When someone has a true passion for any endeavor, it’s next to impossible to restrain the desire to become actively involved in whatever it is that fuels the passion. Take my friend David Hanson for instance. For over a quarter century David made his living putting clients on the great catfishing at Lake Tawakoni then, a couple years ago, he began a business venture that took him off the water and consumed all his time.
I was delighted to receive a phone call from David early last week telling me that he is back to doing what he truly has a passion for — guiding fishing trips full time. When David invited me to spent some time on the water fishing for blue catfish, I shifted my plans around and met him at Anchor Inn Marina, where I’ve joined him many times in the past.
“Luke, I haven’t captioned a guide boat in over two years but I feel confident that we can hammer eater size blue catfish in shallow water and when fishing Tawakoni there is always the chance of boating a whopper. I know a spot where a couple of channels converge in a shallow flat. I’ve caught fish here for the past 30 years this time of year and I’m positive we will catch them there now,” said the guide as he eased the big 25-foot center console out of the harbor at Anchor Inn and pointed the bow south.
As my buddy hammered down on the big 300 hp outboard, I thought about what the veteran guide said. After two years off the water, he was fully confident that the spot we were heading to would be holding fish. This is confidence backed by years of experience, I thought.
I’ve learned through the years that catfish, both channels and blues, favor creek channels or submerged ditches close to shallow water feeding areas, especially during late spring and early summer. Shad spawn in the shallows throughout the warm weather months and catfish like being close to deeper water during mid day. The bottom contour that plotted on the graph had all the components of being a hot spot. A couple of deeper channels converged adjacent a flat 4-6 feet deep. A large concentration of catfish begin plotting on the graph and David went to work with the knife, cutting the fresh shad he had netted into chunks. With the boat stationary, positioned within casting range of the shallows around the junction of the channels, we began setting the baits with very long casts of the Catfish Pro tournament series rod and reels. Like golfers, we fishermen have specific tools for specific jobs and these rigs were perfectly designed for making long smooth casts. The rigs were perfect for handling the eater size catfish we were targeting but as David pointed out, the smooth drag system and heavy duty metal gears are also well suited for fighting the biggest fish in the lake. A good catfish rod needs to have plenty of backbone to tire a big fish but also enough sensitivity in the tip to ‘feel’ the bite. After catching a few fish with Dave’s rigs, I too was highly impressed.
While some catfish anglers still use standard J type hooks which require a hard hookset, the double offset circle hooks, also from Catfish Pro, we were using proved very effective and when I slowed down and followed instructions, even I lost very few fish!
We were fishing with four rods and these were in rod holders mounted on the boat’s gunwhale (top of the side of the boat). The drill was pretty simple; wait for the fish to bow the tip of the rod and then, with the rod still in the rod holder, crank the reel handle as fast as possible. As the fish swims away, the circle hook corkscrews into the side of the fishes mouth. Old bass fishermen like myself, accustomed to setting the hook when fishing with soft plastics are often challenged with this type fishing. It’s a learned reflex to jerk back and set the hook! But with circle hooks it’s important to let the hook and line tension as the fish swims away do the work. Once steady pressure is noted on the rod, it’s time to pull it out of the holder and fight the fish without allowing any slack in the line. “Crank it, don’t yank it” is a saying that pretty well sums up proper hookset when using a circle hook!
Tawakoni is not only a renowned blue catfish fishery that draws anglers from across the country but also a channel catfish honey hole. As a rule, blues run bigger than their channel catfish cousins and to many catfish eaters taste, are better eating. I’ve never been one to snub my nose as a platter of crispy fried catfish fillets, regardless the species but these 2 to 6 pound blues we were catching were chunky fish and would supply the makings of some big fish fries with their snow white fillets.
The cut bait we were using works well catching both species but most channel catfish are caught using prepared baits such as punch bait or packaged prepared baits. During the spawn, channel catfish are often caught around cover in shallow water by anglers using a slip cork rig but soon, holes baited with soured grain or range cubes will be the preferred method. Winter is prime time for catching trophy blue catfish but we are now in for several months of catching my kind of ‘trophy’ cats, those weighting between 1.5 and 10 pounds: prime eaters.
Contact Guide David Hanson at 903-268-7391 .
Watch the video of this outing on A Sportsmans Life on Carbon TV, carbontv.com
While fishing up in Saskatchewan last summer, an early “cool” front blew in. It was the middle of July. Our guide Trevor Montgomery said it was a good day to make pike chowder and we kept a few 20 inch pike. The rainy weather last week put me in the mood for chowder and I did my best to duplicate his recipe with fresh blue catfish fillets.
Begin by chopping potatoes into sugar cube size pieces, three slices bacon cut into small pieces, a little onion, a stalk of celery chopped finely, a can of corn, salt, Old Bay seasoning, plenty of fresh ground black pepper and some half and half.
The process is very simple and fast. Fry the bacon and add enough water to slowly tenderize the veggies. When everything is tender, add seasonings and trimmed catfish fillets. Allow to simmer 10 or 12 minutes until the fish breaks into small pieces. Make sure the liquid is mostly reduced and add half and half. My first attempt at fish chowder was a success and the catfish was every bit as tasty as the northern pike!
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