Bass aren’t the only summer time fish.
The sun has been hot and the weather has been dry for a while and those summer water temperatures are starting to heat up. When anglers start thinking about fishing in the summer heat the first fish that comes to mind is always the mighty bass, but a close second, and it even tops a few anglers list, is Mr. Whisker fish.
Large and smallmouth bass may get all the glory, but the catfish is always a mainstay of summer fishing. It doesn’t hurt that they are some of the best eating fish that swim in our local lakes and streams. Well, at least in my opinion.
Catfish are sometimes maligned as a bottom feeder that just cruises the bottom of the water column looking for any piece of food they can find that sinks down into the muddy and murky depths. This stigma couldn’t be further from the truth.
While the cats like the deeper pools and often spend much of their time near the bottom, they are actually a very adept predator and an opportunistic feeder. These are two traits that make catfish a great game fish because it usually means they are hungry and willing to bite.
It doesn’t hurt that catfish do well in a wide range of waters and that they can reach some amazing sizes. Add that to the fact that numbers of catfish are great in just about every waterway all over the state and you have the makings for a perfect summer fishing trip.
One precaution when you go catfishing is you might not want to take your trout rod along. You never know when you are going to hook into a big catfish and these are a powerful fish that have been known to snap fishing line, straighten hooks, and even break fishing poles right in half.
Maybe that is another reason why anglers enjoy chasing those whisker fish. The current state record blue catfish came out of the Ohio River just last year and weighed in at just over 49 pounds. Can you imagine what a fight that would be?
While blue cats are found in the bigger rivers of the state, the channel and flathead catfish are the most widespread in the state. You are likely to catch one of these catfish in just about any size water body all over the state. They do equally well in rivers and lakes and are always willing to bite a tasty morsel of food dangled in front of them.
Catfish have even been known to take artificial baits and lures if the time is right and the bait happens by. I have heard of people catching catfish on everything from rooster tails and trout magnets to curly tail jig and 6” musky lures. These cats are big eaters and aren’t afraid to prove it.
If you plan a fishing trip for catfish I would stick with more traditional baits to up the odds of success though. There are too many manufactured baits to list, but most dedicated catfish anglers say that the stinkier the better. Catfish have a keen sense of smell and can find those baits in the depths of the river and lakes where they like to hide.
There are plenty of other choices out there, too. Many people like to use chicken chunks soaked in Kool Aid, chicken livers (preferably left out to get rank), dough balls, shrimp, fresh cut bait fish, and the gold standard…a big ‘ole nightcrawler.
Catfish bait isn’t hard to come by if you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty. Once you have some good bait, all you need to do is find a nice deep pool, large log jam, or a good piece of structure on the lake and cast your line.
Once you have found that perfect spot, dip your bait in the water and sit back and relax until that big cat takes the bait. Hopefully, you won’t have to wait long.
As if there weren’t enough great places to fish, the WVDNR stocks many lakes around the state this time of year with catchable size catfish. Rumor has it that Chief Logan Pond has already been stocked with catfish this year as well as Berwind Lake in McDowell County and Meadow Wood Park near Tornado along the Coal River.
Don’t just fish the ponds either. The Guyandotte, the Tug Fork, and the Coal River watersheds are all great catfish destinations. Big cats are everywhere.
So, as the summer heat picks up and the streams warm up, grab your can of worms and head out to the river bank. You never know what you will catch. The odds are in your favor that the tug you feel on the end of the line might be a whiskered-up face of a catfish of untold proportions.