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Here are some of the basics for catch and release of Catfish!
Remember these are only Guide Lines and common sense should all ways be used.
***Basic Catch And Release Guide Lines***
With the abundance of catfish in our waters, it's only a matter of time before you decide to start hauling in loads of cats. There are several catfish to choose from. The most often sought after cat, seems to be the channel cat for table fare. It's a great eating fish and easy to catch. But there are others as well that certain people find on the end of their lines.
The Flathead, blue, and the yellow cat are caught as well. The Flathead and blue cats are the larger of the others and can really put up a fight, so be prepared for a long battle if you hook one of these big boys. Flat heads and blues are best caught on live bait and 10" or larger carp as bait is commonly used, as well as shad and other baitfish and worms. If your looking to catch these fish, then use a heavy line and good strong hooks are in order to land these lunkers. A good strong reel is a must as well as a strong pole that can take the abuse and punishment that these fish can give out. Like with most fish; use a barb less hook or just pinch the barbs together to aid in easy hook removal. It's quite often that you will hook a cat deep in the throat or in the gullet and with the barb less hooks, it will make for a faster hook removal and less injury on the fish.
A hook remover can save your fingers if one decides to clamp its strong jaws down while removing the hook. In some cases, you might catch one to large to haul in with a net due to the weight of the fish; it's best to grab the cat behind the gill plates to load in the boat or out of the water from the bank. Just becarefull not to get your fingers in the gills when doing this. When handling the larger cats, be sure to have a strong hold, these fish can flip around with great force and you might drop the fish in the boat or on the ground and injure it. Cats are known to be survivors and will take more abuse then most fish, but still handle them with care when catch and releasing, taking pictures, or culling your catch and as always, wet your hands first before touching the fish.
A lot of times with channel cats, you may release a lot more fish back into the water when looking for certain sizes to keep for table fare. These guys have strong jaws like the rest and a large channel cat can really be tough to get his mouth open at times to remove the hook, so a jaw spreader might be in order and watch those fingers if you don't have a hook remover. These cats can peel the skin off your fingers if not careful. A lot of times, you might be using treble hooks and you can pinch the barbs down just like the rest, but be sure to keep a tight line, as not to loose the fish in the fight.
Personally, I think the channel cat is one of the best catfish of them all to eat and to me, they seem to make for better table fare at #15 and under. The channel and yellow/mud cats, can be caught on many baits, from chicken liver, punch bait, dough bait, worms and lures just to name a few. In small ponds and larger waters and rivers, you will find the yellow/mud cat often lurking around, scavenging for food. I've seen many people toss these fish out on to the banks just to be left to die. Most don't like to eat these fish for the very reason they eat mostly dead and decaying fish and crawfish ect,. There fore, they’re considered nothing more then a scavenger fish and not worthy of good table fare.
This does not mean that a person should just toss them up on the bank and leave them to die just because they don't like to eat them. They do have a purpose in which they help keep the waters clean like a buzzard on land or any other scavenger does. I have found that yellow cats caught in clean deep water doesn't taste half bad and makes for good table fare if cleaned ASAP and placed in ice to keep cool on the way home. Most often you will hook these fish deep in the gullet and a barb less hook will aid in faster and safer hook removal. These fish are mostly easy to handle compared to the others and often a net is not required to land the fish, but like with the rest, handle with care!
When releasing any of these catfsh, carefully place the catfish in the water, while holding the tail and mid section, slowly make back and forth motions with the fish in order to revie it. Keep in mind, this catfish has been through a lot and it may take a bit of time for him to get his senses back and revived fully.
When releasing, be on the safe side and stick around for a little while to make sure your release is successful. Catfish are strong survivors and have a real good chance of surviving!