Whitesburg KY
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Big bait not needed to catch catfish




When I was a towhead growing up, we ate almost anything that didn’t eat us first. In the protein category, we ate about everything from ‘possum to turtle.

If you have never exercised your taste buds on turtle meat, you have really missed out on a treat. The meat is not only delicious and nutritious, it is all well deserve. Believe me when I say that by the time you clean one of those critters, you will earn every morsel you eat.

Some people prefer the soft shell variety, but I have found no difference in the taste. One is just as palatable as the other. The one difference I have found between the two species is the aggressive and ill temper of the hard shell, or snapping turtle.

Years ago while commercial fishing in Lake Seminole, which runs between Florida and Georgia, a friend and I caught a huge “cooter” as they are called down in that neck of the woods. A hard shell turtle in other words. It dressed out as 19 pounds of meat. Since we were getting 50 cents a pound for dressed turtle meat, our turtle or cooter earned us $9.50.

The game warden bought all our catch since he owned a fish camp and served catfish dinners and turtle hash. Mighty good, too, I might add. All game fish had to be released immediately when caught.

Catfish paid 50 cents a pound, dressed. Our trot lines were usually 1,500 feet long with 500 hooks three feet apart. Every line had to be tagged with our license number and address on the tag. Each line had to have a marker buoy so as to allow the game warden to pull up the end of the line to check the name, address, and license number.

If anyone got caught taking fish from someone else’s line, they were in big trouble. They could lose their permit, boat, and all their gear for the first violation. The second one also carried a stiff jail sentence. I never did hear of anyone being caught but once.

Fish and turtle traps were also legal. They had to be constructed in a specified manner, and a tag cost a dollar for each trap. They also had to have buoys or location markers.

It was not unusual to catch 100 pounds of catfish in a single night. We used honeybees, crick- ets, pieces of sponge dipped in melted cheese, worms, pieces of fish, or anything else we could stick onto the point of a hook.

The point of the hook is all the needs to be covered. I have seen people have a glob of bait on their hook, big enough to choke a hound dog. This practice is totally unnecessary. A large fish is just as likely to hit a honeybee as it is to hit a bait as big as an egg.

The idea is to use a natural food for bait. By natural I mean something which is likely to fall into the water or lives in the water. Please remember that if you fish a pay lake, you are trying to catch fish which are raised in a very controlled habitat. They are fed very nutritious food. They most likely are not used to whatever you are using for bait.

If you really want to have a good time, try fishing with a regular red eye hook with a cricket or grasshopper on only the point of the hook. This little gimmick will surprise you.


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