Susquehanna River, Questions & Comments > Susquehanna River Catfish

Getting ready for 2020 Catfishing

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Squid Flathead:
Hi all.  I think I already have cabin fever... I'm thinking hard about gear and strategy for next year's catfishing. 

This year, my fishing pals and I caught hundreds of channel cats.  I caught some flatheads to mix in.  We're fishing between Shickshinny and Wilkes-Barre.  We used crawlers, shiners, cut bait, shrimp and various types of stink baits.  For next year, I am changing tactics a little bit... going with all monofilament line, circle hooks, beefier rods/reels... and thinking of fishing exclusively with live bait and fresh cut bait. 

Who all still fishes for catties?  Where are you fishing?  What kind of rods/reels/line/hook are you using?  What rigs?  I'm looking to stir up some discussion and share info with fellow avid catfishers.

I'll play ball.......I also have fallen in love with catfishing and I tend to fish the same stretch of the river that you do. I've honed my equipment and techniques over the past couple years. Whereas I used to target cats only in early spring, I know pursue them throughout the year. In October, I actually had a great afternoon, boating over 10 cats in an hour and a half.

Anyways, as far as tackle goes, cheaper stuff definitely works just fine and will serve you quite well for channel cats. Putting in the time and experience to know when, where and how is much more important than what brand rods and reels you use, in my opinion. However.......once catfish turned into more of an obsession for me as opposed to a hobby, I did invest in higher end stuff and I have no regrets: you get what you pay for. I currently use St. Croix 8' Mojo Cat rods and despite their price tag, they are PERFECT for the Susky channel cats. Soft fast tips for lobbing bait a country mile, but all the backbone in the world to turn a big cat on a dime. Very light and sensitive too. Once again, you get what you pay for. I also use the whisker seeker signature series rods and they are also very, very nice rods with all the aforementioned half the cost of the St. Croix. The whisker seeker actually has better guides too.
A reel with a baitrunner feature is also highly important
 I started with okuma's and I liked them a lot, but the drag eventually pooped out on me. I now use Shimano Baitrunner and they're awesome. They will endure many years of use with proper care. I also use casting reels, and in my opinion the Abu C3 6500 is where it's at. Built like a tank, and will literally cast a country mile. They're simple engineering and they flat out work, day in and day out. Nothing fancy, just a workhorse casting reel. Buy the power handle conversion kit and use a power handle, when you tie into a big cat, the extra leverage provided by that handle is well worth it.
I've used the Whisker seeker orange mono for three seasons now and I really like it. I actually think it's a better line than Trilene big game.
I've always used a simple slip sinker rig and it was always served me well. From my own experience, I prefer the specialized flat/no roll sinkers. Obviously, they roll less in heavy current and they are much more snag resistant than ordinary sinkers. I usually stick with 3/0 or 4/0 octopus style hooks, although I plan on experimenting with circle hooks this season. Some guys swear by circle hooks. In my opinion, it's hard to beat fresh cut bait, however as the water continues to warm up going into summer, fresh healthy live bait can be absolutely dynamite and will outproduce cut bait at times. In my opinion, certain times of the year it seems as though the biggest cats actually prefer live bait to cut bait. Hope this Sparks some meaningful discussion, I gotta go now, but I'll try to write more tomorrow. Especially when cats are relating to deep runs of moderate current during warm weather, a good depth finder can definitely help you pinpoint certain spots where the cats will tend to concentrate.

Squid Flathead:
That's dynamite info, brownmk!  Thanks for your message...  It helps affirm some of the conclusions I have come to for sure!  The day/time/location is more critical than the actual equipment... so long as you have stuff that works, being on active fish is the real key.

I have been up in the air on the baitrunner/click feature usage.  Some guys like using it to plan their hookset and some guys seem to ignore it and they say using octopus circle hooks enable you to "let the fish hook itself."  I did get an Abu Garcia C3 Ambassador reel with that feature... but I also got some spinning reels without the baitclick feature... Penn Battle 2's... basically chose them because they are all metal and they have a super beefy bail wire and overall construction.  I guess I will experiment in the Spring.

I did find (or seemingly so) that since it's turned cold, I get the channel cat bite in the afternoon (11 am to 3 pm).  In the warmer months, it's hard not to notice that most of the hot action is after dinner and into the night.  But if I were going to fish now, I'd probably not even bother after 3-4 o'clock.  I wonder if that will hold true in the Spring before things warm up.

And I need to try the rig you are using... it seems like the most popular method amongst cat fishermen.  It's basically a Carolina rig, correct?  I have been using a 3-way rig and the flat disc shaped sinkers (to avoid rolling in current).  My reason for this is so I can break the weight off without losing my swivel when I get hung up... but that doesn't always happen according to plan. 

I like your choice of fishing rods.  I was looking into the Whisker Seeker rods and I may get some.  I happened across the B'n'M Silver Cat rods and decided to get some of those to try... for just over $30 apiece, I figured I'd try them.  Thanks for the advice on the Orange Whisker Seeker Mono line... I will try that also.  Maybe it's a little more manageable than the Big Game line.

