Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nickajack Cats

Friday I got to the lake for some bluegill, Monday rolls around and I am headed to Nickajack for cats. I have a neighbor that feels better having someone go with him when he heads to the river. At 86 he is still going and doing but likes some help now. I told him a few days ago, as I was helping thin pigeons out of his barn, I would go if he ever needed someone to fish with. Monday was the day.

We planned on leaving at 4:30, when it arrived so did rain and wind. I checked the weather, it looked fine in South Pittsburg so we headed out. The weather improved and was about perfect when we got to the ramp. The only bad part was not enough water being released from the generators to get the biggest cats feeding.

I had never fished this part of the river before, I knew the technique but not the area. We ran all of 100 yards, shut down and got started. Our rigging for drift fishing is simple, we used 3 way swivels to drop a 1 ounce sinker to the bottom and hold a short leader about a foot up. I kept the hook leader to about 6-7 inches long to keep the bait off the bottom and keep tangles with the sinker to a minimum. I was using my 9’ 6” casting rod, BPS Catmaxx reel loaded with 20 lb Firewire. For hooks I started with a 4/0 circle hook but changed to a 4/0 Kahle because of the way the cats were hitting. For a vertical presentation a Kahle hook is hard to beat. Bait was rooster and turkey livers.

 As I was getting rigged and baited up Kaiser had already put a bait in the water. Just as I dropped mine down he set back hooking a good fish. With a big smile he told me this was a big one so I grabbed the net. A few minutes later he had it beside the boat and it was big, turns out the biggest of the day. Just over 25 pounds of blue cat which he calls white cats for some reason. We got it wedged into the live well and dropped back in for another try. Just a few minutes later he puts a good 10 lb blue in the boat.

Right out of the gate.

And a couple of minutes later.

Since this was my first trip he really wanted me to hook a big blue but all I managed was a 2-3 lb channel cat. He thought I was crazy for wanting to keep (A) a channel cat and (2) one that size. To him if it doesn’t weigh 20+ it really isn’t much of a fish. To me, I am filling my freezer along with some other folks that want fish. A 2 lber eats good. He just gave me that I’ll tolerate it look and kept fishing.

 A 22" channel he considers a trash fish.

We drifted along waiting for more water to be released getting a few hits but I just couldn’t hook up. He managed one or two more smaller fish. The whole time cats were rolling on top all around us. Blues do this every morning which helped us figure out which runs they were using consisting of rock piles and small channels providing them cover. When we would hit rocks with our sinkers we knew a strike was coming. The cats were stacking up just downstream, grabbing bait just as it dropped off the deep side.

After an hour or so I had a hit that bent my rod to the handle. Finally I had hooked a decent fish. Blues tend to stick their nose down and hug the bottom which this one did so I knew what I had, channels like to twist and thrash about. Over 9 feet of heavy rod made it change its’ mind pretty quick and I had my first 10+ blue of the day. Now it was on. After catching this one things clicked. Sometimes you just need to break the ice.

On the board. This one was 11+.

We made drift after drift which is boring to write about and worse to read but that was the formula for the day. Each drift usually produced a fish or five with, what to me, were some good cats running 6 to 11 lbs. The day got hot but if we found the right drift fish would hit. All along the way he would tell me stories of past trips and where to fish this stretch all the while apologizing for it being a bad day. Funny since I catfish a lot and we were catching more big cats than I ever do, I tend to target channel cats in the 2-5 lb range on Percy Priest.

We fished for about 7 hours before running out of bait. The wind had gotten up and without much current the boat wouldn’t go downstream or up. Weird to sit in a wind and current but not move. I put one last 6 lber in the boat and we wrapped it up with a total of 14 fish in the boat. The cooler was full, 3 more good fish were in the live well, I had too much sun and was tired. Time to go.

A full cooler makes happy fishermen.

I'll take this any day. Good times.

What a day. 85-90 lbs of cats on ice, some great memories along with enough knowledge about a new stretch of water to go back on my own. Can’t get that sitting on the couch. I am ready to head back as soon as I can. For such a fun day it is hard to get into words for some reason. Sorry about that. I hope the pics will add a bit to where words fell down.

One final thought, if you have a neighbor that needs a little help with something it might be a good idea to give them a hand. Because I did I got to fish with a cool guy that had some great stories plus got invited to hunt his place again after 2 years. He is 86, a veteran that served in the Philippines after entering the Army in 1943, lived here all his life and just knows stuff. A great guy to spend time with.

 Not bad for just helping get rid of pigeons.


jlecherd said...

Glad to see you out fishing, it does a body good. Time for thinking and enjoying what we love. Nice story with great tips. Thanks for the post.

Fontinalis Rising said...

Cool story and some great fishing. I love fishing for cats and would love a great day like that. Funny how tapping into the experience of older ones helps us in so many ways. Thanks for sharing.

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



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