The secrets are out!!

THIS IS HOW YOU CATCH CATFISH!!

Going for huge catfish is like going on a lion or hyena hunt in the African bush, as catfish are on top of the food chain in our waters where there are no crocodiles. To outwit them, you need to know where they hang out, what would attract them closer and what ammunition to use.

Article and photos by: Joe Lategan

1.Bottom bumping

Note: A “catfish” is not a “barbell”


LOCATION
Should you wish to catch lots of Catfish and at the same time locate the odd big one, you will have to learn to go to where the fish are, especially during the day. To achieve this you need to use a boat with an echo sounder and a trolling motor in order to locate the deepest holes in the main river channel.  The boat can be a large canoe and not necessarily a huge bass type boat. I prefer the inflatable type with a small outboard and a trolling motor, but remember to use the outboard as little as possible. Large holes will always produce catfish, although they might move from one hole to the other, during the day. At night they hunt more actively so they leave the wholes they rest in during the day. The only difference is when the bait during the day are more plentiful, such as in spring when little birds fall out of the nests as they wrestle for the best spot in the nests.
I have experienced over the years that specific holes will always hold the largest cats, but catching in the same hole for too long will chase them off. Such holes are precious and must be kept secret, as I will never forget the damage that was done when I disclosed one of the locations of Southern Africa’s best catfishing spots in a local magazine a few years ago. Such destruction of Catfish occurred that for two to three years after the magazine article appeared I could not locate catfish for kilometres down river or up stream from the immediate area that I exposed, underestimating the destructive characters of many anglers. Catfish are not without reason the most successful freshwater species in the world. They are intelligent and will avoid spots of continuous predation.
Anyway, back to catching in the holes.

TECHNIQUE

In our large rivers, holes between 10 and 20 meters deep are normally located just off the side of the main stream that leads into the main current. Should these be hugged by natural overgrowth and reeds, you’ve hit the jackpot. Another favourite is behind large boulders that create eddy holes at the back of them. Remember the stronger the current, the larger the eddy hole behind the eddy. In our medium size rivers you must make an effort to locate the deepest holes.
Drift your boat down stream with the front or trolling motor facing up against the current. The trolling motor is in other words only slowing down the drift of the boat in a strong current. This will allow your main line to be as vertical as possible to present the bait at different levels. In a  weak current, the trolling motor should not be necessary, but you will need to at some stage stabilize the boat in any case with the trolling motor, oars, or water-shoot of some kind.

Use your echo sounder to locate the catfish, and then bounce the bait on the bottom as you drift into a hole, through a hole, and out the other side. As you will see throughout the series, the echo locater is probably the most important piece of equipment for professional catfishermen throughout the world. In America alone there are approximately 4 million serious catfishermen. We shall in a later issue discuss catfishing in the United States.
Don’t waste time to drop your bait if the echo sounder does not indicate that there are fish in the hole. If you fish in an area where you have previously marked (on GPS) all the holes, you can move from hole to hole the entire day, as they move between these holes.
In dams, the holes with a slight current can be much shallower. (We shall cover dam-fishing in a later issue using with the same method.)


WHEN THIS TECHNIQUE IS MOST SUCCESSFUL
Winter, Mid-day in summer, during the day on extremely hot summer days.

EQUIPMENT

Depending on the size of cats in your area, catfish rods to suite all conditions would not be difficult to pick up if you are familiar to the requirements of a good catfishing rod, even though they were not manufactured for catfish specifically. Specifically manufactured rods for catfishing are relatively unknown in South Africa, as I can count on my one-hand the catfish anglers that fish with specialized catfish rods. As a matter of fact I do not know many specialist catfishermen in South Africa, although fishing exclusively for catfish increased 10 fold over the last 4 years.
Quantum’s range of “Big-cat” catfish rods with the very balanced “Quantum Blue Runner BRT30XL” reel is great, and my favourite combination. It holds approximately 500 meters of 50 pound braid for those out of range spots where the catfish lay away from the camp spot.
Berkley’s range of “E-Cat” catfish rods are huge favourites in the States, and with these I have caught some huge cats. It however lacks a matching reel such as the Quantum combination mentioned. Or should I say I have not seen one to my liking.  
If there are no very large cats in your waters, you could of course use any make of lighter rod. Just make sure that the fish can be landed without allowing it to break you up, because it got tangled around some obstacle with a ton of line and lead wrapped around it. This will ultimately result in the fish dying a slow death. Bear in mind that years of experience went into the research and ultimate design of specifically manufactured catfish rods, to ensure they maximise the pleasure of the fight with the cat and reducing the possibilities of break ups.

