Answered: What Gear and Bait Do I Need to Catch Catfish?

People have caught catfish with the most minimal of materials. Heavy thread tied to a hook and milk jug.  A stick with fishing line tied to it and a hook with a live shad on it. Most crazily, noodlers crawl into the water and use their fingers to attract bites.

For those who do not wish to go old school, however, the choices can be dizzying. So many reels, rods, rigs, and baits are used to catch Mr. Whiskers. What to buy?

When you are just getting started, I believe in keeping it simple (not tricky gear or knots) while using effective (but not crazy pricey) equipment is the right approach.

Go with a spincast reel and mid-sized rod that will work from the shore or a boat (an 8-foot rod in a small boat is a hassle), and use a Santee rig to bottom fish while keeping the bait a little off the floor and hopefully out of snags.

So here is my list of the stuff you should buy:

Optional
1. Stringer: http://amzn.to/2eWVLHg (so you can keep fish)
2. Small fishing bag: http://amzn.to/2xpera7 (nice for carrying your equipment)

Necessary
1. Bag of bells: http://amzn.to/2wT8noT (so you can hear the bites when they come)
2. Needlenose plyers: http://amzn.to/2gV1ev5 (so you can get the hook from the fish’s mouth)
3. Clippers: http://amzn.to/2jeHxCN (to cut line)
4. Heavy swivel-clips: http://amzn.to/2wT1t2R (to clip your Santee rig to)
5. Circle hooks 4/0: http://amzn.to/2wSMqGg (for 12″-18″ catfish) or Circle hooks 6/0: http://amzn.to/2vO6HKm (for 19″-36″ catfish) Alternatively, this packet of varying sized circle hooks is a good deal: http://amzn.to/2f5twWH
6. 2-oz round, flat sinkers: http://amzn.to/2gWq2mn (tied above the swivel via a Palomar knot)
7. 20-lb braided line: http://amzn.to/2xp9FcI (braid is easier to tie than plasticky monofilament)
8. Rod, 6-foot and medium weight: http://amzn.to/2xYIYIP (those chasing smaller catfish will better feel the hits and land them with a medium weight rod)
9. A wide-mouthed net: http://amzn.to/2h36fBO (For bringing the fish into the boat or onto the dock or shore. Don’t try to jerk them up by the line—they can snap your rigs off!)
10. Santee rigs (red; 3 boxes): http://whiskerseeker.com/catfish-rig-floats-wst-rattlers/

Oh, and a cheap, excellent bait is a stinky chicken bait. You can see my recipe for it below.
Advertisements

Fishing Diamond Teague Park In Washington, DC

Kosar channel catfish 09-03-2017One word: catfish! Well, o.k., you can also snag bass, crappie, and bluegill at Diamond Teague Park. But I come for the catfishing.

Diamond Teague Park’s is located right behind the Washington Nationals’ stadium. It is open dawn until dusk.

Folks can rent kayaks and canoes there, and do. I inevitably fish from the dock, and not once have I been skunked in the 20 or so visits. Which is why I love the place. The view of the Anacostia and southern DC also is grand, and there are bars and eateries within walking distance.

Often the catfish are small: 12-16 inches, so do bring 4/0 circle hooks in case your 6/0 hooks are getting hits but not hook-ups. But bigger fish also can be had. Today, we had three cats 24-28″ in a 10-minute span. I used this Santee rig and this chicken stink bait. I twice have experimented here with fishing for catfish with a big slide bobber—it worked, although not as well as bottom-fishing with Santee rigs.

Buh-bye to Chicken Livers: Or How to Make Cheap, Effective, and Durable Catfish Bait


I have gone through a lot of tubs of chicken livers over the past few years. They are an effective catfish bait. And at $2 for a small tub at the grocery store, well, who is to complain.

But, I am moving past chicken livers. Their biggest problem is that fish can tear them off easily. Oh, sure, there are various ways to keep them on hook. Atlas Mike’s Miracle Thread is best solution, because all you need do is wrap this elastic thread around the hooked liver. Easy-peasy, and it keeps the liver on longer while putting no barriers between the bait and the fish. I tried the egg loop knot, curing the livers into leathery medallions, and various other tricks. None of these worked great for me. Drying the livers made them less appealing to catfish. Putting the bait in little Surgitube bags and the like also weakened the bait’s draw, and was time-consuming.

Certainly, whenever I can catch bluegill or other baitfish, I’ll use those to chase catfish. But I do not have an easy source for bluegill nearby, and I’m not quite fish-crazy enough to establish a bluegill fish tank in my home.

So, my new go-to bargain bait is cheap chicken meat. You can get nearly expired thighs or breast boneless meat for a couple bucks a pound. Combine it with garlic powder (also cheap) and cherry or berry Kool-Aid (get a container of the generic version) and a bit of water in a Ziplock bag, and voila. You have a bait that brings in blue catfish and channel catfish. It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, and keeps in the fridge for at least a week. No cooking of complex work is required. Just be sure to cut it into chunks appropriately sized for the hooks you are using. And if you have some old hot dogs, you can chop those into chunks and pitch those in the marinade.

This bait has not failed me, and I learned about it from an excellent catfisherman at Fletcher’s Cove in Washington, DC. That day I watched him land one hog after another, including one more than 40 pounds. Critically, this bait does not fall apart or tear of the hook. I’ve caught a couple of catfish on the same chunk of this bait. It works and it lasts, and that’s huge.

Kosar catfish 08-05-2017

How to Tie a Santee Rig for Catfish

This rigs is easy to tie, and it reduces snags and lost rigs by keeping your bait off the bottom. (When you cast, the peg floats on this rig slide to to swivel-clip/hook combo, and lift it off the bottom.) Links below will lead you to the materials you need to build this catfish rig.

