Mid-summer Forktails

Mid-summer Forktails

Channel cats are almost too easy to catch now , with the river running extremely low. Even though these whiskerfish are called ‘channel cats’ the best place to hook up is beyond the channel in running sloughs and side-cuts with several habitat parameters.

All you need to do is find 7-12 fow, hard bottom, moderate current and fish above a snag or driftpile . No need to go fishin’ at midnight! This is where the forktails are living now. Knock on their front door with a desirable meal and they will answer within FIFTEEN MINUTES.

Anchoring cross-current to spread lines when fishing on the bottom is the best way to eliminate unproductive water. If cats are home, at least one rod will start bouncing within 15 minutes. Frequently, a rod at one end of the boat will be the ‘hot’ rod. This is because the bait is spot-on in the scent trail leading downstream to the waiting fish.

Summer cats tend to stack up in a narrow band–like speed skaters racing around the oval. If one rod is ‘hot’ repositioning the boat to put more lines on this scent seam will result in more fish.

Once you’re on fish, it’s time for the FIVE MINUTE RULE. If you go five full minutes without an active bite, its time to move–either to another spot along the snag or to similar habitat UPSTREAM. Eventually, the number of quality, active cats will be depleted–leaving only ‘fiddlers’ who want to lick frosting instead of chowing down.

Channel cats are omnivorous. Dipbait–with the right ingredients and consistency is usually the best bait. Cutbait from a freshly caught, oily baitfish like a mooneye will also work. Fishing a half-crawler on one line to catch a mooneye is a solid plan. Cutbait usually produces bigger forktails.

A 1/8-1/4 oz. egg sinker is plenty of weight when anchored up above a snag with the ideal habitat parameters, as you are fishing DIRECTLY UP CURRENT from the fish.

A barrel swivel keeps the sinker from sliding too far down the line. On the other end is the hook–6-12″ below a leader. I like a 12 lb. test mono leader below at least a 20 lb. test main line. If you’re fishing where the fish are you’re gonna get hung up. Worst case scenario is USUALLY just losing the hook.

When looking for baitfish, a #4-6 slow-death, light wire hook is ideal. Serious cattin’ requires a hook with a little more steel. If using dipbait, either a species specific plastic worm with a #10 treble in the tail or a #4-6 treble with that spongy foam used to pack around window air conditioners, etc. to hold the bait.

There are only a couple of consistently productive dipbaits which are available at the tackle shop. Sonny’s Super sticky is still the best even with my longtime pal ol’ Clarence no longer there to ensure quality control.

My friendship with Sonny Hootman dates back more than 40 years. He never shared the exact proprietary formula with me–but he provided enough clues over the years to blend my own stuff–which is what a real river rat needs to do, anyway.

My recipe will go to the grave with me. But i will tell you waste cheese, soybean oil, shad flies and turtle liver go into the mix. If the bait gets too runny, add cattail fuzz, too stiff–a LITTLE soybean oil.

About 30 years ago Sonny came up with a batch he called ‘golden glue’. The stuff was beyond amazing. But subsequent attempts to replicate it could only come close.

I just finished a 2-day species specific cat trip with a couple guys from the city. This required crafting a new batch of bait. Won’t be so bold as to compare the stuff to golden glue–but it certainly works!

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