Outdoor Corner: Catfish Crazy

Lyle Johnson
Layne Gautreau’s wife, Donna caught these catfish in early June on the Diversion canal fishing with night crawlers under a cork.

When traveling through Louisiana, you can hardly go around the block without running across an eating establishment. Whether it be a mom 'n pop dive, a diner, a hole in the wall joint, or a five-star restaurant they all feature fried catfish on the menu. As a matter of fact there are lots of places where the whiskery fish are the star attraction.

But as serious as us Louisianans are about eating our catfish, we are probably more serious about catching them. Let’s examine some of the ways that this task is accomplished.

Catfish can be an incidental bonus to just about any targeted species. One could find the fish at the end of a cane pole while going after pan fish using worms, crickets, minnows, or any natural bait you might use. They are known to attack an artificial lure with the ferocity of a speeding train as well.

Tight-lining: a rod armed with a spinning, spin-cast, or bait casting reel with at least 14-pound test line is the preferred tackle that includes a weight and a hook that is cast out and fished on the bottom. Although known as "bottom-feeders" (that's why this application is the most popular) they can be caught throughout the water column.

My favorite rig is a sinker attached to the end of the line, and then the hook is tied up the line from 12" to four or five feet depending on the current speed and warmth of the water. The less the current or higher the temperature of the water, the higher off the bottom I tie my hook.

You can buy these already made up at most tackle outlets, or you can make them yourself. I like making my own. Tie the sinker (1/2 oz to 3 oz depending on current speed) to the line. Come up to the distance you want the bait off the bottom and double the line to about 4" and tie a knot, making a short loop. Put a swivel on the end of the loop, then tie a 6" piece of mono to the swivel with a 1/0 catfish circle hook.

Catfish will eat just about anything, so bait is not too hard to pick out. Worms are easy to obtain and work well but I prefer to catch shad with a cast net or dip some crawfish out of a ditch. Wieners work well too but I have a problem eating them myself and running out of bait. Most tackle outlets have some manufactured bait as well.

Under a cork: another favorite in the south is using the same rods and reels as above but using a cork to suspend the bait from 18" to 24" below the cork. This method works well in our cypress studded lakes in the late spring to early summer when the catfish are spawning.

Lake Verret and Des Allemands in South Louisiana are loaded with cypress trees. The cypresses are the perfect location for the fish to feed prior to spawning while attracting both males as well as the females for easy catching.

It doesn't take a lot of expertise to watch a cork, so this style of catching the whiskered critters appeals to the novice and children as well. Under the trees one can generally find some shade as the day heats up, so it's a great outing for family and friends. Night crawlers and worms are the best bait to catch a mess for frying.

Noodles or Jugging: this method consists of a float of some type with a line hanging from 2' to 10' depending on the depth of the water you’re fishing. A half-ounce sinker tied just above the hook will add just enough weight to slow the rig down if the current is flowing. Noodling works good in just about any place you find water: river, canal, a bayou or lake.

The most popular rig is one made of Styrofoam noodles that can be bought at most large department stores. They are 4' long and can be cut in four - 12" pieces that make perfect sized floats. Better yet, the line can be rolled up on the noodle and the hook inserted into the foam to make it easily storable.

You can make up anywhere from 10 or so to 100 noodles because they are easy to transport. Bait them with worms, crawfish, shad, or even some store bought bait. Then take a couple of hours to fish for other species and go back and pick up the noodles. Find the ones that have catfish on them, and put them in the ice chest in anticipation of some very tasty fried fish. Since this takes no great skill set, this is another way to introduce kids to fishing.

Trotlines: a trotline is defined as a long line with a number of hooks attached that drop from the main line at intervals of several feet. Trotlines are legal in Louisiana but the requirements differ from spot to spot, so a check to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries regulations page is much needed.

They can be set in bayous, canal, rivers and lakes so finding a spot is not usually a problem. If the bayou, canal or river is 100' wide, the main line is tied at the bank on one side and travels straight across to the other side and tied on the bank there as well.

The trots or drops are usually four to eight feet apart depending on how many baits the angler wants to deal with. My preference is the longer distance. It makes tangling hooks on the boat a lesser problem and less bait to obtain.

Sinkers need to be attached to the main line to sink the line, and the length of the sinker line determines how deep the baits will be in the water. Two or three floats can be attached to the main line to adjust the depth as well. In the summer months, the oxygen levels can be deficient at the lower depths so there is a need to float the line closer to the surface.

This style of fishing for catfish is as much work as it is fun. From 20 or so hooks to get bait for, and then put it on the hook can be a bit more than just fun in the sun. This is especially so if you plan to catch your bait. All of the bait listed for the above methods will work here as well.

The other "noodling": the last method we’ll talk about is not for the faint at heart. It’s called noodling as well but it has nothing to do with floats or hooks or line or bait. This style is you catching the catfish with parts of your body.

The angler ventures into the realm of the catfish and swims with the whiskery critter. Logs, holes, and just about anything that has a place big enough for a fish to fit in is what you’re looking for. You also have to hold your breath underwater until the deed is done.

When one is found, you take a deep breath, go underwater and insert your strongest hand and arm into the hole. Then (on purpose) you let the catfish bite down on your hand and pull your hardest to remove it from its lair and throw it in the boat.

This method takes the least amount of equipment, but it takes a little moreummph than I care to give out. It's not for me but it could be for you. Until next time remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe, and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman’s League meeting held at Chef KD’s on Highway 74 starting at 7 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

APSO Shooting Range: The rifle range on St. Landry Road is open to the public year-round on the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., or safe shooting light.

Squirrel season: Through Feb 28 daily bag limit 8 possession 24.

Rabbit season: Through Feb 28 daily bag limit 8 possession 24.

Quail season: Through Feb. 28, statewide, private lands only. Daily bag limit 10 possession 30.

BCKFC Championship Tournament: Dec. 8, Location TBA. Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club event. Anglers qualified through BCKFC Angler-of-the-Year points. Website:

Junior Southwest Bassmasters Banquet: Dec. 13 at 7 p.m., state Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters, Quail Drive, Baton Rouge. Call Jim Breaux 225-262-0929.

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