Here on Lake Conroe one of my favorite fish to catch, both for fun and for the table, is catfish. I am not the only one who feels that way. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at all of the catfish bait that is available at the stores or talk to one of the fishing guides. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens and biologists that oversee our lake will also affirm that Lake Conroe is one of the best catfish hatcheries in the state.
When we look at the catfish in the wild, they are a hearty species. They are more tolerant to the high temperatures and lower oxygen content of the summer water than most other fish. When the water cools down like it is right now they are even more active and it seems that larger fish are more available also.
Folks around this part of the world catch them on rod and reels, jug lines and trotlines mostly. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission recently came out with some new regulations that will go into effect Feb. 1 of next year. The new regulations are on passive fishing gear — jug lines, minnow traps, perch traps, throwlines and trotlines. The purpose is to facilitate the removal of abandoned gear from public waters, make the presence of passive fishing gear identifiable to all users of public waters, and minimize the unintended take of aquatic resources.
Just like most regulations coming out of a government entity, you have to look through the whole thing and see what applies to you and how. If you use any of these passive devices, or so called “ghost fishing” methods, get all of the latest information prior to Feb. 1, and make sure you are in compliance.
For the folks new to our area or natives who are looking at the possibility of going fishing with a rod and reel or cane pole, I can wholeheartedly recommend giving catfish a try. In an attempt to assist the new anglers, I would like to offer some information to bring you up to speed with the local species that we have in our lake. There are three freshwater varieties: blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish (also known as yellow catfish) and Opelousas catfish. These species are native to the lakes and other waterways in Southeast Texas. Most people will stick to channel and blue catfish, as they are the easiest to catch. Yellow catfish eat live bait or can be enticed into biting artificial lures. They are ugly, in my opinion.
If your mission is to go out and catch fish or to learn how to catch catfish, call one of our excellent guides, and you and the family can go out and learn how to catch catfish and bring home as many as the law allows. That way, the next time you want to go out, you have some idea what to do and how to do it. If you only want to go out a few times a year, you will find a fishing guide is the best way to go.
You can always start out on your own without professional guidance and do well if you have a viable starting point. I will try to offer a few pointers to help you in that direction.
Assuming you have a bait delivery system — which would be a rod and reel, a few range cubes or other substance to attract the catfish, a hook and a sinker — you are ready to go.
Throw a couple hands full of range cubes or other baiting substance into the water where you wish to fish and wait 15-20 minutes. I used to use a can of cheap dog food with some holes punched in it. Then bait up your hook with shrimp or some other substance and start fishing.
It is easy to use too large of a hook when going after blues or channel cats. When you look at the average catch that runs between 1 ½ and three pounds, they have a relatively small mouth. A small hook is in order, or you can spend all day just baiting your hook as they strip the bait from it.
I once spoke with fishing guide Butch Terpe about his preferences in line and fish hooks, and he said he like a 15-pound line with a No. 6 treble, sponge hook. He said if anything smaller or a single hook is used, the fish tend to swallow the hook. That can make it difficult to get the hook out. If that happens, it is often the line of least resistance to just cut the line and put on a new hook.
So remember that this is an excellent time of year to go fishing. Get out and bait up for the catfish of your choice, and get some fishing action as well as good table fare.