Outdoor Living

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Great time for channel catfish

Fishing is one of the most popular activities in Missouri. more than one-third of our population, both young and old, fish.

Missouri's interest in sport fishing is steeped in tradition and history.

As the dog days of August roll around, many Missouri anglers go after one of the most popular fish that swims in our waters, from small ponds to streams to the big impoundments. That fish is the channel cat, which is one of the most abundant game fish we have.

Since catfish aren't too particular about what they eat, fishermen use whatever is easiest to get.

Two area anglers who catch their share of channels from places like Jacomo are Tom Vinson and Fred Watson, Blue Springs.

"We've used everything from hot dogs to liver to catch catfish," Watson said.

Catfish are omnivorous feeders with a well developed sense of smell. This means they consume a wide variety of food items and are often attracted to "smelly" morsels of food.

The diet of channel catfish also varies with the different seasons.

Since some food is more available at one season than others, and being an opportunistic forager, channels take what is available at the time.

Missouri is blessed with thousands of miles of streams that are loaded with channel cats.

Many of these streams are under-fished for channels.

Watson said, "We have fished for channels from the North Grand to the Osage to several south Missouri streams and had good fishing in all of them."

Lakes also produce good fishing for channel cats including Stockton, which produced good catches of channels soon after it became a lake.

Watson, 67, said, "I started fishing Stockton years ago and have caught catfish from six inches to 28 pounds.

"Catfish, like all fish, aren't randomly distributed, but are usually congregated in certain locations. Your fishing success will depend on your ability to find those concentrations."

Using the right bait is probably the most confusing part of channel cat fishing, and there are nearly as many concoctions as there are catfishermen.

Bait selection ranges from nightcrawlers, chicken blood, liver, crawfish, grasshoppers, live and dead minnows, cut shad, and a multitude of prepared "stink" baits. All of these baits work on channels.

Watson has several tips to channel catfishermen: Using light tackle will catch more fish, but heavy tackle is required in fishing around snags and structures when catching large fish.

Use prepared cheese baits in the summer when the water temperature is above 70 degrees. Live bait is best for large fish, those above three pounds.

The latest fishing report showed both the Big and Little Sac arms of the lake listed catfish as the best bet for anglers.

The big three of the catfish family; blue, flathead and channel cats may be found statewide with the channels the most abundant and the blue cat the largest and all three make great table fare.

Channel catfish can be caught year around, but now is one of the best times to catch a catfish in a stream or lake.

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