WILTZ: Let's climb out of the ol' walleye rutBear with me for a moment today as I get a wee bit philosophical. Back on Oct. 26, 2011, I wrote about the opening day of pheasant season I shared with friends. I said that we relished the day and pondered how many more like experiences we would enjoy before time threw us a curve ball.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
Bear with me for a moment today as I get a wee bit philosophical. Back on Oct. 26, 2011, I wrote about the opening day of pheasant season I shared with friends. I said that we relished the day and pondered how many more like experiences we would enjoy before time threw us a curve ball.
That curve came along shortly thereafter when my close friend Don was unexpectedly taken from our midst. I feel with Don’s passing that a part of me died as it’s hard for me to get going at times. It certainly isn’t for a lack of things to do.
Notable writers including Mark Twain have said something to the effect that when our race is just about run, our greatest regret will be the things we didn’t do. This certainly must be true. I’m not talking about big things like African safaris or trips we can’t afford. There are so many little things. Let your imagination soar!
For the past few years, I’ve thought about my early roots at Willow Lake. I should get my old decoys in shape, throw them in the john boat along with my waders, put the plug in the 870 Remington and head back to Willow Lake and its potpourri of waterfowl. A brand new hotel on Main Street is just waiting!
Another thing I think about is a catfish expedition. I noted in The Daily Republic two weeks ago a short story about a new pending state record for the blue catfish. It came from the Big Sioux River. I wanted to learn more about the big blue, so I went to the computer and Googled “blue catfish, South Dakota and new state record.” Holy cow, Batman! A photo came up that just about blew me off my chair!
Pictured left to right in crotch-deep water were Dick Hinrichsen, Corky Lemon and Terry Matheny holding 99.25-pound, 35-pound and 71-pound blue catfish respectively! The 99.25- pound pending state record blue was caught by Corky Lemon. According to the accompanying story, the fish were caught on July 21st in a Big Sioux Catfish League event. The fish reportedly came from deep holes near the west entrance to Stone Park. The photo and story came from The Sioux City Journal.
With reference to the photo, I would call it the most impressive South Dakota game or fish photo I have ever seen. I think we will see it on the covers of outdoor magazines, and I believe it will bring legions of catfish junkies to our state. It’s that good!
In my 40-plus years of writing this column, I’ve written little about catfish because I didn’t feel knowledgeable enough about catfish. In looking back now, I feel I can make some catfish observations.
My catfish education began when we moved to Parkston during the summer of 1966. Vic Van Natta and Jim Stirling, farmers from the Milltown area of the James River, heard I was a passionate fisherman and were kind enough to take me out on the Jim in pursuit of big cats.
On our first outing, Vic reached into swallow nests along the barn rafters and pulled out handfuls of baby birds to use as bait. I was a squeamish lad at the time, and the baby bird thing bothered me. If I didn’t know it, I quickly learned that there was nothing dainty about fishing for cats.
We fished the lee side of snags below the Milltown Dam. Though we didn’t get any big guys that night, it was a memorable beginning. During my Parkston years (1966-1971), I also learned to catch channel cats in Lake Mitchell by bottom fishing near the water intake not too far from the spillway.
During this same time period, Betsy’s sister’s father-in-law, Mike Krsnak of Wagner, taught me how to catch cats at night below the island drop-offs beneath the Randall Dam. Mike was a great fisherman who was kind enough to make time for a rookie like me.
During my Burke years (1971-1976), I learned more about cats from Jack Broome while fishing the dead timber on the north side of the Platte-Winner Bridge. While Jack was and is colorful, I also spent time chasing catfish with Gus Wilson. Gus gave color a whole new definition and could have and should have been a Gun Smoke character.
Coming to Wagner in 1976 opened a new world of catfish. I learned about fast water cats from Jack Greger and Neil Von Eschen. I learned that cats liked the mouths of creeks like Randall and Emmanuel after flash floods. I’ve caught enough big channel cats along the rip-rap while fishing for smallmouth bass with Gitzits to know that it wasn’t a fluke or blind luck.
But mostly I can tell you this about hooking big catfish whether they are blues, flatheads, or channels. Walleye equipment won’t cut it. You need large capacity reels, heavy line and strong hooks. A few years ago, I believed that medium-sized gear would handle big cats if I was patient. Wrong! They simply ran off all my line and/or straightened my hooks.
So, when it comes to trying new things in our sporting world, go after some big catfish. I hate the thought of realizing when it’s too late to try, that I never rigged up my old paddle fish rod and reel, put my little john boat in the Big Sioux or the James and fished holes or snags with bait. If you have questions about what is and what isn’t appropriate for bait, talk with your conservation officer. The subject is ambiguous at best in our SD 2012 Fishing Handbook.
*See you next week.