Yes, big catfish come out in autumn in Washington, DC. I think.

IMG_20171104_081514539On October 1, I wondered aloud on this blog if big catfish come out in cool weather. Last year, I had my personal best on a sunny October day: a 37-pound catfish.

The answer is “yes,” although it is complicated by an additional variable. In the past 6 weeks, I have caught catfish weighing 40 pounds, 21 pounds, and I don’t know how many in the 10- to 15-pound range.

Case proven, right? Well, yes, but I also switched from fishing in the morning to fishing in the evening, usually between 8pm and 11am, although I did stay out until 1am one night. Catfish feed at all times of the day, but especially at night. And, it might also be the case that large catfish feed nocturnally more often. Regardless, for sure autumn is not a time to put away your catfishing rods.

All these big beasts were blue catfish, not channels, and they hit on both my stink chicken bait and on cuts of blue catfish meat.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. Perhaps the weather will permit me to slip out in the morning and head to the river to chase a side dish!

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How to Make a Super Tough and Very Effective Santee Rig for Catfishing


Santee rigs are terrific for catching catfish. They keept the bait off the bottom, and when built with a swivel clip they permit the bait to move and turn gently in current. Retailers sell Santee rigs, and you can also make them with monofilament. Which is what I did for a while.

But making a Santee rig with steel wire offers serious advantages: (1) steel line is super strong; (2) the vinyl coating means it is easy to clean; and (3) steel line does not develop memory (twists/bends) or fray like monofilament, nor does it tangle around underwater structure (like branches).

I should add that using a heavy swivel at the end of this means you can easily swap out hooks, depending on the size of catfish you are chasing.

The components are very inexpensive and they all can be bought on Amazon:

As I note in the video, please watch a video on how to crimp properly if you are not experienced at crimping. It is easy to learn, but do it wrong and your crimp will fail—which means your rig will fail.

Once you get the handle of making one of these rigs, you can knock them out in 3 to 5 minutes. And if you want to pimp your rig a bit, consider adding plastic beads on both sides of the peg float. They can add a rattling sound that may draw more catfish.

By the way, if you are new to catfishing—yes, you DO need to use a weight to get this rig to the bottom. So, on your rod line attach a slider-clip above heavy swivel-clip (same as the one above). Clip a 2- or 3-ounce sinker (pyramid or disc) to the slider.

Voila—you are done. Bait the big hook with cut bluegill, shad, or blue catfish (the bloodier the better) or stinky chicken bait.

How to Turn a Cooler Into an Awesome Rod Holder and Bait and Fish Keeper


So, my previous post crowed about the bucket rod holder contraption I built for $20.

This rod holder is a little more pricy, but it is terrific, not least because it has the extra advantage of being something you can keep the fish you catch in. Additionally, this Coleman cooler also has measurements on the top, so you can lay your fish on it to assess the length.

All told, this cost me about $75, although one can buy a smaller, cheaper cooler, or get one used from someone on Craig’s List or somesuch. The pieces are:

  • 100-quart Coleman cooler with wheels (buy here)
  • Brocraft rod holders (buy here)

The Brocraft rod holders come with the installation screws, which you can drill straight into the cooler (no need to drill holes first: the cooler’s plastic will give way to the screw tips.)

As with the bucket, when you get to your fishing spot you must fill the cooler. You can use a bucket to fill it one-third to half-way full, or you can use a little pump and battery. A pump also can aerate the water in the cooler, which will keep your baitfish and catches alive. (Yes, this is a simple livewell, one you also can use on your boat.)

 

How to Make a Great Rod Holder Bucket for Fishing for Catfish, Carp, and More for $20


Raise your hand if you ever have set a rod down and had a fish hit and pull it into the water?

This has happened to me, and it is a real (reel?) drag. (Oh, the puns.) I have had catfish and carp both yank rods into the depths, never to be seen again.

This rod holder bucket is the solution to that problem, and can be made for about $20 in 30 minutes.

The materials are:

  • 1 5-gallon plastic bucket;
  • 3 nuts/bolts/washers (3/8″ or so);
  • 2 24-inch pieces of 1.5-inch by 3.5-inch wood; and
  • 4 large close line hooks (Bring your fattest rod to the hardware store to ensure you buy a large enough hook)

Drill holes in one piece of lumber that are the same size as your bolts; drill holes in the bucket aligned with the holes you just drilled in the lumber; etc. Watch the video: this simple contraption is pretty self-explanatory.

I love this rod holder. When you go to fish on a dock or next to a river or lake, you bring the bucket (with your bait and rigs inside). When you pick your spot, you take your stuff out of the bucket, and dip the bucket into the water to fill it. Voila: you have about 40 pounds of weight, which will keep your rods secure. (Note, the bucket should face the water, not the lumber cross.)

Give it a try, and let me know how you like it! This bucket last weekend helped me land a 40-pound blue catfish.

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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