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Catfish Fishing Guide

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/26/2006 | Fishing and Boating

Catfish aren't considered to be a prime gamefish species by trophy fishermen, but they sure are great fun to catch! If you're in the game for the fun of it, and not merely for prizes and fame, then try out your hand at angling for catfish to derive hours of unmixed pleasure and enjoyment.

One important thing to observe while looking for catfish is that you need to keep the line as straight and taut as possible, because especially the larger specimens of the variety are quite subtle in their strikes and bites. If your line is wavy or loose, you'll often find you've missed your quarry by not responding at the right time.

There's no need to troll for catfish, and often it is actually counter-productive to do so. Just let your bait hang some feet above the river bed and remain stationary. In order to ensure that the line remains straight, you may need to put some weights that will descend from the baitholder to the river's bottom, in a method that is known as 'tightlining'. When the distance between the bait and the weight is accurately matched to water's depth, this method has the added advantage of keeping the bait clear of the underwater foliage that might otherwise obstruct it from the fish's view.

Using a slipweight (a bit of weight that can be repositioned along the line) in conjunction with a 'palomar' knot and a split shot can be more productive at night, specially if you're fishing close to the bank. This will effectively camouflage the bait for the fish until it finally bites.

Spawning time is a good time to hunt for catfish, but the problem is that there are several catfish varieties and not all of them spawn at the same time. You'll have to learn by experience about the spawning season for your target locality, or perhaps you could ask the local experts or marine biologists. Look for rocky structures in the water, because that is where catfish mostly like to spawn.

Chicken liver, shrimp and small minnows are traditionally accepted as good bait for catfish. Artificial lures may work, but since much catfish angling takes place at night, it's best to sue live bait. It is the scent and not the sight that will attract the fish in when it's dark. Some experts think that rotten bratwurst, left in the dark for four or five days and then dried in the open, make excellent bait for catfish, specially with some ground black pepper sprinkled on them. Well, that's certainly a heady mixture, but one size doesn't fit all in this game, and you must find out what works best for you.

A word must be added about what is perhaps the most memorable catfish location in the whole world. The Okavango delta region in Botswana, Africa, is a vast marshy region that hosts a most amazing phenomenon during the months of November and December the incredible catfish run. The fish move downstream in an attempt to reach more open waters (the delta region is drying up during these months which are the height of summer in the southern hemisphere). This results in an astoundingly dense stream of catfish that you can literally cull with your bare hands. Absolutely anything you care to throw at them will be gobbled up flies, pieces of bread or even an empty hook! While that isn't very conducive to high-class competitive angling, it is nevertheless something you shall remember for the rest of your life.