Monday, April 25, 2011

An Easter Sunday Catfish Bonanza - April 24, 2011

I wasn't planning on hitting the water this past Sunday, but Mary May convinced me otherwise. Not long after we got up, she mentioned wanting to do some catfishing. I had a couple small tubs of chicken livers in the freezer, so I figured why not. After all, it was Easter, and what better way to spend it than in the great outdoors.

After getting our rods set-up we hit the lake. I am by no means a catfish expert, but I will tell you the rig I like to use. I typically use a 1/2 oz to 1 1/2 oz sinker (either barrel or bullet shaped) above a swivel, just like a carolina rig. Then I leave 18"-24" of line and tie on a decent size hook - somewhere in the 2/0 to 4/0 range. I tend to use circle hooks to help prevent the fish from swallowing the hook. Unless I am chasing really big cats, I just rig everything on bass gear with 8lb to 16 lb test.

We hit the lake and found the wind to be swirling. It wasn't as strong as our last trip, but it kept changing directions, which made it difficult to set-up drifts. In our first spot I caught a decent 2-3 lb mud cat. But the wind was getting on our nerves, so we headed across the lake to a small cove with a wind swept point nearby.

We got set-up in the cove and threw toward the wind blown point. Within minutes - bam - fish on. It was a solid channel cat. On my next cast I thought I saw a small bite and all of a sudden saw my line scream sideways. It was a big cat who was pulling drag. After a great fight that gave me a mini-sleigh ride I got him to the boat. Honestly, I am not 100% sure what type of catfish it was, although I believe it was a blue cat, but he was a beast!

For the next few hours we caught catfish after catfish. Some were small, but most were at least decent size. A mix of channels and mud cats, they kept us busy. We had quite a few "doubles" and a few "triples". And although we were releasing a lot of fish, we put a few on the stringer as well. Finally, I got another good strike. This fish absolutely clobbered my liver and took off - pulling my Coosa with it. I brought her to boatside and saw her monster head. After a brief struggle to lip her, I got her in the boat. Her jaw force was amazing as she clamped down on my already sore thumb. Thankfully I held onto her and got a few pictures.

Next, Mary May set-up on a point and saw her line take off. It seems like the big cats were hitting and running. He rod was doubled over and drag was peeling. Then the fish turned and ran hard under the boat. In an effort to stop it, she cranked down hard on the reel. With little line out the line rubbed on the kayak and in a frantic effort to land the fish her line snapped. The fish lie there for a few seconds, obviously tired, and she got a quick grab of his tail. Unfortunately, that was all he needed to return to the depths. We estimated the fish in the 12-15 lb class. It was an absolutely heart breaking moment as it would have been her biggest fish ever. It also marked the second time this year that she lost a giant fish.

At the point we were pretty much out of livers and were about as sunburnt as we cared to be. So, we headed for the shore with thoughts of the one that got away, but also the nice fish on our stringers.

It was a great Easter and the fish made for a tasty Easter dinner, albeit a very southern Easter dinner. Mary May also got a lesson in filleting and cleaning fish - a skill that she picked up pretty quickly.

I know we are both eager to get out on the lake and chase down some more cats - and maybe a giant or two. I think I may do some reading on how to catch bigger catfish, because I suspect some larger ones live in this lake. Not to mention I am sure most experienced catfishermen reading this blog are laughing at my definition of "big catfish" right now. Next time some cut bait and baby bream may be along for the ride! Until then, tight lines!