LeBlanc: It’s hot, but catfish are still biting

There was a song written back around 1931 about “Mad dogs and Englishmen going forth in the noon day sun” written by Noel Coward. In reality here in Southeast Texa,s most civilized folks who can help it do not venture forth in the noon day sun nor do most of the fish. I’ll bet there aren’t many folks who know that black bass can get sunburned.

It is a fact that right now the best fishing in this heat on Lake Conroe as well as the rest of the lakes in East Texas is from barely daylight until about 9 or 9:30 in the morning and then again from sundown on into the night.

That is really nothing new as when I was growing up and fishing the bayous, creeks, and rivers near the coast we would be out where we wanted to fish by daylight and would have good action until around eight o’clock in the morning and then we would rig up for perch and fish any shade for about an hour and then go home. Mostly that was because the fish would stop biting but also we had sense enough to get out of the hot sun.

Catfish are one of the most popular table fare fish in our great state. If you do not believe it take a look at all of the restaurants around that have catfish on the menu.

The catfish you get in a restaurant are farm raised and when we look at the catfish in the wild they are a hearty species. They are more tolerant to the high temperatures and lower oxygen content of the summer water than other fish.

To bring you up to speed with our local species of catfish in Lake Conroe we have three freshwater varieties: blue catfish, channel catfish and flathead catfish, also known as yellow catfish and Opelousas catfish.

In my discussion with one of the biologist with a TPWD recently, I was reminded that the largest catfish on record for Lake Conroe is a yellow cat, which was caught by Jimmie Lee Johnson and weighed 86 pounds.It was caught on January 14, 1990.

Next on the catfish record books for Lake Conroe is a Blue Catfish that was caught on February 2, 2019 by Morris Taymon, and weighed 67 pounds and was caught on a gizzard shad using a rod and reel.

As I move to the Channel Cat, the record for Lake Conroe was caught on August 14, 2011 by Jody Baughman, on a rod and reel using a crankbait and weighed 18.5 pounds.

So this month when you are out fishing and either cannot get black bass or hybrids to bite and want some good action or some good eating let me recommend you consider catfish.

To catch catfish, like any other species you need to offer them the type of food they prefer in order to generate the desired results.

Normally if you are after box fish, or table fare, you can bait an area with range cubes. Then after 15 minutes or so, bait your hook with something smelly, like prepared cheese bait or blood bait and drop the offering down to the bottom. Chicken liver or shrimp dipped in punch bait are also good catfish baits.

That will usually generate some action with blue and channel cats in the one to three pound range. They will eat just about anything.

Larger blues will also scavenge, but prefer fish. If you want to go after larger blue cats you can try drifting cut bream over flats and if you are out early you can get into some good action.

Now when it comes to yellow catfish they are predators and do not scavenge but want live food. They are not inclined to stalk pray, but attack from ambush. So if you are fishing for yellow catfish you need to use live bait like small perch or bluegill. Of course there is always artificial lures that they have been known to hit.

I have noticed one fact also concerning fishing for catfish and that is it is easy to use too large of a hook when going after blues or channel cats.

When you look at the average catch that runs between one and three pounds they have a relatively small mouth. A small hook is in order or you can spend all day just baiting your hook as they strip the bait from it.

Many folks going after catfish like 15 pound line on their reels with number six or eight treble hooks. I personally like number eight, treble sponge hooks and punch baits like one of the Premo catfish baits.

Yellow cats are a whole different story. You need to use larger hooks not only to accommodate the larger bait, live fish, but the odds are you are more likely to catch a larger yellow and do not want them to straighten out the hook and get away.

So this summer do not get discouraged as the fishing slows down, but adjust. Get out early or late and bait up for the catfish of your choice and get some fishing action as well as good table fare.

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