If you are looking for some good fishing close to home, try our local oxbows for channel catfish.
That's what I did recently with Pat Carter, Jefferson, S.D., and his son Travis. We picked McCook Lake, the Missouri River oxbow just outside of North Sioux City; but, it just as well could have been Browns Lake or Snyders Bend Lake just west of Salix.
We've caught lots of eating-sized channel cats out of all three of those lakes and the fishing just seems to get better as the summer goes on.
I met Pat and his son at the boat ramp on the east side of the lake early in the afternoon. The wind was blowing. The weatherman said wind velocity's were 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 50 expected. Now that's windy. But on a small lake with a good boat it is not a safety problem. What would be a problem would be presenting the baits slowly enough while drifting to entice channel cats.
Pat put out two drift socks to slow our boat and also dropped over a 10-pound anchor on a short line to drag on the bottom and we picked a spot on the lake out of the major force of the wind. When Travis set the hook on our first fish, we knew we had the right combination.
Drifting for channel cat is a very effective presentation in most lakes. It allows you to find concentrations of fish more quickly than still fishing and if you think catfish will not hit a moving bait, you are wrong. I've caught a lot of them on crankbaits, in fact. Thing is, that drift can't be too fast. So, even in a light wind, a drift sock is a good bet.
Here's how we rigged up. The Carters, who are catfish specialists, use medium action catfish rods of about 7 or 7 1/2-feet in length. They use 20 pound monofilament and pinch on a couple of small splitshot about 2-3 feet above a Kahle 4/0 hook. Pat favors cut bait for nearly all of his channel cat fishing. We used chubs left over from a tournament he fished on the Missouri River the week before at Nebraska City, Neb. His brother Darrell, Elk Point, won that one with 53.9 pounds topped by a 31.5 pound blue catfish. Pat and Darrell fish several catfish tournaments annually, both local and national, and win a lot of them.
Last year Pat and Travis won the prestigious "Incredible Cat's" tourney on the Red River at Grand Forks, N.D., while brother Darrell and his son Matt to second place. Over 150 boats were entered. In 2005 Pat won the U.S. CATS Iowa division tournament on the Missouri River at Sioux City. This summer, he and his four brothers teamed up to win a tournament on the Little Sioux River at Correctionville, Iowa.
Pat and Darrell are the driving force behind the Sioux City Iowa District U.S. CATS tournament held on the Missouri River here each summer since 2004. They enlist sponsors for the event and publicize it by distributing hundreds of posters around the three state area.
This year, Pat is being sponsored by First Class Credit Union, a full service financial institution with branches in Des Moines, Sioux City, and West Des Moines. The credit union offers a wide variety of services such as savings, checking, loans, IRAs, CDs, on-line statement information, and on-line teller to name a few.
The sponsorship will help with expenses Pat incurs while competing in several catfish tournaments each summer.
Although Pat has caught channel catfish up to 10 pounds in McCook lake, the majority of fish you take will be pan sized, just the right size for eating.
While we used pieces of chubs for bait, the meat of just about any fish will catch catfish. Some of the best include skipjack (goldeye) and shad. Other good baits for these catfish would include chicken liver or turkey liver, shrimp, nightcrawlers or freshly killed minnows.
Smaller channel cats are usually not too choosey but it often pays to carry several different kinds of bait and try them all to see if the fish prefer one over another.
When drifting you want just enough weight to keep the bait on the bottom. One or two medium sized split shot is enough to get down 12 feet or so. If you can't reach the bottom, your drift is probably too fast.
While the Kahle is an excellent catfish hook, it is sometimes hard to find. An Eagle Claw 186 bait holder is a commonly available hook which also works well for catfish.
We only fish a couple hours that windy day but caught channels on every drift. We released them all after getting a few pictures.
Larry Myhre is editor of the Journal. Reach him at (712) 293-4201 or email at: email@example.com