Tracking Down Trophy Channel Cats
After catching the last few species to qualify me for Class II Master Angler back in June, it really lit a fire under me to work towards becoming a Class III MA. I decided it was time to knock out the last major catfish species in Virginia, the Channel Catfish. I’ve caught my fair share of big Flatheads and Blue Catfish, however, up until this point, a large Channel was something I had never experienced.
To find a big Channel in Virginia it is necessary to target them in an impoundment that is void of other major catfish species. The sheer numbers and overall size of Blues and Flatties tend to stunt the growth of the smaller Channels, thus making it almost impossible to find them amongst the other catfish species.
Once I had my body of water picked out I implemented a fairly simple game plan for locating the Channels. This time of year, the heat of the Summer tends to drive these fish to the deepest and darkest parts of the lake that they can migrate to; making them very predictable in that aspect. The edges of old creek channels became ground zero for all fishy operations. Even though locating the fish came easy, Channel Cats are very nocturnal in the Summer months, which made it difficult to actually get the fish to bite once they had been located during daylight hours. Much of the time I had to rely on the low light conditions of sunrise and sunset to finally get contact with the fish. My approach with gear and tactics were equally vanilla. No fancy rigs or special techniques were needed, really. I simply threw out a four rod spread on or very near the creek channel edge, making a point to vary the depth of each of the rods. On the bottom I placed a simple Carolina rig with a 4/0 circle hook, nose-hooked through a hand sized bream. I learned quickly that bait size was of the utmost importance. Too small and it will go unnoticed, too big and a Channel runs the risk of not getting hooked due to their smaller sized mouths. Anything around 5-6” or “hand size” is generally the way to go.
I came close a hand full of times in both length and weight standards but all in all it took me a little over a month’s worth of weekends to finally land a trophy class fish. It wasn’t the hardest species I’ve went after by any means and it didn’t necessarily take a lot of special skill. Just a lot of knocking on doors waiting for someone to answer, knowing sooner or later big mama would be home. That being said, these fish aren’t to be taken for granted. They are nothing short of bulldogs when hooked and contrary to popular belief, when you land a big mean Channel they are simply unmistakable. Many guys seem to confuse them with juvenile Blue Catfish from time to time, but I can assure you, they are a horse of a different color when it comes to attitude and fighting ability.
In closing, Channel Cats are awesome species and I highly recommend them. Go Catch one, but try and practice catch and release. Certainly with the ever growing range of Blue Catfish these Channels will undoubtedly become threatened in their own home lakes. They’ll need all the population numbers and good genetics they can muster to stay as established as they are right now.
Now, on to a new adventure!
Fish Hard or Stay Home,