When other fishing shuts down, go after catfish

Remembering past fishing trips can bring those times back to life in an instant. Fred Weirkmeister caught the biggest fish of the night on this catfishing trip. If nothing else is biting, give catfish a try. They are strong fighters and fun to catch. It is one of your best shots at catching a really big fish. When was the last time you heard about anyone catching a 15 pound bass? With catfishing, you can do it almost every trip.

If you are an angler, you know that fishing has been slow all over in recent weeks. However, we are lucky here in Nebraska — there are always fish to be caught. You may just need to switch from your primary species.

Eight species of catfish call Nebraska home. From the tadpole madtom at maybe three inches in length to the state record blue cat at a little over 100 pounds, catfish are everywhere and can provide some great angling opportunities.

Yet, catfish are possibly the most underutilized fishing resource in Nebraska, especially in the western part of our state. You are apt to find these fish in nearly every lake, stream or river in the state. Show me a kid who doesn’t get excited catching bullheads and I’ll show you a kid who has spent way too much time playing video games.

Right now, after the hot Nebraska weather we have experienced, many other species of fish tend to shut down. Catfish stay active and are great targets of opportunity. One of the best parts of catfishing now is that it is done generally in the coolest hours of the day. That’s a big plus for the angler.

Channel catfish are probably the most common species catfish in Nebraska and they can be caught without a lot of special gear. A medium to lightweight spinning outfit, a few sinkers, hooks and some bait are all you need.

Channel cats will eat almost anything. I have caught them on worms, minnows, stink baits, mulberries, Ivory soap and leftover bits of hot dogs from family picnics. One of my more exotic baits is raw shrimp. Where a freshwater species like a Nebraska channel catfish developed a taste for a saltwater crustacean, like a shrimp, I’ll never know — but they do like shrimp.

I remember a few years back, I coordinated a catfishing trip with a few regular fishing partners, Scott Heinzen of North Platte along with Roger Aden and Fred Werkmeister, both of Gothenburg. We took advantage of the cooler temperatures and set up along the bank. Lawn chairs were unfolded and coolers were strategically placed — we were ready to fish. Shrimp, commercially prepared baits and big chubs were the baits for this outing. It was a smorgasbord for the catfish. I think we had something for every taste.

I barely got my shrimp into the water when the rod bent over. It was the first channel cat of the evening. Heinzen was next to score. His commercially prepared bait hooked up with another nice catfish. In short order Heinzen and Werkmeister both hauled in more channel catfish. This was turning out to be a good evening for fishing. Aden’s pole bent over and he had to make a mad dash for it before it got pulled into the water.

There was a lull in the action for a while and I decided to catch a few bluegills during this down time and try them as bait. It paid off. A few minutes after casting his bluegill into deep water, Werkmeister’s pole indicated he had a fish on. About 10 minutes later Werkmeister pulled in a bigger fish — a very respectable channel catfish that was pushing the 15-pound mark.

“That was fun,” Werkmeister said as he was pulling the hook out of the fish. We hurried to get a couple measurements and pictures, then got the fish back into the water.

“He’ll fight another day,” Werkmeister commented as we watched the catfish swim back into the depths.

This is the way our evening went. Everyone caught fish and had a great time. And catfish also make excellent table fare. Deep fat fried or prepared Cajun style, channel catfish are hard to beat. Give them a try and see how you like summertime catfishing.

Dove season

It is roughly two weeks until the Nebraska dove season opens. I can’t wait. It may not be the first hunting season to officially open for the fall of 2019, but many hunters consider it as the kickoff of Nebraska’s hunting seasons.

To get the specifics out of the way, you will need your hunting permit, a habitat stamp, any shotgun 10 gauge or under with the magazine limited to a total of three shells. Depending upon your age, you may need a hunting safety card. From the federal regulations side, you will need a Harvest Information Program number.

When you register for your HIP number, you may receive a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking you to save one wing from each dove during the first week of the season and mail the wings (postage free) to the USFWS. Data from the wings will be used to estimate annual productivity of the dove population and eventually used in helping to establish hunting regulations for future seasons.

Nebraska’s dove season runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 30. Daily bag limit is 15 birds, possession limit is 45 in aggregate. That includes all the species of dove you may find in the state; mourning doves, white-wing doves and the Eurasian collared dove. You may hunt 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.

One last note: Safety.

Dove hunting can become fast and furious. Make sure you know exactly where your hunting partners are and never track and fire at a bird below the horizon. If you are shooting “up” you’re unlikely to hit anyone on the ground. I’ve heard it called the “blue sky rule” and I think it is a good practice to follow. Good luck with all your dove hunting this season.

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