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Nightime cats!

Mike Norris Outdoors - July 31, 2003

Listening to the roar of flowing water and watching fireflies light up the nighttime sky, I couldn't help but think about how most people were snuggly tucked into bed. As I sprayed insect repellent around my neck and hands, I started to think I had completely lost my sanity.

It's midnight, and I'm standing near the bank of the Hennepin Canal in Bureau County.

No less than 50 feet away and with a headlamp band around his head, John Wear prepares his rods and terminal tackle for the evening's battle. His partner, Mike Murphy, stands nearby, pole in hand, watching for a tug on his bobber. He's trying to catch more bluegills, which are the bait for this evening's hunt.

We were fishing for oversized flathead catfish, a ritual gaining in popularity with the advent of catfishing sites on the internet.

Wear rigs and sets his first rod. He drops his offering into the fast rushing pool of water below, and reels line back in until his offering is just off the bottom. He lays the rod across the rail of a bridge which crosses over the canal just below a lowhead dam, and then ties the rod's reel and handle to the bridge's rail with a length of silk rope.

"These catfish are so powerful, they'll easily pull and rod and reel into the water," says Wear.

And powerful they are.

One night Ware hooked a 46-inch flathead he estimated to weigh over 50 lbs. After working the fish downstream to a flat grassy bank, he lifted the humungous catfish out of the water with his hand grasping its lower jaw and his other hand under its belly.

"She bit down real hard on my hand," Wear explained, "and then she started trashing and knocked me down on my back. I looked down and this big catfish was lying on my stomach and had me pinned down. She finally let go of my hand and slid back down into the water."

Heavy tackle is the rule when hunting down these monstrous brutes.

"Though other anglers may opt up to 50 pound test monofilament line," says Wear, "I use Abu-Garcia 6500C baitcasting reels filled with 20-pound monofilament line." My rods are 7 to 8 foot Aurora Pro Cat models, which are built to withstand the powerful runs flathead catfish are known to make."

When it comes to hook size, Wear doesn't think small.

"The first time I fished with John, he asked me what size hooks I had," says Murphy. "I told him I had 4/0 circle hooks and he laughed at me. Then he pulled out a bag of 12/0 red Daiichi circle hooks and I knew this guy was serious about his catfishing."

The deeper pools just below any in a series of the Hennepin Canal's low head dams are resting and feeding areas for larger flatheads.

"I like to fish the corners just below the dams," says Wear. The water flowing over the dam creates eddies here that attract numbers of flathead cats throughout the day and evening."

Wear threads a three-ounce egg sinker unto his main line and then secures the barrel swivel to the tag end. The barrel swivel acts as a stop for the egg sinker and helps keep to his bait offering close to the bottom and in the strike zone for flathead cats.

Murphy hands Wear a freshly caught 5-inch bluegill and Wear inserts the large Daiichi hook through the fishes back just behind its dorsal fin. Wear places the offering into the pool of water below and the wait begins.

"Fishing for flathead cats is like musky fishing," Wear says. "We may only get two to three bites an evening, but we're hoping their big ones."

The wait begins. An hour goes by and I see the first rod nearly pop up off the rail.

"We got one," Murphy exclaims, as Wear unties the rope and begins to battle the catfish downstream.

It turns out to only be a six pounder, and as we found out after another hour's fishing, the only bite of the evening.

But it was enough to get my juices flowing for a return trip another night, and the insanity will kick in again.

For more information of catfishing, check out www.procats.com

Outdoors with Mike Norris is heard every Thursday from 3-4 p.m. on AM1280 WBIG. Mike Norris can be reached at [email protected]
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