As the Channel Catfish spawn is beginning here in Western New York and the fish are moving into the Lake Erie shallows and tributaries, I thought it would be a great time to discuss some of the common myths and rumors I have heard over the years about these whiskered lake lurkers. Since I was a child fishing on the banks of the Cattaraugus Creek in Irving, NY, I have heard many different ideas about the best ways to hook into the scaleless critters that swam beneath the surface. As we grew older, my brothers and I learned more about the Channel Catfish; we didn’t conduct a vast scientific research study, we didn’t hire a biologist or read books…We fished! Over the years we have come to the conclusion that most of the stuff we heard about “catfishing” was very misleading. Here is a short list of some of the most popular myths about fishing for Channel Catfish in Lake Erie and it’s tributaries.
1. Channel Cats Bite Better During The Night.
Although we pull in our fair share of cats during the night hours, most of our best catches have come in broad daylight. In fact, sometimes, the bite significantly slows down for us as the sun sets. I am not saying that catfish do not bite during the night, but you must not overlook the daytime hours when the sun is still high in the sky. In my younger years, I wouldn’t hit the creek until sundown because of this popular myth, but now we are enjoying the catfish spawn more than ever by fishing in the daylight. Take a look at some of our daytime catches from 2015.
2. Channel Cats Prefer Rotten, Stinky Baits.
“Get some chicken livers, leave ’em out in the sun for a while.”
“The stinkier, the better.”
These are some common suggestions we often hear about the best baits to use for Channel Catfish in our area. In our experience, the truth is the complete opposite. We use fresh, fresh bait including the basic night crawler, fresh cut bait, fresh chicken livers, and fresh shrimp. Channel Catfish are carnivores and love fresh meat. Here are some tips on how to use these baits effectively:
- Night Crawlers– Use the whole crawler and leave a tail dangling off of the end of the hook.
- Cut Bait– Try to use fish from the water you are fishing (Make sure it is legal in your area). Run your hook through the skin to help ensure the bait stays on. Use a good amount of meat from the fish and try to avoid a lot of bones. Using meat and some of the organs is a good bet.
- Chicken Livers– Wrap the chicken livers in egg sac netting to keep the bait on your hook longer.
- Shrimp– Use a whole piece of shrimp or cut it into sections.
3. Channel Catfish Are Lazy “Bottom-Feeders”.
It may be true that catfish are instinctively bottom-dwellers; however, they are far from lazy. Channel Cats are active predators that prey on other lively critters that cross their path. Channel Catfish will actively seek out their meals by chasing and trapping their prey between rocks and other structure that can be hidden below the surface. Although they often scan the bottom for easy meals, they are also known to chase baitfish right out of the water. If you spend enough time on waters where the cats roam, you will surely see this during the dawn and dusk hours.
4. Catfish Prefer Muddy, Murky Water.
We have landed plenty of channel cats from water that resembled a vat of chocolate milk, but our catch rates are much better in dark green water. Remember, channel catfish come into the creeks and shallows to spawn, not because it rained and the water is muddy. Catfish have a great sense of smell to find their food; however, they also highly depend on their sight to fulfill their predatory instincts. If the visibility levels in the water are higher, you have a better chance to engage both sight and smell. In murky water with low visibility, you are only working with the sense of smell. Either way, channel cats will typically bite in any type of water if they are in the area, so don’t depend on the “mud” to get them going.
5. “There are Blue Catfish in Lake Erie, I caught one!”
I am going to be blunt here…No, you didn’t. Many anglers in the Western New York area claim that they have hauled in a blue catfish from Lake Erie or it’s tributaries. Unfortunately, blue catfish do not exist in Lake Erie; at least not naturally. What most people have when they think they’ve pulled in a blue cat is actually the male channel catfish. They are typically gray, blueish, or black in color and have larger heads compared to the females. Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve made this mistake before because you still hauled in a beautiful channel cat that holds some worthy bragging rights. Oh, and for the record, Lake Erie does not hold Flathead catfish either.
Let us know what you think! Leave us a comment about your experiences!
Written By Chris Postle of Postletown Woods & Water