Photo by John E. Phillips.
My brother-in-law, Roy Dupree, is a serious catfisherman. Living on Clear Lake in Natchitoches Parish, he knows he can catch channel catfish on his trotlines just about any time of year he chooses.
Dupree sets his lines differently than most trotliners. He drops the baited lines to the bottom, knowing that catfish tend to grub around in the mud for something to eat.
However, he avoids baiting his lines in summertime because oxygen levels at the bottom of the water column are low or nonexistent and any fish taking the bait quickly die from lack of oxygen.
Although Dupree’s experiences confirm that there are certain methods for catfishing that should be avoided in warm weather, summer is an excellent time to catch catfish on any number of Louisiana’s lakes. You just need to employ methods that keep catfish alive and kicking when brought to the net.
With summer coming on, a host of Louisianans starts tuning in to things to do outdoors when the weather heats up. Louisiana didn’t get its nickname, Sportsman’s Paradise, for no reason; there is plenty to do outside and ample spots to do them, especially if your preference turns to fishing for catfish.
In the Bayou State, there is no shortage of whiskerfish, which ply our state’s waters from border to border. There are four main varieties of cats that call Louisiana home — bullhead, flathead, blue and channel catfish. Since the channel cat is the most sought species in general, let’s take a closer look at these fish that are fun to catch and to eat.
The Louisiana state-record channel catfish is 30.31 pounds, but the vast majority of our channel cats run significantly smaller. Even so, a 5-pounder on light tackle can give an angler a serious bout.
Channel catfish are more streamlined in shape than the other varieties of catfish in the Pelican State. They are silvery in color with scattered small black spots along the sides and sport a deeply forked tail. Channel cats are similar to appearance to blue catfish, especially in smaller models. If you catch one weighing 50 pounds, be assured it’s a blue catfish, because channel catfish don’t attain weights nearly as heavy.
If you want to get technical and nail down the identification, check out the anal fin. That fin on a channel catfish has up to 29 rays and is rounded, whereas the blue cat has 30 or more rays and has a straight outer edge.
If there is one thing certain about a channel catfish, its food preference runs the gamut. Channels eat just about anything, alive or dead, including red wigglers, Canadian night crawlers, catalpa worms, minnows, crawfish and crickets. They also drool over stink baits, as well as rancid cheese, congealed blood, fish guts, chicken livers and can even be caught on chunks of Ivory soap, wieners, dog food or just about anything else organic.
Channel catfish serve as the main entree at hundreds of catfish restaurants in Louisiana. The fish served at such eateries are pond-raised fish raised entirely for the market.
PLACES TO FISH
One really cool deal about fishing for channel catfish in summer in Louisiana is that the best fishing takes place at several of our state parks. Let’s look at state parks in the northern half of the state and how they stack up for catfish action.Lake Bruin State Park
The Lake Bruin State Park is located on an oxbow lake just off the Mississippi River near St. Joseph in Tensas Parish. There are more than 3,000 acres of water in Lake Bruin, and visitors to the state park have access to all of them.
According to fisheries biologist Mike Ewing with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries working out of the office in Ferriday, Lake Bruin has a teeming population of channel catfish and they are popular targets in summer.
“Most fishermen going after channel cats in summer fish for them at night. By August, the weather is hot and nighttime fishing is much more comfortable,” Ewing said.
“The best places to try are the lighted piers where there is deeper water and brushpiles just off the piers. Preferred bait is night crawlers. Some set trotlines baited with live crawfish and they catch lots of catfish here,” he added.
Three large fishing piers and a year-round boat launch are in the park as well. Rental boats also are available on the lake.
The park offers a day-use area with picnic tables and barbecue grills adjacent to fishing piers with restroom facilities nearby. A covered pavilion allows visitors to enjoy meals no matter the weather conditions and most facilities at the part are wheelchair accessible.
For more information, call the park toll-free at (888) 677-2784.
Lake D’Arbonne State Park
Located in the heart of north Louisiana on the outskirts of Farmerville in Union Parish is 15,250-acre Lake D’Arbonne.
Sitting amid the piney woods in rolling hills, Lake D’Arbonne State Park features five fishing piers on the lake, which like magnets, draw visitors to the park. Designed to keep the focus on nature, park facilities blend with the natural landscape to enhance the outdoor experience in this 655-acre park.
Lake D’Arbonne is very popular, not only for locals but visitors as well. From its cypress-studded sloughs and bays to flats and open water at the dam, Lake D’Arbonne is a haven for fishermen, especially those who have their eye on a stringer of channel catfish.
Mike Woods is the Statewide Technical Advisor for Fisheries Management with the LDWF and was formerly the fisheries biologist responsible for Lake D’Arbonne. Wood is impressed with the population of channel catfish on the lake.
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