If fly fishermen are the aristocrats of the angling world, those who catfish are the rednecks. No, seriously- they're rednecks.
Of the four species of catfish recognized as game species in the US, channel catfish are the most geographically dispersed and the most common. They can be distinguished by their forked tails and speckled bodies. While they do not grow as large as the flathead or blue catfish, channel catfish are popular nonetheless for their sporting behavior when hooked as well as their table quality.
The flathead catfish is the most predatory of the North American species of catfish, as well as one of the largest. Its natural geographic distribution is mostly confined to states east of the Rockies and west of the Appalachians, but it has been stocked in the West and has become an invasive threat to certain river systems in the East. Hopefully, you can figure out its distinguishing characteristic.
Blues are known for being the largest catfish in the US, and damn proud of it. They are mostly found in the South, as well as large river systems. Young blue catfish look similar to spawning channel cats. A few simple rules for identifying the two:
1. If Blue Catfish do not occur in your river system, you have caught a channel cat
2. If it has a forked tail, you have caught a channel cat
3. If it is dark blue, but has flecks on its belly, you have caught a channel
4. If the anal fin has 24-29 rays, it is a channel catfish
No one cares about white catfish. No one. They don't grow very large, they are only found on the east coast and a few stocked lakes in the West, and even when they do grow somewhat large, it's hard to find a picture of someone smiling after having caught a white catfish. To say they are to catfish what
Ringo Stuart Sutcliffe was to the Beatles would be an insult to Ringo Stuart Sutcliffe.
Because no one cares to photograph them
For blues and flatheads, the best baits are live fish. Trophy-sized flatheads are known to have a sweet-tooth for small bullheads. When handling bullheads, it is best to avoid the spikes in their dorsal fins. If you feel like really sticking it to PETA, be sure to clip off the bullhead's pointed spines before putting it on the hook; the extra blood in the water combined with the commotion of a struggling fish is sure to arouse any flatheads in the water and flatheads don't want to deal with those nasty little spines any more than you do.
If you're after channel catfish, recommended baits include: worms, dead worms, leeches, minnow, dead minnow, chopped frog, sliced salamander, dog food, cat food, crayfish, catalpa worms, grubs, chicken/ turkey/ ? liver, chicken gizzards, hot dogs, mystery meat, uncooked hamburger meat, cooked hamburger meat, cheeses of all shapes and sizes, lye-based soaps, W-D40, green eggs and ham, the parts of the buffalo even the Indians dared not use, lard, clams, candy bars, cut shad, shrimp, tuna chunks, scented candles, apple chunks, roe, putrid meat, and damn near everything that offends your nose.
Of course, that's without even mentioning stinkbaits.
Stink baits are baits that smell bad. Hence the name "stinkbaits". "Pungency" is key when considering which stink bait to purchase. When selecting stinkbaits, be sure to thoroughly inspect each candidate with your nose. Ask yourself these questions before you pick your bait:
1. Does the scent make me want to vomit?
2. Does the stench permeate throughout the bait shop when I open the lid of the bait's container?
3. Is the odor now stuck in the fibers of my clothing so deeply that dogs and flies are beginning to gather?
4. Will this stay on the hook?
There are, many types of stinkbaits to choose from, including but not limited to:
1. Doughbaits- a generally flour-based product infused with moldy cheese. Most doughbaits are concocted in the bath tub of a toothless farmer in Arkansas.
2. Blood Baits- perhaps deserving of their own category yet still impossible to wash off your body, blood baits are usually dried blood. To acquire your own blood bait, ask your local slaughterhouse where they keep their excess animal blood. Because this totally sounds just as innocent and completely not-creepy as it did when your grandpa was growing.
3. Tube Baits- these baits are pasty substances meant to be injected into artificial lures with bladders. Recommended for people afraid to either be seen with blood on their hand or smelling like moldy cheese bread.
Ironically, the sign of a good purchase is an immediate sensation of regret. As you leave the baitshop, catching a catfish has become an obligation. If you don't catch a fish, not only will you have wasted time and money failing to do so, you will end up smelling like death with nothing to show for it.
Catfishing revels in laziness. The baits are designed so the fish come to you, the tackle is designed so your casting rate is once every 20 minutes, and standard gear includes a folding chair. But what about holding the rod? How can the angler eliminate this tedious concept? A common catfishing practice includes finding a y-shaped stick, planting it in the ground, and nestling the rod between the two prongs; however, some fishermen still find the act of finding such a stick to be a frivolity with such innovations as the man-made rod holder:
Not that it ends there. There are plenty of gadgets to ensure the fish catch themselves, but at this point, it's less about catching a fish for sport than it is about putting food on the table. Nonetheless, cracked feels it would be irresponsible not to mention all the ways you can catch a catfish without effort:
Jug fishing- This involves suspending a line of baited hooks between a floating jug and an anchor.
These are neither the jugs we were expecting nor the jugs we prefer
Yo-Yos- These are also know as mechanical reels. Lines attached to yo yos set automatically; these devices are usually suspended from tree branches over open water. Yo yos suspended from tree branches overhanging dry land generally don't yield fish.
Trot lines- Maybe jug fishing isn't ambitious enough for you. In that case, just tie a line of hooks from one side of the river to the opposing bank and add a weight in the middle to sink it down (tip: you will still have to bait the hooks).
Maybe that's too much forethought for you. In that case, jump in the water, find some brush piles, and stick your hand in there. It's called noodling, and noodling is based on the assumption that only the other guys will end up accidentally fingering a beaver, poking an alligator in the eye, fondling a muskrat, flossing a snapping turtle, or pulling up a cottonmouth. But don't worry; you can find all your noodling questions answered in other cracked columns.