"WHEN CATS GO SHALLOW" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton When you stop and think about it, fish are pretty predictable, especially catfish and especially this time of the year. We are currently right in the middle of the channel catfish spawn. This is the perfect time for bank fisherman to walk the banks, dunking catfish baits into cover such as rock rip-rap, flooded weeds or tree roots or, as Ive been doing lately: use a small boat to access the shallows and fish in comfort! Ive been fishing from a little 10 foot Buster Boat that has all the features of the bigger rigs without many of the hassles inherent to towing, launching and FUELING larger boats; Ive found it ideal for fishing the shallows for spawning catfish. Rigged with my very powerful Torqeedo electric motor, the little boat maneuvers the shallows with ease and gets me into those tight places spawning channels like to hang out. But, with a little planning, you can catch just as many catfish from the bank. Photo by Luke Clayton Each year about this time, I devote as much time as possible to shallow water catfishing. The fish I target average between 1.5 and 5 pounds, occasionally I will hook a bigger fish but most are what I consider perfect for spending time in Lake Crisco (hot oil)! From now, though the end of June, the majority of channel catfish will be in water four feet or less, often MUCH less. Its a great time to stock the freezer with good tasting fillets. Ive fished three times the past week and am well on my way to replenishing my dwindling stock. Heres a few facts that Ive learned about this relatively easy style of fishing: FIND THE FISH- The trick to locating concentrations of spawners is finding areas in shallow water with plenty of cover. The edge of shorelines with tree roots in the water are excellent but so is rock rip rap and stands of cattails. Ive been fishing around cattails this week, in water that averages 2-3 feet, and hammering the catfish. I began by anchoring my little Buster boat out from the edge of the cover and casting up close to the thick vegetation but soon discovered its best to get right in to the thick of things. I began looking for little pockets in the cattails and easing the little boat into the cover; no need to anchor here, with reeds around the boat, it stays in position. The trick is to position the boat so that its within easy casting range of little pockets of open water. Ive seen guys wade fishing the same stands of cattails with equal success; they just werent as comfortable as I when setting in the Busters padded seats! I use a boat paddle and test the bottom. Ive discovered my better catches come from areas with a hard clay or sand bottom. When I push the paddle into the lake bottom and it buries several inches into the mud and muck, I move on to find a harder bottom. Channel catfish prefer hard bottoms during the spawn. CONCENTRATE THE FISH- Catfish have the ability to scent food from quiet a distance. Nothing concentrates them faster than chumming and area with soured grain. This time of year, I keep several buckets filled with milo and water. When I get to an area that looks promising, I distribute a one-pound coffee can full of the ripe grain into the water Im fishing. I never cease to be amazed at how fast it pulls the fish in within casting range or, how fast the greedy catfish gobble it up. On many occasions, Ive pulled up to a likely spot, tossed out soured grain and in a matter of ten minutes, caught fish that were already packed with the smelly seeds! When fishing over baited holes, many of the catfish landed will have stomachs full of milo. But they are gluttons; they just keep on eating. Baiting holes is not a necessity though, when using smelly punch baits, the smell quickly permeates the water which helps pull the fish in. TACKLE- I used to fish with bait casting reels for these small catfish but learned a few years ago by pro guide George Rule at Tawakoni that lighter tackle is much more effective for catching smaller catfish. Its much easier to use a spinning rig to toss baits into tight cover. Calcutta poles or composite crappie rods are also very effective, especially when fishing from the bank; 12 footers are preferred by most folks. Channel catfish sometimes grab the bait and strike with a vengeance but more often they nibble or mouth the bait before they commit. Fishing with a floater is important, but not just any floater. Leave those round, plastic floats in the tackle box. You will miss about fifty percent of the catfish that take your bait when using round floaters. I, and most veteran angler, prefer the longer floats that make detecting bites much easier. I use a bobber known as the Duz it All (www.bobbers.com). Its a slip bobber, a bobber stop is attached to the fishing line at the desired depth, the line is run through the Duz it All and when the bait hits the water, the line falls vertically through the bobber and stops when the bobber stop reaches the bobber. This is the best way to cast baits using a floater. During the cast, the bobber, bait and weight are at the end of the line, rather than having a length of line between the floater and bait/hook. This style bobber can also be attached to the line the desired distance about the bait via spring tension. Its by far the most versatile and effective float for this style fishing that Ive found. Ive experimented a lot with hook styles and sizes. My favorite and the one I catch the most fish using is a #6 treble hook by Eagle Claw, its called the Laser Sharp Triple 3X. The barbs on this little hook are very sharp and they curve slightly in toward the center shank, when a catfish makes contact with the barbs, hes hooked! Providing the angler does his or her job and gets the hook set. Thats another important aspect of shallow water catfishing, knowing when to set the hook! If the bobber tips over on its side, set the hook! If it is just bouncing a bit, better wait a bit until Mr. Whiskers pulls it under. We still have several weeks of prime time shallow water fishing for spawning catfish, heres hoping you can get out to your favorite pond or lake and collect the makings of a big summertime fish fry! Listen to OUTDOORS WITH LUKE CLAYTON RADIO at www.catfishradio.com. Contact Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org. TIP OF THE WEEK- I recently enjoyed a bow hunt for wild hogs using an innovative new blind called the Ghost Blind (www.ghostblind.com). The blind uses mirrors on the outside to reflect the image of the surrounding terrain and conventional camo on the inside. It weighs only 22 pounds and comes with built in backpack straps. Ive found a new favorite way to hunt from the ground!