be a good thing as it could help insure there will be some for us tomorrow. Until restrictions are studied and put in place we are urging everyone to only keep a few of the smaller (under 21") for table fare. Those big Channel Cats need to be put back safely and carefully in the lake so that everyone might have a chance at experiencing the thrill and fight that these beauties can offer. A large 15 lb.- 20 lb. Channel Catfish may take close to 20-25 years to grow to that size in our environment. More study is needed and is hopefully underway to determine how best we can preserve and protect this specie. Until the time that regulations are in place, it's our most fervent hope that everyone will do their utmost to care for these fish and accord them the respect they deserve. If a fish is hooked deep and you want to release it, simply cut the line without trying to disengage the hook. In this way there is a chance that the hook will dissolve with time and the fish may continue to repair. If small fish are hooked deep, those are the ones that you might want to take home and enjoy as my Mother did.

In conclusion, catching Catfish is fun. Whether you go out to just "fish" for anything and come up with a Cat or whether you intentionally set forth to go after larger catfish on a regular basis, it's fun. We hope some of the information provided herein will enable you to enjoy the sport a bit more. We only ask for everyone to be responsible as stewards of this valuable resource and make sure that future generations of Catfish anglers have the opportunity to enjoy this form of recreation.

For those wishing to read further on the topic of Catfishing, we would encourage you to acquire a copy of "Fishing For Catfish", Keith Sutton, 1998, Creative Publishing International. (ISBN 0-86573-079-2)  It is part of their "The Freshwater Angler" series and contains great photos and  worthwhile information.

VII. CATFISH HUMOR

Give a man a Catfish and you feed him for a day.     Teach a man to Catfish and you get rid of him on weekends. …. (My Wife)

Q: How to ID a good Catfisherman?

A: By his/her flat thumbs.

Q: How to conclude a person is a good Cat angler?    

A: If he/she licks fingers after baiting hook.

Q: Why is Catfisherman like a Ghost Buster?

A: They've both been slimed.

Q: How to determine a good Catfisherman?

A: If they smell worse than their bait! 

Q: How to tell a Catfisherman?      

A: Are you kidding?  You can always tell a Catfisherman, but you can't tell him much!