Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Late night August catfishing

                                  We recently went on a late night cat-fishing excursion and did pretty well.  Mom (Julie Jones/ typical Jones archive blogger)  wanted me (Samuel Jones/ unlikely Jones archive blogger) to put a post on the blog about the adventure.  I had a birthday recently and I am sure Mom will be blogging about that whenever she gets the time.  Dad wanted to do something special for the occasion and we decided on the annual night fishing trip.  We set a date around the fullest moon in August and I prepared our tackle to deal with it.  To catch fish that in the Monongahela river can run up to fifty pounds or larger you need to have suitable rods, reels,and line.  Bait is essential as well, because the catfish is a nocturnal predator that lies on the bottom while waiting to ambush potential prey. Chicken livers, hotdogs, soap, and night crawlers are all excellent options.  To take into account the catfishes bottom feeding nature it is necessary to use weights and fairly large hooks to get the bait to the bottom. We used something similar to the rig below.
Line should be heavy enough to cope with a good sized catfish but light enough to cast well. We were intent on catching two of the three major North American, the channel catfish and the flathead catfish. The former is a widespread resident of most of the united states from Oregon to Maine, and from Minnesota to Texas. Channel catfish average about 1-5 pounds depending on location and anything over 10 pounds is a good fish.  They can however reach weights of over fifty pounds.  The flathead catfish is also an indigenous North American species and though slightly less widespread than it's cousin the channel it can reach gigantic sizes.  Like it's name suggests it has a flattened head designed by God to easily ambush sunfish,suckers, and other prey fish from the bottom. Here is a photo of the world record flathead catfish caught in Kansas.
This particular fish weighed about 123 pounds, although flatheads as large as 139 pounds have been taken illegally. This species is partial to live fish, while the channel is a more eclectic feeder, eating whatever is available.  This meant that we needed to collect live bluegills, from a nearby pond for bait.  We began the trip with a bit of a fiasco.  Dad was fishing for bass with a lure and william was  fishing beside him.  Dad made a cast and apparently hooked william in the side of his head, just above his ear.  The treble hook went in past the barb, making it's removal tricky.  We fiddled with it for a few minutes and then decided to drive down to the river and deal with it there.  In the end dad cut the hook off of the lure and then cut the other points of the hook off.  Then I was able to wiggle it loose and free my afflicted brother. :)
                   We then proceeded to set up camp on the dock.  There are a variety of things that are not  necessarily related to catching the fish that are essential when night fishing.  I will give you five of the most important.  1. Flashlight. 2. folding chair. 3. paper towels. 4. five gallon bucket. 5. An assortment of good snacks (We bought candy bars, chips, and root beer.)   We were beginning to settle in when dad saw a rod tip moving.  I picked it up, set the hook and felt a considerable weight on the end.  It fought for about 2 or 3 minutes before we could get it close enough to see what it was.  We were more than a little surprised to see a decent sized Eastern soft-shell turtle come thrashing to the surface.  He had swallowed the hook and was meaner than a rhino with a splinter up his eye. Roughly a foot wide and with very sharp claws, he was more than happy to go back to the river.  We were sort of annoyed that our first catch hadn't been a fish but we were encouraged just the same.  About an hour later I was changing a weight on one of the rods when a muffled clatter aroused our attention.  We turned around just in time to see a rod to flying into the river.  That got us a little mad.  Here we had sat for over an hour and half and now the first fish had taken the rod with it! But there was nothing to do but fume and move on.  We were still berating our ill fortune, when I reeled in another rod to check the bait. Nothing on the home rod but it had hooked the line from the one we had lost.  Once berated now elated we hauled in on the line and found the rod first.  Then we reeled in the errant fish.  It was fat 21 inch channel catfish an a welcome addition to our empty bucket.  Much more cheerful we continued our vigil with renewed confidence.  Another uneventful 45 minutes had slackened our senses once again when I checked our flathead rod rigged with a bluegill.  As I started to reel in I felt the presence of a powerful fish that was not what I had expected. It made a very strong run towards the middle of the river but after about five minutes I was able to get it in to where we could land it.  I soon saw that it was a flathead catfish and it felt pretty good to hoist the thrashing six pounds of fish over the edge of the dock.  He looked a lot bigger than he was but it was a sweet fish to land.
He was an official 24 inches long though with a 14 inch girth.  His rough tooth pads tore up my fingers a little bit and so I would advise you never to believe the average guy when he says that catfish do not have teeth.
We finished out the night with one more channel catfish caught by William and we were tired but happy campers when we got home at 2:00 A. M.  Here are some photos of the other fish we caught.
This is the fish that pulled the rod into the water.  We called it unanimous and had dad hold it for the picture.
Wills fish was wriggly and it has some mulch on it due to a slight accident as he was holding it for the camera.  Not quite as large as the other one but a good deal better looking.
Here they are just minutes from the fillet knife.
To end the night we found a beautiful Luna moth fluttering around in the pantry.  It was a male, (evidenced by the large, feathery antennae used for finding females.) roughly five inches across and a light shade of mint green.  Very pretty and a highly satisfying way to end a successful catfishing trip.  We hit the beds at about 2:45 A. M. and slept in the next morning.  Thank the Lord for such a wonderful trip.


Jennie and Julie said...

That was a great story, Sam. I laughed my way through it, as I pictured each of the trials and victories you described. I'm so glad that you each got to catch a fish, and no one was skunked. They look pretty impressive. Thanks for the writing and sharing the experience. Love Grammie

JoAnn Asmussen said...

Great writing, Sam! I really enjoyed your contribution to the blog, although the story about the hook getting Will made me a little nervous... ;)

Love you!
Aunt JoAnn