Some of Bill McCarty’s favorite fishing holes in January are between the Wax Lake Outlet and Atchafalaya River, where it’s usually no problem to catch a bunch of catfish averaging 2 pounds.
So imagine the Morgan City outdoorsman’s delight — and at the same time dread — when he hooked one a couple years ago and it rolled to give him a good look at one heckuva catfish on the business end of his 15-pound-test monofilament.
That monster is still swimming.
“It was the biggest I’ve ever seen: probably 60 pounds,” McCarty said. “That 15-pound line didn’t last long.”
The angler started fishing catfish in that spot in the heart of the winter soon after he graduated 22 years ago from Nicholls State University. He fished the area a lot with the late Sonny Billiot, who knew it like the back of his hand.
McCarty still thinks of his fishing buddy the past few years when he heads that way to bring home catfish each January. He talked about both following an afternoon bass-fishing trip in the Bayou Black area as a major weather system was approaching Acadiana on the second day of December.
McCarty and Billiot always had the “bullet” that put catfish in the boat, something catfish can’t resist, apparently.
Sure, shrimp can put them in the ice chest. But the fail-safe bait is fresh nutria liver, so they’d pop a few nutria to get enough for a catfishing trip.
McCarty, who serves as a member of the St. Mary Parish School Board, noted those were the days before there was a bounty on the tail of nutria. These days, he has a trapper buddy who saves him a few, he said.
“Nutria liver: There ain’t nothing better,” McCarty said. “It’s way better than calf liver.”
The usual haunts for wintertime catfish are the passes around Green’s Bayou, Spanish Lake, the mouth of Bayou Haydel, and points and curves along Big Wax Bayou and Little Wax Bayou.
Also, there’s an aptly named place called Fish Trap.
“It’s a legitimate bayou down there,” McCarty said.
He recommended anchoring anywhere there is moving water in those places, which are mostly 6 to 8 feet deep.
“We’d always anchor out,” McCarty said. “I guess nowadays you could use a Power-Pole.”
He uses a 1-ounce weight and a 2/0 hook rigged Carolina fashion, and fishes a natural bait on the bottom. If shrimp and nutria liver can’t be found, try duck heart and/or lungs, he said.
“Whatever works,” he said.
Based on his experience with the big old catfish that got away, he recommended using 20- to 30-pound line — even braided line.
Why are they there? McCarty believes it’s because it’s just before the spawn and they’re fattening up.