Fishin’ with Capt. Gus
Capt. Gus Gustafson is an outdoor columnist and a full-time professional fishing guide.
Visit www.FishingWithGus.com or call 704-617-6812 for more information or to book a trip.
CAPT. GUS GUSTAFSON
There are lots of myths about catfish in area lakes. Probably the biggest, is the one about scuba divers reportedly seeing catfish the size of submarines swimming at the base of whatever dam forms the lake in question. That’s funny, because no matter where one fishes, the locals tell a similar tale. The fact is, big cats are caught around the dam, but as a rule, the largest ones are taken from the tailrace where the water flows out below the dam.
A second myth, and one that scares off a lot of people, is that the whiskers on the chin of a catfish have stingers. Barbels, as they are called, are used to taste and smell objects before being ingested. They are not stingers. It is the pectoral (side fins) and dorsal fins (top fin) that do the stinging with their barbed and very sharp spines.
Myth number three is that catfish are bottom feeders. Yes, catfish are primarily bottom feeders, but they forage throughout the water column as conditions dictate.
Jug fishermen know that catfish have a keen sense of smell and will travel a long way for a meal. Therefore, they attach a rather short six to ten-foot line between the jug and hook, even when fishing in deep water.
Those who regularly feed bread and dog food to fish around their boat dock will see catfish, carp and sunfish eating pieces off the surface. So, like others who fish the entire water column, savvy cat fishermen will suspend a few baits off the bottom as well.
Everyone has heard the expression, “Big baits, big fish.” Well, Catfish Guide Mac Byrum uses small baits a great deal of the time, particularly in the winter when the metabolism of the fish slows, and it takes longer to digest food. He generally uses thumbnail size pieces of cut-bait and chicken parts. As the water warms in the spring, he uses baits the size of quarters and fifty cent pieces.
Catfish will not hit a line with slime on it! True or false? Mac’s experience tells him that it doesn’t seem to matter if catfish slime is left on the line or not. The real truth is that it might be a bigger detractor to the fishermen, than the fish.
According to Mac, it’s also a myth that flathead catfish only eat live bait. He says that fish heads (bream and perch) account for the majority of the flatheads he catches. As for me, metal jigging spoons have produced more trophy flatheads than any other bait.
Another myth is that fishing for catfish is better at night! It is true that lots of catfish are caught after dark, but they bite really well during the daylight hours too.
Tip from Capt. Gus:
Garnish catfish baits with the scent of garlic, licorice, shrimp and shad. Blues and channel cats can’t resist the aromas.
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