40-pound monofilament: http://amzn.to/2xFk5la
Lindy beads: http://amzn.to/2iPyrfx
Swivel: http://amzn.to/2iRmN3J
Swivel with clip: http://amzn.to/2iRCMPr
Circle hook (6/0): http://amzn.to/2x02Z4t
3-inch peg floats: http://whiskerseeker.com/catfish-peg-floats/

As I note in the video, this rig also has the advantage of allowing you to easily switch hook size while you are fishing, in case the fish are bigger or smaller than you expect. If you are getting lots of bites but not lots of hook-ups, it might be the circle hook is too big to set. So unclip the hook and pop on a new one.

The barrel swivel at the top can be either tied or hooked to a swivel-clip  on the line running to your reel. The latter is my preference, as it means I can easily remove the rig to wash and store it. (Walking to or from your fishing hole with a big rig bouncing on your rod is not good. It strains your line and sometimes snap it.)

If you do not want to tie your own Santee rig, WhiskerSeeker tackle carries them: http://whiskerseeker.com/catfish-rigs-lures-floats/

WhiskerSeekerSanteeRig.jpg

Now, you might ask: so do you use a sinker with a Santee rig? Yes, you do. The sinker can be attached to the line running to your reel (not the rig!) I prefer to clip my sinker to one of these sliders, which you install just above the swivel clip: http://amzn.to/2exPXUr You can swap different sinker sizes on with ease, depending on the current’s strength. Put a Lindy bead between the swivel-clip’s knot and the slider to protect the knot from trauma.

For those of you who have not used a slider before, one thing you need to get used to is that tightening your line after casting is different. Without a slider, you cast, let the bait and sinker sink, then close your reels’ bail and reel until the line is straight-line tight. You can’t do that here. If you try to reel taut you’ll drag your bait to the slider/sinker combination, which is not ideal. Instead, you need to reel so the line is not really slack, then close your bail.

Kosar sinker slider 09-01-2017

Catching Bluegill and Sunfish in the C&O Canal


I enjoy fishing for carp in the C&O Canal, but one needs to pass the time while waiting for the bell on the rod to ring. Sitting and staring at the carp rod for a half hour or more is a formula for madness.

So, why not cast for bluegill and sunfish, who can be taken on bobbered worms on little hooks (size 6)? These panfish are feisty little fighters, and they can be kept and used for catfish bait.

Fish I Have Caught in the C&O Canal in Washington, DC

It is the simplest of rigs: monofilament line tied to a modest swivel, then attach a trim bobber 6 inches above it and put an Eagle Claw snelled hook (size 6) on. Put a worm on (put the hook through both ends and the middle), and cast and watch.

I have had the following fish strike this rig and bait: bluegill, sunfish, large-mouth bass, channel catfish, and a carp.

The map above shows where I have had success—but don’t feel obliged to try only there. Fish run through the canal, which runs from Pennsylvania to Washington, DC. Wherever one finds a bridge or a fallen tree or brush in the water—those are good places to cast your bait.

One question I sometimes get is, “How can fish be in the canal?” Simple: the canal connects to Rock Creek and the Potomac River—so the fish in the latter two end up in the canal.

Bike/walking/running trails (former towpaths) run along the canal—so if you fish one spot and find it wanting, move along!

Kosar large-mouth bass 04-2017

Photo credit: Craig Furuta.

Shad Fishing at Fletcher’s Cove in Washington, DC on April 13, 2017

What. A. Day. I arrived at 7:30am, just 30 minutes after the tackle shop at Fletcher’s opened. every boat was rented. I was down, and considered going home.

But the sun was shining and the mercury was at maybe 55 degrees and it was a lovely morning. So I walked north past the boat dock to see if I might have some luck from the shore.

My first spot, a rocky outcropping right at the edge of the cove was a disaster. First cast I snagged and lost my two-dart rig. I seriously pondered packing it in. But with so many boats on the Potomac River and shad leaping and splashing, I had to try.

I am very glad I did. VERY.

I caught around two dozen shad from a muddy spot just south of what I call the catfishing peninsula. I had four of them in the first 25 minutes. And the fish were big. The smallest ones were 8″, but I consistently got fish 12 to 16 inches long. Below is a video of one of the whoppers. All the shad fought hard, and my line was busted three times. (I am inclined to switch super light braided line—maybe green—which will not break so easily and is much easier to tie, especially when it is sunny or windy. Or 10-pound clear monofilament will work.)

You can see from the video above that my rig was a small tri-swivel tied to my line (4-pound monofilament) and two darts (one chartreuse and one yellow), with one dart on about 22 inches of line and the other on about 16 inches.

As the video shows, you cast, then begin reeling once the darts hit. Frequently you’ll get hit in 5 seconds or less. You also might find yourself with shad on both darts, which makes reeling all the more an adventure.

Kosar Two Shad at once 04-13-2017

I wear a size 12 shoe, which shows how big these shad were. Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar.

Oh memo to the novice: shad leap from the water and thrash alot, so keep the line tight and rod bent as you reel them in, otherwise they can pop themselves off the hook. And bring a net to scoop them in—lifting them straight from the water may get you a broken line or allow the fish to leap free.

Update: Additional experiments revealed that casting single darts (chartreuse, yellow, and orange) worked just fine. Switching to orange after working chartreuse heavily got positive results. Also, in slack tide, you cast and start revealing a second or three after the cast. As current builds, you may need to count to 10 or more before you slow reel so as to to let the dart sink down.