I too have discovered that early spring and mid Autumn have consistent daylight bites for channel cats. Especially early in the spring, I've had phenomenal fishing in broad daylight, mid to late afternoon especially, although I tend to avoid super bright skies and sunlight as a rule. I wonder if during the colder water periods, the sun's warmth in the afternoon spikes the water temp a degree or two and puts the fish on a little feeding binge? However, by the time summer rolls around, dusk into the dark of night absolutely is the better time to fish, no doubt.

The reason ( s) that I am a fan of the bait runner feature is that they allow me to hear a fish striking the bait at night, sometimes it's hard for me to see the rod tip bouncing in the dark. Also, sometimes when I'm short on time to go fishing, ill just shore fish for an hour, instead of trailering the boat. When fishing from shore, the bait runner helps keep my rods/reels out of the mud and water. Catfish, when the fishing is hot, can strike hard and fast. I've had them rip rods into the water on me before I could get to the rod and set the hook. When the fishing is good, the baitrunners allow the fish to run for a bit until I can dash over to set the hook.......and not let the fish take my whole setup in the drink in the meantime, lol! I also just like the idea of being able to free line bigger live baits during the summer, and letting finicky biters run with bait until I'm sure they've got it, then set the hook. I haven't experimented yet with circle hooks, but I can imagine they would be problematic with a bait runner feature, but you can always just leave the bait runner feature turned off, when using circle hooks and just use the reel normally. It's just a good option to have, IMO.

Yeah, I'm basically just using a Carolina rig. I usually go: 2 oz no roll sinker, knot protector, heavy duty swivel, short 20 lb leader and a 4/0 octopus hook. It's served me very well. The Carolina/slip sinker design gives me the ability to allow a fish to move off with the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker, I like that capability. The three way rig design intrigues me though.

I definitely love the whisker seeker mono, I think it casts much better than the big game. Very strong and tough too. Haven't broken off yet with it. I use 15 lb with my spinning reels and 20 lb on my Abu C3's

Squid Flathead:
Oh man!  You brought back painful memories of a lost rod from the 2019 season.  I had my daughter out night fishing with me about 3/4 mile downstream from the drive ins.  As night set in, the bite turned ON!  I had my rods propped up on sticks.  Within a 30 minute span, we had around 10 hard strikes.  A couple of them flipped my rods over the sticks.  The last bite flipped my rod about 6 feet in the air!  My daughter screamed... I looked over and saw a nice new Diawa rod and reel fly up into the air and land in the river.  I ran over into the shallow water and watched in disbelief as my glow stik on the rod tip sped off into the current and disappeared for good.  We got some nice fish, but I lost a pretty pricey combo.  In all fairness, it was a bass combo and too light for catfish anyhow.  Still, I don't like seeing $200 float away.  Lesson learned.

So I made a better rod holder!  Basically, without going into the whole design, I got PVC pipes and mounted them to a board.  I pile as many heavy rocks as I can onto the board... and the PVC is at an angle that won't allow fish to take my rods no more, lol!  Next year, I am going to connect 2 boards with hinges and make a rod holder that is adjustable... either upright for normal fishing or a lower angle (to use when it's windy).

And rather than using the glow sticks that Wal Mart carries, this year I got Whisker Seeker's Nite Styx... LED rod tip lights... I rely on the lights to see strikes after dark.  The batteries are supposed to last 150 hours and replacement batteries are $4.95 for a 2-pack.  So I think these will be cheaper in the long run than the glow sticks that you break before use.  The Nite Styx are on sale from $6.95 down to $5.50 or so right now. 

I like the Carolina rig idea for the reason you stated... the fish can take the bait and not feel the 2 oz sinker.  You definitely don't get that luxury with the 3-way rig... everything is connected.  Unless you use one of those new sinker slides... then you can use a 2-way swivel with the sinker slide and it's similar to the 3-way rig I am using plus you get the benefit of the sliding weight.

For my rigs, I was using 50# Power Pro for my main line but I have switched to 20# Trilene Big Cat (bright green for visibility) as the main line.  I use Spro 55# 3-way swivels which are nice and small for the rating.  Then I run 12# mono to a round flat river sinker (1, 1.5 or 2 oz in normal conditions, 3 and 4 oz when the water is up and the current is ripping).  And last I run 25# clear Trilene Big Game to my hooks... actually, I snell 2 hooks about 8-10" apart onto the 25# Big Game and then I palomar that to the swivel.

I got in the habit of using 2 hooks all the time... usually a chunk of cut bait on one hook and a shiner on the other.  The real reason I run 2 baits is because small fish pick the baits off the hooks... or because I am a goof, I might knock one bait off the hook.  I hate pulling my line in and seeing empty hooks because it makes me wonder how long I was wasting time with no bait on my hook.  When I run 2 baits, it is VERY seldom that I reel in to find that both of the dang baits had fallen off.

Thanks again for the info, brownmk!!!  I'll be back on this weekend to see if anyone else jumps in to help us or ax questions.


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