Keep the cat or let it go?

Discussion in 'MICHIGAN RIVERS TALK' started by veryama1975, Jun 2, 2008.

  1. veryama1975

    veryama1975 New Member

    Messages:
    191
    State:
    South West Mich
    How big is too big to keep for a (Michigan) channel cat?

    After weeks of getting skunked I finally found a good "honey hole" for channel cats. Yesterday afternoon I caught what is for me (in Michigan) a big channel cat. It was about 23" long and weighed about 4 & 1/2 lbs.

    Today, I went back to the same place and caught two more that were even bigger. One was about 27" long and weighed 7lb, 4oz. The other was only an inch longer at 28" long but it weighed about 9lb even & was absolutely full of eggs. It was an inch shorter but about a pound heavier than my all time best Michigan channel cat.

    Obviously, I caught it before it had a chance to spawn. I did (briefly) consider letting it go but I didn't because I love the taste of catfish and, until yesterday, I've been going through a long dry spell in my quest for cats and I just didn't want to pass up those fillets.

    Because I don't want to wreck the fishing at my hole while at the same time I love eating catfish, I want to know where to draw the line on when I should keep them. Obviously, if I ever caught a whale like of a cat like some of my southern brothers regularly do--in the 20lb range or bigger--I'd let it go both because I'd want to preserve the fishery and because I honestly believe that big a fish would be too polluted to risk. However, channel cats that big in Michigan are pretty uncommon.

    I just wanted to ask everybody's opinion on this. Thanks in advance for all the advice & opinions.
     
  2. brother hilljack

    brother hilljack New Member

    Messages:
    7,305
    State:
    Shelbyville, TN
    In your situation I would release anything over 5 pounds. It don't sound like your water is going to produce any world records, but you got some real nice fish! Under 3 pounds taste the best anyway!
     

  3. DLB-in-GR

    DLB-in-GR New Member

    Messages:
    490
    State:
    MI
    I fish a local lake that has a lot of channels. Usually I catch a lot of small ones, for me I'd rather have a stringer of 10 small ones than a couple big ones. The biggest I've ever caught is 31" though, I don't have a scale so don't know what that weighed. I will keep fish from that lake up to 25", anything bigger than that gets a picture taken of it and sent back to hopefully grow bigger. I don't think most guys are like that though, they catch a Master Angler fish and it gets eaten. I get enough small ones (15"-20") to keep my freezer full, and the big ones don't fit in my pan without cutting them up.

    I think there is something to be said for putting big ones back, but don't sweat it if you don't agree. I heard on a catfishing video that a quality catfish water will have 200-300 lbs of fish per acre, compared with 20-30 lbs of bass or walleye per acre. I don't think I am denting the population at all.
     
  4. drpepper

    drpepper New Member

    Messages:
    6,133
    State:
    Indiana
  5. catman4926

    catman4926 New Member

    Messages:
    1,602
    State:
    Texas
    HAY DON'T WORRY,

    I LIKE 2/4 LB FISH, BUT IF I WANTED SOME FISH AND ALL I COULD CATCH WAS 5,6,7,8, AND BIGGER YOU BET I WOULD BE EATING FRESH FISH TONIGHT AND SOUNDS LIKE THERE IS NO LITTLE ONES IN THAT HONEY HOLE SO YOU WOULD CPR ALL YOUR FISH. BUT DON'T GET ME WRONG I WILL CPR AND HAVE DONE IT A MANY OF TIME , BUT WHEN IT'S TIME TO FEED THE FAMILY I GOING TO DO THAT ALSO.

    GOOD LUCK FISHING
     
  6. eyeguy

    eyeguy New Member

    Messages:
    81
    State:
    Michigan
    I am new to this site and have not caught many cats, yet. Like you I am anxious to find out the answer. Last year I met a fellow who catches channel and flathead cats and he keeps them all. He had a flathead that was 39 inches long and he said it was delicious. I am not saying that we should keep all the big ones or even all that we catch, but around here there is absolutely no pressure on these fish. Lots of guys fishing gills, crappie, bass, pike, trout etc. but only one guy I personally know of that fishes for cats in my area of Northern Michigan. Heck most of the guys turn their noses up at "those bottom feeders". Their loss my gain, well sort of as I need to find out how to catch the darned things with some consistancy.
    eyeguy
     
  7. uapipefitter

    uapipefitter New Member

    Messages:
    110
    State:
    potterville,mi
    I like to keep the small ones under 25in. for dinner, thats just me. I love the sport and the taste. For me they are in my top three fish to eat. But I let the big guys go because they have the genes to get big so that makes good stock for future generations. I guess the same could be said about the little ones I'm eating too, but seems to be such little pressure I think it makes the whole fishery stronger when there is less competion for food also. Just my two cents.
     
  8. whisker maniac

    whisker maniac New Member

    Messages:
    2,712
    State:
    arkansas
    Down here in the south it isn't uncommon to catch channels at the 25 lb range and some bigger. In your case I would find out what the average size is for your state and then release anything bigger. Also if I catch a big cat that I know is still full of eggs I'm releasing her so she can spawn and pass on those good genes.

    Down here channels aren't good to eat after they reach more than ten lbs
    Flatheads are good to eat at any size but I don't think I'll ever eat one that is over twenty. Blues aren't good eating after they get over around eight lbs. Of course that's all down here in the south where the fish grow bigger faster. For your state there may be a big difference when to throw them back because the meat isn't near as good as the smaller ones.

    I would think you would need to talk to a marine biologist in your state or area to find out how old that fish might have been and determine when to cpr by age and not necessarily by size.
     
  9. ozzy

    ozzy New Member

    Messages:
    3,936
    State:
    Lost Wages
    I might be wrong in this reply, if so someone correct me. As far as Channels it seems like they reproduce like rabbits and you shouldnt be concerned as long as you dont get greedy. As far as flats and blues I've never caught one.
     
  10. bownero

    bownero New Member

    Messages:
    3,137
    State:
    Hastings, Ne.
    I usually keep Channels in the 2-5 pound range. Anything bigger gets released back into the water. If the cat is a spawning female with eggs, she goes back into the water to. Where I fish, Channels in the 5-10 lb class are quite common. My fishing buddy caught a 36" 21 1/2 lb. beast last week. Wish I was retired to fish the weekdays too. For now I'm just a weekend warrior!:big_smile::wink::smile2:
     
  11. veryama1975

    veryama1975 New Member

    Messages:
    191
    State:
    South West Mich

    I don't know. I had a really good spot a few years ago where I could always count on catching some nice channel cats every time I went. It was actually a county park but when I first started going, I was the only one who ever fished it at night (at least I never saw anybody else there).

    This spot was the best fishing & with the biggest cats that I've ever found in Michigan. But, year after year, more and more people started showing up fishing for cats at night there. And, year after year, the cats I was able to catch there got smaller & fewer until eventually I just gave up & stopped going there. I really do believe that they can be fished out...at least in the kind of small river spots that I fish.
     
  12. ittybittykitty

    ittybittykitty New Member

    Messages:
    93
    State:
    Belleville Michigan
    IMHO: We are at the extreme edge of the flathead's range. There are fewer fish per volume of water and they grow slower. With the possible exception of the Grand, I would not keep a flathead under any circumstances. With regards to channels. They are plentiful and I eat a lot. I prefer the tase of the ones under 20" or so. Can you catch all the large fish out a restricted body of water? Of course you can.