Most fishermen consider catfish a great summertime target, but catfish eat the year ’round and can be caught in early spring if you use the proper bait and tackle.
No matter what the time of year, catfish do most of their feeding within inches of the rocks, mud and gravel bottoms of lakes, ponds and rivers. The occasional catfish is caught by fishermen using lures to tempt other species, but 90 percent of whiskerfish are suckers that will fall for a wide variety of live, dead or cut baits.
Here’s a look at five sure-fire spring catfish baits that are cheap, plentiful and easy to use.
Spring cats go for liver, too, but some fishermen complain about the difficulty of keeping tainted or aged liver on a hook. The stuff can be quite mushy, but here's a trick: Use deer liver instead! Whitetail livers are much denser and tougher than domestic livers and will stay on the hook even after several catches.
If you can't find deer liver, tie your beef liver chunks in mesh or nylon bags to keep them from washing away in the current.
Some fishermen double-hook their fish baits or sew them onto their hooks so that they last longer.
Image courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Prepared baits work best in waters with little or no current. Fast-moving rivers, for example, can clean a dough ball off a hook in seconds. For that reason, some anglers prepare their baits using nylon or mesh bags that are then tied securely to the hook.
Prepared baits also work as chum (again, where legal). Simply mix up a batch of bait, toss it into an onion bag or similar container and toss that into the water upstream from where you intend to fish. The odor of the bait will carry downstream and attract hungry catfish to your baited lines throughout the day or night.
Be sure to anchor the chum bag so that you can dispose of it at the end of the day.
When fishing for bigger cats, use whole necks or gizzards. Marinate the pieces in blood, cheese or their own juices for added flavor and appeal.
Offal may be marinated, soaked, allowed to rot (in a glass or stone jar sealed with a pane of glass to allow gases to escape) and then bagged as bait when it's time to go fishing.
Of course, preparing the more smelly baits for catfish should be done outdoors, not in the kitchen, garage or basement. There's a reason why the most successful catfishermen are able to stay out all night -- no one wants to be near them!