Sure, many northern states have their ice anglers, but these folks, in terms of numbers, pale by comparison.
No, by February, anglers around these parts are posting cell phone pictures of sac-a-lait, bass, redfish and speckled trout.
But, once you get into March, it’s catfish time. And, though other states might argue, nowhere is there better catfishing than Louisiana. Moreover, taking it a step further, perhaps nowhere better than right here in St. Mary Parish.
The shear vastness of the Atchafalaya Basin and the fresh and brackish water marshes along the coast form an ecosystem unmatched by any tributary or multiple tributaries combined further north. That is not to say you can’t have a big day fishing catfish in places like Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi or North Carolina (the latter considered a top catfishing state). Certainly you can. But, again, not in the consistent numbers we have here locally.
Which is not to say states like Oklahoma, Missouri and North Carolina don’t produce catfish as big as Louisiana does, they certainly do. But, Louisiana has its monster cats that are arguably on par with the biggest 40- to 50-pound channel catfish and 80- to 90-pound blue catfish caught elsewhere.
Another big cat worth mentioning that’s found in local waters is the flat head catfish, or as Cajun’s call them, “goujon.” Though not targeted like channel and blue catfish, it’s not uncommon to catch flat head from time to time in slower moving water.
The nice part about fishing for catfish around these parts is it doesn’t take a lot of special gear or tackle. You don’t have to have a boat, and you can use just about anything for bait. You don’t have to “figure out” catfish, either. My spouse, who enjoys sitting on anchor fishing for catfish more than any other kind of fishing, is quick to point out, you can always count on catfish.
She’s right, of course. When other fish like crappie are being finicky and bass have lockjaw, catfish always seem to bite.
Most anglers who fish for catfish aren’t necessarily targeting one particular species. Both channel and blue catfish do overlap, but there are some water conditions each species prefers.
Blue catfish can be found more in bigger, deeper and faster moving water like the Atchafalaya River, Bayou Shaffer and Bayou Chene. Other areas for blue cats include the Calumet spillway, Big and Little Wax bayous, Hog Bayou and Lone Oak Bayou.
Blue catfish also can tolerate higher salinity than channel catfish. During March, spanner lines out in Atchafalaya Bay or the use of jug lines in the bay can be productive. What’s more, stop at the mouth of any small bayou that empties into the bay and chances are you’ll catch blue cats on a rod and reel.
Channel catfish, also known as willow cats, spotted cats and eel cats, prefer fresher water in smaller bayous with less current.
Big blue cats tend to hang out and can be found in deeper holes, backwater eddies and drop-offs on the backside of long points in bigger water.
Catfish can be caught on just about anything. A big Canadian night crawler worm is probably the number one catfish bait in North America. But, locals also use saltwater shrimp, river shrimp, cut bait such as shad or mullet, nutria liver and beef melt. Though the faster the current, softer baits tend to not stay on the hook as long, but who cares if they’re biting?
Stink baits tend to be less popular in this particular region of Louisiana than in other parts of the country. Perhaps, because it’s the way locals were raised. Commercial fishermen, for years, utilized a cast net to catch their own bait. Why bait your line with commercial substitutes when the real thing is available for free? You’d be hard pressed to get any local old timer to use something out of a bag or can.
After all, blue cats and channel cats are predator fish and have been caught on spinner baits, beetle spins and crank baits on occasion that simulate shad, crawfish or shrimp. Fresh bait is simply better.
However, stink baits do work and are proven. For years, catfishermen around the country have used dough balls heavily scented with garlic and cheese, which are highly appealing to catfish.
By comparison, fresh baits — like beef melt and liver — are mainly enticement to a catfish’s olfactory senses. Stink bait products like TEAM CATFISH’s Sudden Impact fiber enriched catfish bait appeals to that sense as well. You simply open the can, stir and attach the stuff to a treble hook and fish it tight lined like you would any fresh bait you’d normally use.
I’m not going to say it catches more fish than conventional baits, but it does work. And, in March when catfish really start biting, it’s just one more trick in your arsenal.
Besides bait, TEAM CATFISH also specializes in catfish products such as fish grip pliers, sinker bumpers, weights and treble hooks. For more about TEAM CATFISH products, visit www.TeamCatfish.com.
Fishing for catfish doesn’t require special tackle. More catfish have been caught on Zebco 202 and 33 closed face-spinning reels and a sturdy 6 to 6-1/2-foot medium action rod with 15-pound test monofilament line than you can shake your “Ugly Stick” at. What’s more, there’s no better time than March to get started shaking by setting your hook into some big blue cats.
EDITOR’S NOTE — If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story you wish to share, you can contact John K. Flores by calling (985) 395-5586 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.