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Tarrant County Times Record

Thursday August 15th, 2002


Fishing For Leviathon of The Lake

By Chad D. Ferguson


I get a lot of questions about catfish from different people who are out there hunting the big trophy fish for the first time, and this has been a hot question that I have been asked a lot lately.

There are two species of catfish that grow to trophy size in Texas, the Blue Cat and the Flathead Cat (also known as an Appaloosa, App, Opp, Shovelhead or Yellow depending on who you talk to and what region of the state they grew up in.)

The yellow cat is the most commonly seen trophy fish. Trophy blues do exist but in this region the yellows seem to be more common and more popular amongst anglers.

The yellow cats popularity for trophy fishing is likely due to its eating qualities. A blue cat over about 6 lbs has a very foul taste to it, since blue cats are scavengers like channel cats, they will eat just about anything they come across, and the meat of these fish reflects this diet when they get old. A flathead catfish on the other hand is a predator, feeding mainly on live baits, therefore keeping the meat clean and tasty even when these fish reach record sizes.

Flathead cats have been known to easily reach 75 or more pounds in older lakes and reservoirs and the sight of these monstrous fish for those whom have never seen them will surely open your eyes. I have seen many of squeamish folks on the lakes with a look of fear in their eyes when one of these trophy fish is brought to shore. In 1999 a 98.5-pound Flathead Catfish was caught at Lake Palestine in Texas.

The questions I get about these fish seem to revolve around when where and how to catch them. I could probably write for days about techniques on catching these trophy fish and where to find them, but here is the short version.

These fish are primarily caught in colder water, they can be caught during the warmer months but cold water is where the action is. Starting around the first of October or the "first cold spell" marks the beginning of the best flathead action and this continues through the middle to end of April. Fishing for these trophy fish in warm water will be slow and frustrating.

Trophy Flatheads are most often caught on trotlines or limb lines. There are some who endure the chase with rod and reels and jug lines, but due to the time and wait involved trotlines seem to be the most common method in Texas.
A limb line is simply a piece of heavy braided nylon twine with a hook on the end that is secured to a flexible tree limb hanging over the water. A trotline is a long piece of braided nylon twine that has shorter "leader" lines hanging from it every few feet, giving you a long line with a lot of hooks hanging on it (typically 25).

Trotlines used for trophy flatheads are sturdy lines built by hand (not the store bought ones) that typically have main lines capable of handling 300 lbs and hooks that are substantially larger than the typical trotlines hooks. 6/0 and 7/0 hooks are pretty common sizes. The smaller 2/0 and 3/0 hooks that come on "store bought" trotlines are a mere nuisance to a flathead catfish that weighs fifty pounds, as he will simply twist and pull on the line until he breaks free, or pulls the hook loose.

Flatheads feed on live bait since they are predators. Fishing for a trophy flathead requires a lively hearty bait that can be placed on the hook and will remain alive and make lots of noise on the water to attract the Flathead Catfish. Live perch are the most common bait used in this area; though I have seen some people use everything from small bullhead catfish to live mice. Prepared stink baits and other similar baits are not effective with these fish as there diet is exclusive to live baits (or "fresh dead" baits).

These fish typically hold in running water surrounding the lakes where creeks and rivers feed into the lake. They like cold moving water and they hold up in logjams, undercut banks and trees stumps during the day, and the rest and wait. When night falls on the water, they become active and leave their "holes" in search of the food necessary to support their substantial body weights. Flatheads feed throughout the night and then return to their "holes" at daylight.

These fish are very territorial, and due to their substantial size, typically are the "king of the lakes and rivers" running all other species of fish out of their areas (or at least the ones they do not eat). It is important to remember the territorial nature of these fish because if you locate one, and fail to catch him, chances are you can in fact go back another day to "close the deal".

Great caution needs to be exercised when and if you do finally get one of these monstrous catfish on a line, as they can be extremely dangerous on trotlines if you are not experienced, and they have been the result of many drowning throughout time. They are strong, and powerful, and typically not happy when they are hanging on a hook. It is always best to have two people in a boat when running trotlines for these fish.

The best technique to use is to get two people in the boat, pull the line close to the boat so it is somewhat secure, and let the fish tire itself out. Once you do make the move to "boat" the fish, always make sure you have a sharp knife handy so you can cut the trotline if needed. These huge fish can thrash around wrapping an arm in hooks in one fail swoop leaving the angler in an emergency situation.

This is no doubt the largest freshwater fish that many people will ever encounter, and they are common in most lakes in Texas. With some research and dedication, you can come face to face with one of these freshwater monsters. The adrenaline rush of hanging one of these monster fish is certainly one that is not easily forgotten.

Please remember that these trophy fish are a limited resource and should be respected to make sure that they are there for future generations. Limiting the harvest of these trophy fish is something that will benefit us all in the future.

For more information on Catfishing in Texas or for local fishing reports log on to www.whiskerkitty.com or call Chad Ferguson at 817-306-0325.


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