Fishing for catfish evokes memoriesWritten by Lew Horn | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I ran into an old friend quite unexpectedly last summer. His name is Ictalurus Punctatus a.k.a. the channel catfish.
We had been invited to the home of some friends in Sylvania for a 4th of July party, and since they lived on a small pond, Don suggested I bring some fishing gear. Expecting some small bluegill and bass, I threw in my ultralite outfit and a small tackle box.
Sure enough, everyone was trying for bluegill. We caught a few small ones, when I noticed a nice swirl next to shore. “Probably a catfish,” Don said. “There are a ton of them in here.”
I reeled in my line, removed the bobber, attached a sinker to the line and pitched it back out. In a few minutes, the line began to tighten. I set the hook into a small channel cat of about 12 inches. On the ultralite gear, he gave a good account. I landed three more, the biggest a respectable 16 inches.
I had not fished for catfish intentionally for many years, and these fish brought about a flood of memories from my youth.
I grew up along Swan Creek in Newport, Mich. As a kid my buddies and I fished it whenever possible, and the biggest prize was a channel cat. The muddy waters yielded plenty of bullheads, carp and some sunfish, but we always hoped for a big cat.
Our gear was simple, a fiberglass or steel rod with a Pflueger level wind reel loaded with 20- pound test braided line. We tied on a bell sinker, attached a pair of snelled hooks baited with a gob of night crawler, then pitched the whole thing as far out as we could. We propped the rod in a forked stick and waited for a bite.
If the rod jiggled and bounced a bit, the fish was probably a bullhead. But if the line went out hard, pulling the rod out of the holder and making the clicker “sing,” you could bet a channel cat had taken the bait.
We weren’t much for finesse, reeling in as fast as possible, but sometimes you just had to let the fish run a bit. Those old reels didn’t have any drag to speak of, so a thumb on the spool had to do.
Our favorite time to fish was at night. We had a special spot called “the point.” It had access to a little deeper water, and the creek widened to a couple hundred yards as it neared the end of its journey to Lake Erie.
After dark, we’d build a campfire and put the lines out. The fish always seemed bigger in the firelight, and there we learned to tell stories, an important part of every angler’s repertoire.
And the cat fishing spawned other activities. We made sinkers in my dad’s garage, pouring the hot lead from melted wheel weights into a cast iron mold.
After a warm summer rain, we spent evenings looking for night crawlers with a flashlight and soup can. We never imagined anglers would someday pay $2.50 a dozen for crawlers. If we sold our excess, it was for 25 cents a dozen and we were amazed anyone would pay us for doing something so much fun.
Somehow, over the years, I got away from catfishing. Bass, pike and walleye were a lot more glamorous. But occasionally I would hook into a catfish while fishing for other species, and I was always impressed with their dogged runs. A nice cat will put a walleye to shame, and while they don’t jump, their runs are every bit the equal of pike and bass of a similar size.
So this summer I plan to get out at least once and go after catfish on purpose. After all, once you are reacquainted with an old friend, you have to keep in touch!
E-mail Lew Horn at email@example.com.