MAIN LINE
There is no substitute for braid line when it comes to catfishing due to various reasons we shall discuss later. Spool your catfish rods with matched strength line. If you have a 20-40 pound rod, spool it with matched line strength. I prefer 20 pound braid as minimum for areas with cats in the max range of 10-15 kilos. Most of my reels are spooled with 50-pound braid and even 80 pound where we go for the real big “sharptooth” brothers and/or “Vundu”.

HOOKS
For a lighter catfish rod and reel an eagle claw hook or large circle hook works best. It might even be best for all conditions, but I am reluctant to change over to circles in totality, as I must still build up confidence in using the large circles hooks for 80-pound line. According to American professionals the circle hooks have a 98% success rate.

BOTTOM BUMPING RIGS THAT WORK
Most of our local anglers competing in competitions drag or drift “platties”, chicks, chicks injected with blood, or other baits blindly, also from boats on, or close to the bottom when attempting to catch cats. (Not seeking holes or using the echo sounder to specifically find individual fish or schools.) Note that it is unnecessary and illegal to use mammal blood and I have proved years ago that there are better attractants and stimulators than blood and much better bait than chicks or birds. As anglers we rate as the top destroyers of indigenous fish and water biosphere. These are but some examples where we introduce unwanted diseases into our waters driven by our desire to “over power” others by winning a competition. Further more we allow anglers to fish with 4 kilo line only. I would like to know how many large catfish and other fish for that matter have broken anglers off due to this rule? Because this method of fishing are close encounters I would advise all anglers to fish with at least 40 pound main line.
This is my rig I copied from the yanks years ago. I tie the main line to a three way swivel and attach two foot-long pieces of Berkley big game 40 pound test to the second. On the third eye of the swivel, I tie 18 inch of 40 pound test big game line and a hook to the end of the leader line. On one of the eyes I attach an 18 inch leader line with 4/0 circle hook. To the remaining eye I tie a 1 foot piece of 40-pound leader with a lead sinker on the bottom of this line. The size of the sinker will be determined by the strength of the current.

BAIT

For this rig there is no replacement for chicken livers. Chicken giblets, to assist in securing the chicken livers to the hook are rather effective. On their own, chicken giblets could also be used very successfully. They can also be filled with your favourite paste and frozen for later use. Catfish pastes to your liking with good attractants such as “monster crab” or “lipped mussel” concentrate work well.

ART LURE
The bait can be replaced with rattling jigs on its own, or with small pieces with fish or paste. More in the next article.
 
SAFETY TIPS:
Catching catfish for the whole day is likely to cause skin lacerations, especially catching the larger ones, as during the unhooking you will have to enter its mouth at some stage. Thin leather gloves can be worn, but one cannot get a good enough grip to subdue a cat with these gloves, so I still prefer bare hands when handling them. When a large catfish of more than 25 kilos are pulled into a boat, serious chaos can erupt, and even worse when a 35 kilogram catch and above is hauled onto the boat. A situation of this kind calls for everyone onboard to thoroughly know his or her chores. The sideways lashing of a large catfish’s head with a hook in the side of its mouth can snap the leg of a fully grown man like a twig, not to mention what it could do to all the rods and other equipment lying around unsecured. More so the dorsal fin is as dangerous as a dagger should one step or jump on it to stop the fish from hopping around. Make sure there are no open fuel containers nearby.
When the skin is damaged it allows bacteria to enter the body much quicker and swollen hands are a given when serious catfish hunting takes place. I normally pack a bag of surgical gloves to handle bait and other potentially contaminated food stuffs, as well as when I handle fuel of any kind whether for the boat, lamps or cookers. Antiseptic ointment should be applied to the smallest scratches after a days fishing, and preferably covered with plaster at least. Also bear in mind that when a catfish is landed by grabbing it in the mouth or bottom lip, care must be taken as the hook would normally be set in one corner of the mouth. Should the cat then decide to start shaking its head, a real possibility exists for the hook to be implanted into your hand.
When taking bait out in a boat for another angler, it is extremely important to have an experienced angler holding the rod on the bank, as any sudden jerk or lapse in concentration by the person holding the rod can set the hook into the person holding the bait’s body in the boat.



 (All images on these pages were captured by our own photographers) 

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