Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Steamy Nights & Stink Bait

The thick sticky nights of summer have arrived. It is the perfect time for a quality-time evening fishing trip. Nothing is on TV and the muggy air makes it too hot to sleep. Gather up some family or friends and take advantage of one of our most under-utilized game fish. There is a fishable population of channel catfish near you, no matter where you reside. They do not require specialized equipment or hard to find bait. The smaller fish that you catch make fine table-fare.

Channel catfish live in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from clear, swiftly flowing streams to sluggish rivers, reservoirs and ponds. Natural reproduction occurs in rivers and larger reservoirs. Smaller ponds usually need to be stocked on a regular basis to maintain fishable populations. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources stocks many West Virginia impoundments with catchable size channel cats during the month of May. Some of the bodies of water receiving stockings in 2009 were Cedar Creek State Park Lake, Conway Run Lake, French Creek Pond, North Bend State Park Lake and Watoga State Park Lake. These fish will provide fishing throughout the summer.

Channel catfish are omnivores and feed on a wide variety of food items. Young fish feed on aquatic insects and zooplankton. Larger fish feed on insects, crayfish and minnows. Big fish over sixteen inches are predatory and eat fish. The preferred feeding water temperature ranges between 75 and 85 degrees. A wide variety of baits can be utilized during an evening of cat fishing. Night crawlers, chicken livers, hot dogs, live minnows and cut-baits are all used successfully. Commercially made stink-baits are extremely popular. They are usually concoctions of smelly cheese and chicken blood, used with some type of specialized bait holder made of sponge or hollow tubes. These baits are the most popular when in pursuit of eating sized fish, under sixteen inches. Remember, big fish eat meat. The WV state record channel catfish was 40.3 inches long and weighed 33.42 pounds. It was caught in Patterson Creek, in 2005.

You do not need fancy gear to enjoy an evening of fishing. It is the basic hook, line and sinker deal. I do prefer to use circle hooks when bait fishing. This hook type sets in the corner of a fish’s mouth, making it easier to release larger fish to reproduce and keep your fishery alive. You do not need to set the hook with circle hooks. The hook is set by the fish exerting pressure on a tight line. One high-tech device you will need is the classic forked stick rod holder. A light source, cooler, folding chair, stringer and bug spray will pretty much take care of your equipment needs.

The channel catfish is a member of the Ictaluridae family, which includes at least 45 species. If you don’t have channel cats near you, you probably have flatheads, blue catfish or bullheads. The lazy days and nights of summer are made for cat fishing under the shade trees or by the lantern’s light. It is quite enjoyable sitting there with nothing to do except watch for the twitch of the rod tip. What has become of simplicity?

This Article First Appeared in Two-Lane Livin
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