A great way to enjoy exciting fishing on a budget is from shore, and catfish are the best target species for both fun and food.
Not everyone has access to a boat or extra funds for outfitted fishing trips, but most of us are blessed with shore-fishing opportunities in close proximity to home. Many of these local waters are loaded with catfish, which can offer an exciting bite with tasty rewards.
While locating bass or crappie habitat from shore is possible, catfish tend to roam in search of food and rely heavily on their sense of smell to locate it from great distances, so it’s possible to attract them to your location. This sense of smell is why catfish are the most sought-after species for die-hard bank anglers. Catfish are easy to catch, and with the right baits you can greatly improve the numbers you’re able to hook from your bank position.
Here are some inexpensive bait options to consider next time you hit the bank for cats …
Chicken liver has been the classic catfish bait for many years because it works. The only problem is keeping it on your hook. There are several tricks to help keep liver on your hook longer, and even make it more difficult for small “bait robber” catfish to take it off your hook.
Some anglers put the liver in pantyhose or use a spring on a treble hook. I believe sewing thread is the most efficient solution for eliminating all your liver-losing woes. The one thing that makes this trick work better is using fresh livers. Some grocery stores sell fresh chicken livers, so call around. Previously frozen livers will work, but fresh livers are much more solid in composition, and I think they’re more effective for attracting catfish. Some say to let the liver sit in the sun until it turns green or just plain rots, but this is a turn-off for young anglers, and I feel that fresh livers actually work better.
Simply wrapping thread around the livers is a great way to efficiently keep them on the hook. The container for the livers shown here is two coffee canisters, with ice stacked around the smaller center canister containing the livers. When fishing is done, put on the lid and store it in a cooler or the fridge for the next day’s bank-fishing fun. (Photo credit: Ken McBroom)
The sewing thread trick is nothing fancy and requires no knots. Just set the tag end of a spool of thread on the liver and wrap. The thread sticks to the liver and allows you to wrap the thread around the liver and hook. Make sure you’re careful with the first couple of wraps so the thread stays put, then make about eight or 10 wraps and break the thread. That’s it: The liver will be secured to your hook.
Another popular and proven bait for catfishing is cut-bait. Fresh bluegill makes great bait for all species of catfish, and while shad are usually the catfish’s primary prey, a bluegill is a delicacy and seems to do really well.
When folks think of cut-bait, they often think of the whole fish cut into chunks. This is the easiest way to prepare cut-bait, but it’s messy. I like to keep everything as clean as possible, so I do a little extra work in preparing my bluegill cut-bait. First, I scale my bluegills with a spoon. Then, I fillet the bluegills and discard the messy stuff, leaving a tender fillet for bait. Leave the skin on the fillets so they stay on the hook, and store them in a plastic bag on ice to keep them fresh. The skin also gives off a scent, which is the reason I scale mine—so the scent and oils can easily release into the water. You can get a couple of pieces of bait per side from larger bluegills. Cut the fillets in half lengthwise; this keeps the bait long enough to get the hook into it twice for more security.
Fishing from the bank can be fun and effective for catching catfish. (Photo credit: Ken McBroom)
There’s more to cut-bait than meets the eye. Get youths in the mix and its benefits are twofold: They get to catch more fish, you get an endless supply of bait. If they catch too many fish, it’s the perfect time to start teaching them catch and release. The kids might be tuckered out from catching bait by the time the evening catfish bite rolls around. However, if anyone is awake when the action ensues, hand them a rod and they’ll be hooked forever.