Angling for Catfish
|Many of you reading this will be new to catfishing
and may not even have seen one before. Therefore, in this article I will
be giving you some basic ideas and a few tips on how, hopefully, to catch
your first cat. First of all let us look at the tackle you will require.
The picture on the right shows Andy with one of his cat's (shame about the hair cut!). Click for bigger picture.
My catfish rods are Sportex 12ft 2 1/2lb test curve made to my own specification by Alan Young. Unlike most recommended rods they have a semi-through action, which will allow me to cast a 3oz lead and a substantial live bait without the risk of the rod breaking. But for the beginner a through-action rod is better as they absorb the lunges from the fish, even if you have to play them hard. Most catfishing in the UK is done on small waters and in the margin with relatively small baits. The maximum you will likely to be fishing is about 50 yards so you will not need a very powerful "Casting Machine". A rod of 2lb test is ample for all but the biggest waters.
REELS: Any reel that will hold at least 200 yards of 12-15lb line will be sufficient; it will surprise you how far the catfish will run. A bait-runner facility is handy when setting up, but you will not usually be using the bait-runner during fishing. Open-bale arm is the best as it gives the least resistance to a taking fish. Make sure that the line on your reels does not bed-in, as this will cut down your casting distance and worst still may result in a dropped run as the catfish may feel the resistance. My reels are Shimano U.S.A 4500 bait runners, which I load with 15lb Power Plus and 25lb Big game (For when I'm fishing really snaggy waters!)
Hooks need to be very strong (I once lost an extremely big fish when a 0/2 Z60 Catfish hook straightened out!!), sharp, and have a wide gape. I use the Partridge Z60 Catfish Hooks in sizes 2, 0/1, 0/2, for live and dead baits. For hair-rigged baits I use the Fox series 1 in size 2. Never use Treble hooks or double hook rigs for catfish; the risk of double hooking is too great. As a catfish's mouth is soft it is likely, with these hooking arrangements, to pin both jaws together causing terrible injures Conversely, if the catfish is lost (line breakage) the fish will never be able to rid themselves of the hooks, thus dying of starvation, or suffocating, by not being able to open their mouths.
The material I use is Kryston QuickSilver in 35lb strain for most of my fishing as it has very good abrasion resistance. Inside the top and bottom jaw catfish have a row of sandpaper-like teeth, not sharp, but after a long fight they can wear down some materials. I also use a new material called Spider Wire in 40lb test. It is a braid, but very thin and supple; I use this when I am applying hair-rigged bait in waters where there are very few pike. Wire traces should never be used for catfish. Catfish have a very soft mouth and wire traces cut through them like cheese wire. Even if you have problems with Pike and Zander giving you bite offs never ever be tempted to use one; a catfish with a permanent smile and severed barbels is a horrific site.
When using hair-rigged baits the hair is formed as an extension of the
braided hooklink. I keep the hairs small and tie my bait on to it with
dental floss; the hair is used to make sure that the hook is clear from
the bait and not masked by it.
Most of my fishing is done with Dead baits of some description (because I never seem to be able to catch suitable live baits) with dead fresh-water fish my favourite; small roach and perch being the best. I also use sections of small pike with good results. When fishing with dead fish baits I normally hook them in the middle of the body or lip-hook them.
My favourite are Crucian carp and chub (Carp and Tench are meant to be good, but I can't bring myself to use them as bait) from 4-8 inches as they live long on the hook and work strongly. You must use a decent size poly ball to keep the bait working. Most people tend to use ones that are too small. I always lip hook my live baits (through the nostril) as it keeps them alive longer then tail hooking.
I also use lobworms, popped up and used in a bunch. The only downfall with this bait is that you can get problems with nuisance fish, especially in the day, thus I normally only fish this bait at night. Also strike quickly with worms as I have found that catfish tend to wolf them down, sometimes deeply.
Squid and Liver I have used a lot, but not so much now, as they are by far the commonest bait used. I believe on the harder fished venues that the cats are getting used this bait, however, I do rarely use them as hook bait. I very often fish a different bait over them, popped-up worms fished over squid seems irresistible.
Sea fish dead baits;
My favourites are sardines cut into sections and sandeels used whole. I never see people using sand eels, but they are an excellent, differently shaped bait, from what the cats are used to (except, of course, eels).
|I would like to thank David Down for allowing me to use this picture, a welcome addtion to the page. It shows David with a 30lb+ wels caught from Shatterford lakes in the West Midlands. This fish was caught on ledgered luncheon meat and was landed at 2:00 am. For more information about catfish and to see the good work David and his colleagues undertake please take a look at his Norton and Kingswinford Catfish appreciation society site.|
Catfish, not unlike many species of fish, will follow features around (gravel bars, sand bars and weed beds). This is often a good place to present bait. Catfish seem to have a set pattern to their movements too. For example in June and July they might be feeding on live-baits in the shallows and around snags. August might have them eating swan mussels and crayfish in the deeper water. September they could be feeding on snails, shrimps and dead fish in amongst the lily pads. They will follow this routine year after year with the same fish being caught from the same swim, at the same time of year, on the same bait as the year before.
These are just a few of the basic points and advice on Catfishing in
the UK with these and a little luck and perseverance you could be photographing
your first ever catfish and no doubt a lot more afterwards.
|Footnote:- Since this article was written, and
more tests have been completed on different waters, I have now come to the
conclusion that Spider wire is not an such an ideal hook length as it first
appeared. Due to the different strains of fish, and habitat, I have found
that catfish from one water might have significantly sharper teeth, then
cats from another (I think that this is mainly down to diet though). Therefore
I cannot recommend the general use of Spider Wire and suggest that one sticks
to QuickbSilver, or mono.
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