Few things are more fun that spending the day catching catfish, and the day can be rounded out with delicious fried catfish steaks. One of the most consistently successful baits for whisker-fish is cut bait -- sliced pieces of smaller fish. Whether you have dead shad or minnow, or you just caught a couple of small bluegill on your light tackle, pieces of these fish will attract catfish like flames bring moths.
Cut two lengths of line, approximately 15 inches long, from the end of your rod-and-reel assembly. Tie a three-way swivel to the end of your line, and tie each cut length of line to the remaining attachment loops on the swivel. Use standard fisherman's knots for all ties. On one trailing length of line, tie a No. 2 bait hook. On the other trailing line, tie a 1/2-ounce bell sinker. Cut the hook line midway, and tie a 1-inch peg float between the cut ends.
Scale a shad or a bluegill with the edge of your knife. Minnows will not require scaling. Place the fish on its side, and slice diagonally through the body just behind the gill plate, with the filet knife tilted toward the top front of the fish, and remove the head. Scoop out the entrails with your finger. Slice off the tail, leaving an inch or so of muscle with the fin. Slice the remaining fish laterally, like slicing a loaf of bread, into pieces 1 inch wide. Cut each sliced piece in half along the spine. Place you cut pieces in cool water or on ice.
Attach a piece of the cut bait to the hook, threading the hook point along the length of the cut bait strip. Ensure that the hook point and barb are exposed. Cast the rig into the channel of a river or into water at least 10 feet deep in a lake. Watch the line, which will appear taut for a few seconds, then suddenly slack. Slowly reel in the line until it is almost taut again. Wait and watch the tip of your pole.
The tip of the pole with begin jerking when a fish begins to take the bait. Point the pole at the place where the bait is, and slowly reel in just enough line to make the line taut again, then wait for the next steady tug. When the next tug comes, raise the tip of the pole and yank backwards sharply, then wind up the slack in your line. If the line begins to "swim," that is, move around on its own, you have set the hook. Reel in steadily, keeping the tip of the pole high, and apply pressure in the opposite direction that the fish is taking the line. When the fish is within reach, dip it out with your net.
Tips & Warnings
- If you have never handled a catfish, take care to grip it behind the cheek barbs. Those barbs are sharp, and they can give you a nasty puncture wound.
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