Jul 7, 2014

The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee

     Like anybody who's drowned a worm or two, I've caught plenty of catfish. However, I'd never had much success catching them on purpose, and I'd never caught what I'd call a big one either. I'd like to say it was because I hadn't really tried to catch them, but that would be an untruth (and we all know that untruths clearly have no place in fishing stories). In fact, once during high school my buddy Justin and I put in an all-nighter in the pursuit of those whiskered devils. Evidently he forgot to inform his mother of our plans, so of course she became worried as any good mother would. She eventually got a hold of my brother at about 4:00 am and he had a hunch as to where we'd be. He found us huddled under a bridge on the riverbank surrounded by empty Surge cans mumbling something about missed bites and small fish (by the way, whoever decided to discontinue Surge should be strung up by their toenails).
     Anyway I was due for some revenge. Last year I began to discover that central Washington is actually pretty good for catfishing, and there's even several different species to pursue, which I appreciated! 
Tadpole Madtom
This lump of a fish is a tadpole madtom (say that five times fast). Although they're not attractive, they do come equipped with venomous spines in their fins, as the tip of my middle finger can attest to...
Yellow Bullhead
This one is a yellow bullhead. They're called that because they're yellow.
Brown Bullhead
This brown bullhead was caught while perch fishing. No perch were harmed in the making of this photo.
     But I didn't have a good picture of a channel catfish, and I still hadn't caught a big one. These things needed to be remedied! I had a fresh supply of shad for cut bait (see this post or scroll down to the next post...), so I began the search for a good spot. I read on some internet forums of a couple spots to try, but none of those panned out to my liking. Then one day, while on a hike with my wife and kids along the Yakima River, I found it! It was a secluded spot with a good back eddy complete with a nice current seam, nearby cover, and access to deep water. And since it was only a few minutes from my house, I was able to fish it quite a bit. The best bite was about the first hour after the sun went down. I never caught more than six or seven fish per trip, but the average size, about 3-5 lbs, was better than anywhere else I'd fished.
     I often fish alone, and these trips were no exception (with a few exceptions). the mile hike in the dark was a little interesting by myself, but it was even more interesting to play rodeo all alone when the big fish started showing up! Getting cool pictures is the end goal of any of my fishing trips. To do this by myself, I have to use the self timer on my camera. It sounds easy, but it rarely is. 
     On one particular night, the action was consistent as usual, and my two rods were keeping me busy. I had been reeling in my second rod whenever I hooked a fish to avoid problems, but this time I didn't for some reason. I landed what I thought was a pretty solid fish of about five or six lbs. and began fumbling with the timer on my camera when my other rod started getting bit. I was happy with my above-average catch and busy trying to take pictures, so I decided to ignore the bite on my other rod thinking it would go away. This was ALMOST a huge mistake. before I knew it, my drag was singing my favorite song, and the only thing keeping my rod from flying into the river was the reel that had somehow hooked itself on the stick I was using for a rod holder! I decided I wasn't THAT busy. I dropped the fish back in the river and ran to grab my rod. FISH ON! I knew it was a different caliber of fish since it made several long runs, something I hadn't experienced while catfishing. Several minutes later I landed my biggest catfish ever!
Yakima River Channel Catfish
Yakima River Channel Catfish
The fun part about using the timer on the camera, is that sometimes you catch yourself making funny faces. I'm pretty sure this look of terror is the moment when I realized I needed to run to my other rod before it flew into the river!
Here's the stick that saved my rod's life!
     Having caught what I considered to be a very nice fish, I relaxed a little and just enjoyed the fishing without the pressure of getting a picture. Then on one of the last trips before the water dropped and the weeds began to overgrow my spot, my friend Brenda came along and just before dark, I hooked what felt like an even bigger fish! It made three or four long runs and bull-dogged me in the middle of the river for several minutes, but I eventually landed it and it was even bigger than the last one!
Yakima River Channel Catfish
It's much easier to get a picture when somebody else is there to take it. Thanks Brenda!

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