Fishing for catfish has been good from farm ponds to area streams and lakes recently. Reports from across the state reflect a lot of recent success. Fishing for catfish is mostly a bait fishing venture. They are not too fussy about what they eat. Baits include worms, cheese, cut shad, liver, frogs, minnows, crawfish and even dough balls. The riper the bait, the better it works. Cats feed mostly by odors picked up by their "whiskers" and are usually most active at night, though many good fish are taken at any time of the day.
Tackle for catfishing can range from a cane pole to bait casting gear. When going after a big blue cat, heavy tackle is best, but many cat fishermen are using lighter gear for a greater challenge. Landing a catfish is great fun when taken on light gear. Use of spinning gear has gained in popularity in recent years and adds another element to the challenge.
Catfish are not a pretty fish by any means, but are very good table fare — especially channels and blues. Most Missouri catfish anglers go after channels with flatheads and blues close behind. Many anglers cannot tell the difference in taste between the three. Blues and flatheads are among the larger members of the catfish family; blue cats can grow to more than 100 pounds. The average size of channel cats range from 1-5 pounds and their diet includes just about anything they can get their jaws around.
Channel cats have adapted very well to stocking in ponds, either alone or with bass and bluegill. Many Missouri ponds have catfish in them already and the popularity of fishing for cats has continued to increase in the past few years. To many anglers, there is no better catch than a "mess” of catfish. The fun of catching these fish, plus the joy of eating them, make them rate high with many anglers.
Last week, Mark Davis and Fred Simms spent several days fishing for catfish with good results. Davis explained, "We fished a 2-acre pond for three hours and caught seven channel cats weighing up to six pounds. The next day we fished Truman and not only caught eight channels, but also hauled in a 27-pound blue cat. It was one of the best catfishing days I have had in a while."
Fishing gets good around the Fourth of July as Dave Roberts, Clinton, knows. He caught his largest fish on June 29 last year. It was a 34 pound blue he hooked at Truman. Over the Fourth of July he added to his achievements by catching a 16 pound flathead and several channel cats in the 4-pound range. Roberts said, "I will be out again this July 4th looking for a repeat of last year."
Roberts won’t be alone. Fishing for catfish in ponds, streams or lakes is a popular sport during the big Fourth of July weekend and a great way to celebrate America’s birthday.
White, a Stockton resident, has a versatile background in sports as a participant and journalist. His column appears weekly.