Does October Bring Big Catfish?


In late August and early September, I caught mostly smaller catfish. My hypothesis was that the fish of breeding age had gone off food to focus on baby-making, leaving the pipsqueaks to hit my baits. I’d put four or five rods out, get hits every 10 minutes, and bag a dozen fish in two or three hours. But only one or two of the catfish would be more than 20 inches or more than 1.5 pounds.

Come late September, the hits were less frequent, and when they came they were big, slow rod benders, bearing 3- to 5-pound fish. And on the first day of October, well, I hauled up a 21-pounder that was 38 inches long. The other five catfish featured a couple of two-pounders, a two three-pounders, and a pipsqueak that jumped on the corn bait I put out for  carp. (I did land a small carp in the shallows between the dock and the shore.)

Last October, I set my personal best at Fletcher Cove—a 37-pound blue catfish. I hauled him in maybe 20 minutes after I brought up a similarly sized beast that snapped my rig at the edge of the boat (ARG!) when I stupidly failed to deploy a net.

So, maybe after a few weeks of sweet loving and little eating, the big catfish emerge from their lairs hungry?

Thirty days remain in October, so we shall see if the days bring more big fish.

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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.

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

Catfishing Near Reagan National Airport, February 6, 2017


Near where Four Mile Run feeds into the Potomac and just south of the airport is a place to catch catfish, according to Elstan Perez and Luke of Catfish & Carp. Both these guys were fishing this spot in December 2016 and January 2017 when the weather appeared to be in the 40s. (Elstan tells me it was mid-50s when he was there.)

Elstan used cut yellow perch; Luke used a carp rig with panko-jello-corn pack bait and frozen cut shad on a 4/0 hook.

Where to park? Elstan writes: “parking cost me $17 Long term economy parking [at Reagan airport]. You can find parking across the bridge at the grocery store or somewhere nearby for free if you didn’t want to walk half a mile or more.” And he bought two perch for $2.50 at Fresh World market.

So I gave it a whirl, and you can get full details here. Yes, I got a catfish, and you can see the video of it here.

Two pieces of advice: consider parking at Potomac Yards Shopping Center for free. And do bring some sort of stakes to prop up your fishing pole, as the stream’s shore is a mix of long grass and rocks held under wiring.

Reeling in a Channel Catfish (2 min 32 seconds)

Bluegills, Bass, and Catfish at Four Mile Run, February 6, 2017


This is urban fishing, for sure. Upfront I should say that this is not an easy place to fish for anyone who is not in decent condition. To fish Four Mile Run stream (history here) requires keeping one’s balance on a slope made of rocks and covered with metal fence-like material. It is slippery, and there is plenty of brush and such.

But the hassles are worth it. Four Mile Run stream offers lights-out fishing. There are tons of bluegills (easily taken on a size 6 snell, bobber, and worm) and large-mouth bass (I scored mine of a pumpkin green Senko worm Texas-rigged. Cast, let it drop for a few seconds, and slow reel in.) The bass range from pipsqueaks (6 inches) to hogs (7 pounds). Guys fishing drop-shot rigs with Senko and Zoom worms tend to do very well here. One inevitable challenge around this bridge is snags—they happen a lot.

Bluegill and bass are plentiful near and under the Jefferson Davis Highway bridge (south side of the stream).

Kosar bluegill 02-0602017.jpg

Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar.

To chase catfish, walk eastward all the way to where the creek meets the Potomac River (map here). I put out four lines today with fresh cut bluegill. I had two serious bites in two hours, and one produced a 10-pound channel catfish. It was a sizable one, but there are much bigger ones in there—forty to fifty pounders have been recorded by guys on FishBrain. The water level rises and falls, but fishing seems to be good here whatever the tide.

You can park in the Potomac Yards parking lot, which puts you a few minute walk from entry to the stream edge next to Jack Taylor Alexandria Toyota. Yes, you could get towed from the shopping center lot, in theory, but I have staved off this threat thus far by buying drinks and snacks from Shoppers and leaving the receipt and shoppers plastic bag on my dashboard.

kosar-channel-catfish-02-06-2017

Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar.

2/7/2017 Update

Turns out the same day I was here, the Metropolitan Angler was landing small bass with a Rapala hard bait. You can see him do it in this video, and you can watch me pull in this catfish.

Catfishing on the Potomac River Near the Watergate, January 29, 2017

catfishing-near-the-watergate-01-29-2017Metropolitan Angler, who posts videos on YouTube, fishes here. He brought in at least two blue catfish that were 24 inches or more on January 20, 2017. (The temperature that day was about 45 degrees.)

So I decided to give it a try on January 29, 2017. I am very glad I went.

It was 45 degrees and overcast, and the tide was very low. One can park at Thompson’s boathouse (there are meters) or on Virginia Ave NW. One walks on the sidewalk through the intersection of Rock Creek Parkway and Virginia Ave NW toward the Watergate and Kennedy Center—the spot is only a couple hundred feet past the intersection.

My expectations were low, but I had a good hour of fishing. I rigged four rods: 2 steel helicopter rigs that each had two 4/0 circle hooks baited with thawed cut sunfish and a 3-ounce pyramid sinker. The other two rods had my standard catfish rig with an 8/0 circle hook rig baited with Surgitube bag jammed with chicken liver and a 3-ounce flat sinker.

In short, both rigs and baits proved attractive to catfish. We were there only one hour but caught an approximately 12-pound blue catfish (on the sunfish) and had bites (on the sunfish and the chicken livers twice).

Be careful—there is no rail and the drop to the water is at least 10 feet if not more (when the tide is out). This is no place for toddlers or young kids.

And forget bringing a net, unless it has an unbelievably long handle. The water is way beneath your feet, so best to use very heavy line (25-pound or more) because hauling a thrashing catfish up through the air puts huge strain on your line.