I was sitting on the grassy bank of a small pond recently when I learned that President Donald Trump’s son had been subpoenaed by a congressional committee to testify about some of his dad’s supposed misdeeds.
While thousands of concerned citizens across the country flailed their arms or cheered as a response (depending on their political persuasion), I swatted lazily at a deer fly that had developed a peculiar affection for me and leaned over to adjust the dial on my little transistor radio.
It wasn’t that I was out of touch with reality. It was that I just didn’t care. An old friend used to tell me, “Don’t worry about the things you can’t control. They’re going to happen anyway.” He was right.
Catfishing has a way of putting things like that in perspective. On one hand, it’s angling at its simplest. On the other, it’s a challenging sport that’s as much a part of our springtime landscape as flowering azaleas and kids in Little League uniforms.
I didn’t have long to contemplate the fickleness of Washington politics anyway.
My orange bobber began to slide below the pond’s glassy surface. Snatching up my spinning rod, I reared back and found myself attached to a heavy force that began to move off toward the pond’s deep center. For three or four minutes it was
a tug of war, the unseen fish grudgingly giving line, only to turn and peel it off against the growl of the reel’s drag. Finally, the rod’s persistent pressure took its toll and the fish was led, headfirst, into a waiting net.
It was a channel cat, probably one of a batch that the pond’s owner had stocked in the pond as fingerlings years ago. This one was much better than finger-length, though. It wasn’t a trophy, but was perfect size to be the main attraction on a
seafood platter. With thoughts of fried fillets and hushpuppies dancing in my head, I added the catfish to a pair of his brethren already residing on a nylon stringer.
The largest catfish in North Carolina are channel, blue, white and flathead species. All are found in the state’s rivers and most also inhabit the larger lakes. The Cape Fear River and Lake Gaston have gained reputations as some of the most
productive waters for trophy catfish. Biologists aren’t certain whether the fish are actually larger there, or if there are simply more serious catfish anglers in those areas. In any case, a number of state record fish have come from those waters over the years. The current record flathead catfish, that weighed 78 pounds, was caught in the Cape Fear in 2005. The heaviest blue cat, a 117.5 lb. pound specimen, came from Lake Gaston in 2016.
It’s interesting to note that all of the record catfish in the state have been caught in either the spring or fall. Those are prime times. Although the fish can be found year around, right now is the peak of the season. An excellent spot for anyone who wants to catch a lot of catfish is the Chowan River just outside of Edenton. Blues and whites begin to move into the stumpy waters near shore around Mothers’ Day each year. According to a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the fish move into the shallows to spawn and will remain there until warming temperatures force them to deeper water.
Whatever their motivation for being there, it’s a fact that the catfish congregate in prodigious numbers. It’s not unusual to hook several dozen a day using worms or cut bait. Landing them all can be a different story, however. The combination of
powerful fish that can run ten pounds or more and lots of snags makes each one that’s brought into the boat a trophy of sorts.
The Neuse River and its tributary, the Trent River, are also noted for their catfish. In both streams, upstream from New Bern is prime habitat. It’s not unusual for anglers to land blue cats that hit 30 pounds or more around places like Spring
Garden or Pitchkettle. For the bigger fish, fresh, cut bait is the piece de resistance with a half a bream being about right. Knowledgeable anglers will set up in bends in one of the rivers where there is a drop-off to deeper water and put out several
rods. Circle hooks let fish take the bait, move off and hook themselves. They also allow fishermen to easily release any they don’t intend to keep.
Although catfish often bite eagerly, it shouldn’t be assumed they are pushovers.
Sometimes they can be as finicky as a house cat with a full belly. It also shouldn’t be assumed that their numbers are limitless. Catfish are plentiful in our waters today, but they’re too valuable a resource to waste. There are no creel or size limits
but common sense dictates that, other than those kept for the table, fish should be returned to the water to provide sport for years to come. And to give fishermen a reason to sit on a pond or river bank and enjoy the marvel that is spring in the
Ed Wall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-671-3207. His web site is edwalloutdoors.com