- Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 July 2014 11:08
- Published on Wednesday, 09 July 2014 11:08
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If last week was any indication, the catfish spawn must be ending. Two young men, Elijah and Rex, were up bright and early to beat the heat and join me on a trip to the Rapp to pound some old catfish water in search of some action. We put in at Wilmont Landing before the sun was too high in the sky. With temps predicted to reach into the upper 90s and the heat index to creep towards 110, I wanted to be off the water by 10 AM for sure. Being in a metal boat in the bright sunshine in those temps will fry any brain cells you might have, and I did not want to lose what few I had left.
Although lately, the bite has been better by bottom fishing, I opted to go back to my old ways and put a chunk of bait on the boys’ lines below a stick float. We were less than a mile from the ramp near the shoreline fishing among woody debris when the first float went under. The fish let go before the hook was set, but the second float soon went under, and it was ON! I did not bother baiting my own rod. The boys were keeping me plenty busy unhooking fish while trying to wash some of that slime off my hands in between.
Our bait hung 20-28 inches below the floats, and we were literally less than five yards from shore with our baits. Many people position the boat up on shore and then cast away from the shore for catfish. I reverse this trend when fishing with the float set ups, and often score. Elijah was the lucky man at first; he had a habit of grabbing his pole and just reeling in fish without setting the hook. I think he caught nearly 20 fish himself and only missed two that I can recall from not setting the hook. Most people would have had zilch to show for their efforts, for not setting the hooks. I don’t know what kind of magic Elijah was working there, but he was hauling them in regularly. Rex and I kept shaking our heads.
We moved the boat after every four or five fish to hit another prime water that had been untouched and then repeated the effort up and down the shoreline. Our catch was predominantly blue catfish, but the boys also boated some chunky channel catfish, too. The boys’ fish measured between 16 and 24 inches, which is perfect eating-size.
Rex gave Elijah a good head start, and then he started closing the gap by hauling in fish left and right, as well. Our bucket soon filled, and I told the boys to give me a break for a few minutes. I had a rope stringer, on which I put the fish, and then I cut the boys loose again to fish. I think Elijah caught more fish than Rex, but Rex got the quality fish. They soon filled the bucket once more, and I had to call them off. I knew the work ahead to filet those fish, and it was getting hot anyway.
I told Rex to catch one more to end the day on a good note. His float was positioned near a bush with fishy looking water flowing around and under it. I figured it had to be a good spot. As with many instances where you want just one more fish, the float was not going under. I grumbled knowing it always worked this way. Anytime you want to complete your day, it takes a long time; much longer than all the other fish did to bite.
We soon found out what the problem was. Rex’s float disappeared, and when he set the hook, the line zipped outbound. I noted it was running harder and faster than the other fish. His drag was squealing, the rod was pumping up and down, and the line went under the boat. It was chaos for a few minutes. This was going to be interesting, for sure. When the fish got near the boat again, it became obvious that the creature on the end of his line was different. At that point, I noticed it was a few feet long. I made a mad dash over the obstacle course that littered our boat to the front, where I snatched out my net and began maneuvering for the shot. Rex played the fish expertly; bringing it by me several times so that I could scoop it up. The fish was a big bowfin. The bowfin was NOT happy at all, but Rex was. What a way to end the trip!
We got the fish into the cooler after taking a few pictures and then pulled up shop and headed to the ramp with the summer breeze in our faces and eagles flying overhead. It was a beautiful, although hot day. We saw herons, ospreys and eagles and caught dozens of fish. In fact, the cooler would not shut! What is summertime without a trip to the river to bend a rod and bring home a good mess of catfish for a fish fry?
Nice job Rex and Elijah!
photos by Mark Fike