Page 173 - South Mississippi Living - September, 2021
P. 173

People Don’t Need To Run Offshore To Catch Giant Fish
story and photos by
John N. Felsher
People don’t need to run miles offshore to battle huge fish. Among the most abundant and largest freshwater fish in the Magnolia State, catfish can provide big-game excitement close to home without the hefty price tag.
Most people fish for channel catfish and blue cats. Blue cats can top 140 pounds. The Mississippi state record weighed 95 pounds. Channel cats can exceed 58 pounds with the state record standing at 51.75 pounds.
Blue and channel catfish eat almost anything. Some popular baits include nightcrawlers, crawfish, cheese, shrimp,
commercial baits, and any other morsels with an odor or that oozes an oily slick. With sensors all over its body,
a catfish swims through the water like a tongue tasting everything and can hone in on the smallest particles that
might indicate food.
Anybody can catch catfish in practically every freshwater system in the
state. For small catfish, most people simply dangle a bait under a bobber or fish a bottom rig. However, to catch monsters, anglers need to fish specifically for big ones with heavy tackle and large baits.
“To catch really big catfish, anglers need to spend considerable time on the water specifically fishing for big catfish,” advises Phil King, a national champion catfish angler from Mississippi. “The key to catching catfish is just getting the bait in front of its nose.”
The biggest blue cats prefer fish to other temptations. Anglers can use live or whole fresh fish. Anglers can also use a head and gut section, fish chunks or strips. When fishing for monster blues, many anglers drift down rivers like the Pearl, Jourdan or Pascagoula dragging baits behind them. Big blue cats like to drop into deep holes in main river channels. The most active fish typically lurk just below a drop-off edge facing upstream waiting to grab any succulent morsel flowing toward them.
“When fishing a river, I look for drop-offs, holes and changes in depth,” King says. “It doesn’t have to be more than a foot in depth change to hold a big fish. I like to fish right along the drop-off edge where the current rides over the top, creating a little boil.”
Flathead catfish can top 120 pounds with the Mississippi record holding at 77.70 pounds. Flatheads prey heavily upon bluegills, shad and other fish. They usually like live bait, but might hit fish strips or chunks. Flatheads hunker down in thick woody cover to ambush passing fish. Place several baits just upstream from a fallen tree or similar cover so the current carries the scent to the lurking predators.
“When targeting flatheads, fresh bait is the key,” explains Joey Pounders, a professional catfish angler and former holder of the Mississippi record for flatheads with a 77-pounder. “We normally use live shad about six to eight inches long. When catching bait, we might catch a thousand shad, but only use 20. We like to keep the bait about two feet off the bottom.”
If people want to catch big catfish, they need to release any cats
over about 10 pounds. It takes decades for a catfish to reach gigantic proportions. People who want to eat catfish can keep smaller ones. Fishing for trophy catfish requires great patience and considerable luck, but any tug on the line could produce the fish of a lifetime.
  Above: Amy Gable (left) lands a channel catfish and Joey Pounders (right) shows off a flathead catfish.
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