An Old Timer once told me that “You don’t fish Saugers on Pool 3 until the lilacs start to bloom!”¨ And that sure seems to be the case, but the other thing he told me is that “You can add Channel Cats to that list too!” Herb Reinardy is gone now, but I still remember his wise advice like it was yesterday. Herb was a cousin of my 100 year old Grandpa Irv Rubbelke. My Grandpa would tell stories of the days when they would smoke catfish. He had asked the boys and me “If we got a smaller one, would you smoke one for me?” We obliged, and he raved about that fish for months! So last Friday AJ and Matt Tuckner joined me on a ¡§Seek and find¡¨ mission to see if the big females were in a nesting/spawning pattern. I knew we would be close, but this goofy Spring had the lilacs off of their normal schedule! We hit a few of our normal early season spots with no luck and a lot of fast water.
So much like walleye fishing, channel cats like to relate to current seams. Finding just the right current seam can make all the difference in the world. I like seams that push up into a point and create some slack water next to fast current. We decided to use cut sucker and stinkbait as our search baits and decided we would fish whatever they told us they wanted to bite. The answer turned out to be both! The first cast to the edge of the current break had AJ tussling with a nice cat. Little did we know that for the next three hours we would see action like I had never seen in 40 year of chasing cats around Minnesota and Wisconsin! We hit a pod of cats setting up for the spawn. Look at the tail on this fish, (Above) it tells the story. What I find interesting is all the color phases of channel cats. We caught tan, black and grey cats. The fish we caught ranged from 5 to just under 20 pounds. It was very nice to see many year classes represented.
As the night rolled on, the bite rolled right along with it. It seemed once one guy got a bite, someone else’s rod was doing the “Cat Dance!” We had 2 doubles and even a triple that had 3 fat channels writhing on my Warrior’s floor. What we soon realized was that these cats were relating to the deeper part of the seam over sand. We soon had all 3 lines on one side of the boat. If we would cast out into the current, it would bring our 4 ounce no-roll right into the sandy seam. Once it settled in it seemed like someone rang the dinner bell! Our water temps were 61 degrees in that eddy and 58 in the fast water. As I had mentioned, a #6 treble for the stinkbait and a circle hook of a size that matches your cut bait. Unlike Flat Heads, channels seam perfect candidates for circle hooks. Leave it in the rod holder on the bite and they always set themselves in the corner of the mouth.
Another tidbit on info that may help out is to go to the Team Catfish website and view their video clips. They are very informative, especially their location tips and how to correctly use Stink Bait. I can’t say enough about Sudden Impact bait after Brian K turned me on to it a couple years ago. Sonny’s Secret 7 and Little Stinker make some good baits as well, but I would have to tip the cap to the SI. It has fibers in it that cling to a #6 treble very nicely and does not need to be re-baited as often. Even cut suckers found their way into the stink bait jars for “Seasoning.” Rods I like are long 7 to 8′ medium action rods. I like the rod to do a lot of the fighting of the fish. These are nice rods to use for stinkbaits and circle hooks for the Self Setting qualities. Like the walleye spawn, this only happens for a brief period where you can find these fish stacked like this. They will soon be spread out into their summertime haunts. When you do encounter a spawning school, please be gentle with them. You can see their oversize bellies are carrying the future for our kids to enjoy! Oh, and yes. We were able to catch to smaller males at the end of the night for Grandpa and they were smoked Sunday.