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Catfish Provide Solace to Heat of Summer


The hottest part of the summer doesn’t offer the most promising time for Mountain State anglers, but it doesn’t mean fishing has completely turned off.  

The high humidity and dreadful heat of the day is just as unnerving to fish as humans.  Generally, nothing feels like feeding during those heated periods between about 8am and 7pm.   However, during those evening, overnight, and early morning hours fish will pick up their feeding activity–not the least of which is the catfish.

"If you’re fishing at night, those fish will come into more shallow waters to feed," said DNR Biologist Mark Scott. "The key to cat fishing this time of year is to be out at night and near some flowing water."

West Virginia features three species of catfish.  The flathead and channel catfish are abundant in most waters statewide.   The DNR has been working on a program in recent years to reintroduce blue cats to the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers.  

"They’re (blue cats) kind of a little different animal," said DNR Biologist Mark Scott. "They can be an open water species and key in on shad.  Down at Santee-Cooper (in South Carolina) I’ve caught them plumb full of mussels, they’ll swallow them shell and all."

The diet of the flathead and channel catfish is a little less varied than its less finicky cousin of the blue variety.  

"Catfish are made to feed in dingy conditions, dark water, muddy water, after dark at night," said Scott. "They have whiskers and small eyes.  Catfish have the whiskers and sensory organs to detect food all around their body so they can feed in pitch black darkness."

Scott says channel catfish prefer most any food source, dead or alive.  Flathead are likely going to be caught more readily on live bait.  Although they have a less than stellar reputation for their bottom feeding habits, they will eat only what’s alive.  The channel catfish will eat anything. 

It’s not unusual to catch catfish up to 10, 15, or 20 pounds.   Nobody knows just how long they live.  Scott says the DNR is working on some research on the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers to do some aging work and try to determine how fast the fish grows each year.  

When the heat is on, and options are limited, catfish can be the ultimate anglers’ pastime. 


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