Shoreline Success at Night
by Ron Presley
Catfishing from the bank at night can be comfortable and productive.
The right location, the right tackle, the right bait, and the right amount of patience will put plenty of catfish on the dinner table day or night, and you don’t need a boat. Choosing a night trip in the heat of the summer can add to your success as well as your comfort.
It is a known fact, reported by freshwater biologists, that catfish do well in just about any body of water, from clear to muddy conditions. They can be targeted in streams, ponds, rivers and reservoirs. Add the relative simplicity of catching them and they are also a perfect choice for beginning anglers, young and old alike.
Expenses are another factor that favors the shoreline angler. Out of pocket costs are considerably lower since anglers don’t have to buy gas and oil or be stuck with related costs like insurance or repairs on a boat. Fishing time is saved too, since you don’t have to load, unload, and maintain the boat. Add it all up and you are spending more time fishing, spending less money, and with a little luck, putting more catfish in the cooler.
The idea that you have to fish at night to catch catfish has long been argued. Most serious catfish anglers agree that catfish feed when they are hungry and that can be day or night. Nevertheless, many anglers continue to think that catfishing is better at night. Some of that thinking may simply be passed on from parents to kids, but science suggests a few reasons it could be true.
The very fact that catfish use the taste buds in their barbells to sense food suggest that they don’t need daylight to feed. Also, their small eyes in relation to the body indicate that sight is not needed to feed. Scientists also tell us that catfish have chemoreceptors across their entire bodies that allow them to taste anything they touch. It alerts them to whether or not it is food or something else. Put all this together and catfish can certainly feed without daylight.
Regardless of your personal beliefs between day and night productivity, fishing for cats at night is a great alternative. It will be cooler, there will be less activity on the waterway, and it offers a more peaceful environment to enjoy your fishing in.
Just remember, fishing after the sun goes down requires some different equipment and supplies. Don’t forget the bug spray, flashlights, a lantern and any other creature comforts you might want.
Vote with Your Feet (Location, Location Location)
There is an old adage in business that the most important part of being successful is location, location, location.
Thinking about location reminds me of a premise from a college political science class. People vote with their feet. If they don’t like a particular location for some reason, they are likely to move on until they find a place they do like.
The same thing should be true with your catfishing. If you don’t hook up in an hour or so you should consider moving to a new location unless you expect a change in fishing conditions. The move does not necessarily have to be far. I can remember many fishing trips where I was not doing well and a fellow just down the bank from me was hauling them in. A short move can make a big difference.
An important part of choosing the right location is structure. Catfish are a little different than crappie, where a brush pile in calm water will hold crappie. In the case of catfish, you still want structure, but it is also nice to find some current if you are fishing a stream or river. The current will help send a scent trail downstream and the catfish will follow it back to its source—your bait.
As you choose your location look for something that is out of the ordinary for the area you are fishing. Maybe it’s a shoreline that comes out to a point. That anomaly can change the current and make a good catfish hole.
Look for large laydowns that changes the current and creates an eddy so you have current and still water near the same area. B’n’M Pro Staffer, Jason Aycock, advises anglers to cast a few baits in the seam between the current and the eddy and a couple more in the slack water.
Also, don’t forget what you know from your daytime fishing. The same things that attract the catfish in the daylight keep them in the area at night.
“Cats will come in to the shallow flats and feed at night,” added Aycock. “So, I will try to find an area I usually fish during the day time that has some shallow flats with a lot of cover. Fan out as many baits around on the flat as possible. If I could find a point or a cut in the bank, I would look really hard at it also.”
Old bridges and dikes can also change the current and provide ambush points as the current runs around them. Spending time to find the right location will pay big dividends in the long run as you develop skills related to finding the fish.
Tackle and Rigging
Once a location has been determined there are many rigs to choose from. Most catfish anglers like to put out multiple poles. The more baits in the water the more chances to catch a fish. The only limitation is the local fishery laws that regulate the number of poles that can be used at any given time.
The length of your pole will depend on where you fish. The major factor is how far you have to cast to reach your catfish holes.
“Using a 10-foot rod like the Silver Cat from B’n’M Poles is a huge help to the bank fisherman if he needs a lot of distance with the cast,” instructed Aycock. “A few extra feet might mean the difference between getting skunked or landing that fish of a lifetime. It really can be a game of inches.”
If casting distance is not important, a 7-foot rod, either spinning or casting, will do the job. A strong backbone should be part of your selected rod.
In my home state of Florida, the record channel catfish weighed 44.5 pounds but those are very rare. If you fish in trophy blue cat country the potential size increases tremendously. Needless to say, you better have the right equipment and be ready for a big catfish at all times.
Catfish tackle is simple and inexpensive. This makes it easy for anyone to enjoy the sport. Not counting a rod and reel the basic tackle includes swivels, sinkers, leader material, floats and hooks.
“Rigging is really no different than you use in a boat,” advises Aycock. “If you are in current, use a 3-way rig. Begin by tying a 3-way swivel on the mainline. Choose a braided main line sized appropriate to the fish you are targeting.”
Since Aycock is normally targeting larger fish he adds a drop line of 50-pound leader with a 7/0 Daiichi Circle Hook. The sinker drop line is 2 feet of 20-pound leader and a weight to match the current.
“The proper size weight is a matter of trial and error,” explains Aycock. “I want the smallest weight that will hold my bait in place. The lighter leader on the sinker line will make it easier to break off when snagged and make re-rigging simpler.”
“If I don’t have current, I would go to a Carolina rig,” continued Aycock. “Sometimes referred to as a slip sinker rig, the Carolina rig starts with a barrel sinker slid up the mainline. Attach a swivel to hold the sinker in place. Next, add a length of monofilament leader and then a Daiichi Circle Hook. I will often attach a float to the leader down by the hook to raise the bait a little off the bottom.”
Baits of Choice
Catfish are known to eat just about anything you throw at them. Some catfish anglers like plain old earthworms where others favor fresh or frozen chicken livers. Some like frozen shrimp while others place their bet on fresh peeled shrimp. It really depends on the targeted species.
Cut bait is a universal favorite. Aycock likes to use whatever type of natural bait is common in the waters he fishes.
“If you’re in the Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, or Ohio Rivers my go-to-bait would be skipjack. Others I like to use are mooneye herring or Asian carp.”
“You know, most people underestimate bank fishing,” concluded Aycock. “Heck when I’m tournament fishing from a boat I’m right next to the bank 50 percent of the time. Sometimes, if the rules would allow, I would rather be on the bank.”