How to Catch Catfish at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC

kosar-channel-catfish-tidal-basinPreviously, I wrote about fishing the Tidal Basin. The more I fish there, the more I am impressed.

There are so many fish. One can catch four types of catfish (blue, channel, flathead, and black bull), along with needlenose gar, bass (small-mouth and large-mouth), bluegill, crappie, golden redhorse, shad, perch, and stripers.

kosar-tidal-basin-fishing

Catfish Tips (including recommended bait and gear):

  1. The bite waned during the scorching temperatures in August. All I can guess is that the catfish fell into a heat-induced stupor. Conversely, the bite improved on the mornings when the temperature had suddenly dropped 10 degrees or more relative to the previous morning. (E.g., On Monday September 12, 2016 it was in the mid 60s whereas the morning before it was 75.)
  2. Once autumn’s chill hit, the catfish bit less often. Were they chilling far out in the center and deeper parts of the Basin? Beats me. Days when it was gray, breezy, and in the 50s the catfish were few. But, the catfish awoke on days when the thermometer rose above the mid-60s. Windy weather has been tough for fishing—the water flows faster, which disperses the scent of your bait and making it difficult for catfish to detect.
  3. In terms of bait, chicken livers have proven consistently successful. (Yes, cut bluegill also gets hits—but not as consistently in my Basin experience.) To keep the livers on a circle hook (size 8/0), wrap it with Atlas Mike’s Miracle Fishing Thread. Or, slip liver into Surgitube gauze before popping it on a hook. (Instructions on how to use Surgitube are in this short video.)
  4. A simple catfish rig uses 30-pound monofilament line, an 8/0 circle hook, a 3-ounce sinker, two plastic beads, and is topped with a double surgeon’s knot/loop. Here is my video showing how to make that kind of rig.
  5. The best spots I’ve found for catfishing the Basin are marked on this map with X’s.kosar-tidal-basin-catfishing-spots
  6. Parking: You can easily find free spots on Ohio Drive SW early in the morning—both before the little bridge at the southern end of the basin and past the bridge (just under the first big bridge across the Potomac).
  7. Cast a medium distance (50 feet). if you get no hits within 10 minutes, reel in and cast farther out. After 30 minutes, if you’ve not had any solid hits, then move to another spot and put out fresh bait.
  8. After you cast out and let the put your fishing pole in a hole and/or use a prop rod.
  9. Clip a bell on the end of the rod, and wait and watch. When a hit comes, the bell will jingle. Don’t touch the rod until it is bent over for a few seconds—this signals that the circle hook has penetrated the fish’s cheek.
  10. Use a long-handled net to help lift the fish out—catfish can snap your line by thrashing as you lift them out of the water. Having a net around the fish reduces the strain on your fishing line and ensures the fish does not escape even if it does break your line. (Short-handled nets, by the way, are better to use when catfishing in a boat)

As a closer, here’s a video by a great catfisherman that shows you Tidal Basin catfishing.

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