Ellenbecker is pictured here with his IGFA Men’s (2 lb) Line Class World Record for channel catfish. The channel weighed 18.4 pounds. (Brad Durick Photo)
Catfishing is not what it used to be
by Ted Ellenbecker
I have been catfishing for several decades on rivers large and small as well as many lakes in the US and Canada. One thing is certain, this sport is growing and changing. Catfishing is no longer viewed as simply throwing a smelly bait into muddy water.
Catfishing is becoming more popular across the country for many reasons. Perhaps the most obvious reason is that catfishing offers the opportunity for the freshwater angler to catch a big fish, a really big fish!
We are fortunate in the US that many waters that hold catfish are readily assessable to most of us whether it be a river, creek, lake or an impoundment. This accessibility is actually one key to the growing popularity of the sport. Catfishing offers the opportunity for people to enjoy a variety of easily reached destinations to fish.
Some of us like to fish the rivers. Some of us like the lakes. Along with these different types of waters come the many different ways to fish them. Some of us like our boats, some fish from the banks. Both types of presentation can be successful and enjoyable. The angler is free to pick his destination and his platform, there is no wrong answer. If you do a little looking, I’m sure you’ll find catfish in a water suitable, close to where you live.
Diversity of the species is also one of the unique aspects of the sport. Given the fact that you have three major species involved, anglers can choose which to target. Some prefer the flathead, others the blue cat, and yet others the channel cat.
Each species prefers different types of waters as well as different forage. Each species is prone to a different preferred “deil” period, which is the preferred 24-hour feeding pattern. Knowing this opens the door for anglers to pick, on a trip-by-trip basis, the type of baits, equipment, and presentations they want to use.
Many fishermen still enjoy the old school approach of boots in the mud and butt on a bucket during a warm summer night down at the river. However, catfishing is not limited to this approach any longer as there are numerous ways to offer a bait to these fish, including drifting, bumping, anchoring, walking a bait, jigging, float fishing, and even noodling. So, anglers may pick the method of the day to take their trophy!
This sport is for everyone! Years of experience is not needed and expensive hardware is not a requirement. Boats are optional as are trips across the country to try new water unless that’s what you want to do. Obviously, the more information you have about the fish you’re chasing and the water you fish the better your chances of finding the big one. It’s true that the more you put into something the more you get back. But the amount of energy spent on learning, preparation, and actually fishing is up to the individual.
The things I enjoy about catfishing include the variety offered by the accessibility of different waters to fish, the availability of different species to target, and the challenge of presenting the right bait at the right time, in the right place. Finally, I catfish because of the ever-present chance of catching a truly big fish!