Summer is rolling along. It is a great time of year to go fishing for catfish, especially in the evening. This is when the fish are more actively feeding.
Fishing action for them, especially channel catfish (the ones with the forked-tail) has been very good in the past few weeks at Lake Nockamixon in Bucks County. They are being caught in good numbers ranging from 15 to 20 inches with the occasional larger one. They seem to be very fond of nightcrawlers even during daylight hours.
Catfish will eat just about anything. They will go after lures, minnows, nightcrawlers, stinkbaits, chicken livers, dog food, cheese, dough baits and even hot dogs. Catfish have a great sense of smell which they use to locate potential food sources. So, using bait that really smells will catch their attention.
Good numbers of them are scattered around the 1,450-acre lake, particularly in depths of 5 to 10 feet near shorelines. Fish on the northern side between the Haycock Launch past the Tohickon Launch and marina to the boat rental concession.
The lake is very crowded with fishing boats, sailboats and kayakers on the weekends, especially during the daytime. On nights and weekdays there is a lot less activity. Motors are limited to 20 HP. Remember; motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats which include windsurfers and paddleboards must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Besides Lake Nockamixon there are many local waterways that are good places to catch catfish. A few are the Lehigh River, Delaware River, Lehigh Canal, Blue Marsh Lake, Beltzville Lake and the Schuylkill River. The PA state record channel catfish at 35 lbs., 2.5 oz., was caught in the Lehigh Canal in Northampton County in 1991. The state record flathead at 48 lbs., 6 oz. was pulled from the Blue Marsh Spillway in Berks County in 2007. The state record bullhead catfish at 4 lbs. 10 oz. was caught at Beltzville Lake in Carbon County in 2011.
The most common cats in our area are “bullheads” (brown, yellow, black) and three called “catfish” (channel, white and flathead). Flathead catfish are increasing in numbers in both eastern and central PA. They are not native to these areas but are native in western Pennsylvania and are found in the Ohio and Monongahela Rivers. They are becoming highly sought after by anglers because of their size and power. They can weigh as much as 40 pounds or more in the state, but in southern climates they grow to weigh 100 pounds. Their presence here is harmful to sunfish and smallmouth bass populations. They also may harm juvenile shad populations especially in the Delaware and Susquehanna River where the number of flathead catches has increased significantly.
Anglers who catch flathead catfish in the Susquehanna River, Schuylkill River and the Delaware River are encouraged by the PA Fish Commission to not release them back into the water. There are some very notable size ones in the lower Susquehanna River. Angling at night with sunfish, large shiners or crayfish as bait is the way to catch a big flathead.
Catfish have a sharp spine on each of their two pectoral fins and on the dorsal fin. A good way to avoid these spines is to hold the catfish with your thumb behind the pectoral fin on one side. On the other side, place your “pointer finger” in front of the other pectoral fin and the rest of your fingers behind it. The barbels (whiskers) are not sharp and do not sting.