Albert Chandler has it all figured out this month. Fishing to relax. Fishing for fun. And fishing for supper. All rolled up in one.
On Lake D’Arbonne at Farmerville, where Chandler lives, the mad rush for giant spawning crappie and chunky spring bass is slowing down, but if you want to catch fish, one thing hasn’t slowed down: catfish.
“I think the thing that is most fun about catfishing is that you don’t know how big the catfish might be or what kind you will catch,” said Chandler, who often sets up a comfortable chair on his boat dock, casts out to the deeper water, puts the rod (or rods) in a rod holder and waits for the fish to do the work.
“There are a lot of ways to catch catfish, but for the sport of it I’ll take a stout rod and reel, cast the bait out on the bottom and just wait. Usually it doesn’t take long,” said the former resident of nearby Douglas. Sometimes he fishes with a cork when the fish are shallower, but most of the time he just uses a tightline.
When catfish are hungry they will hit just about anything, from corn niblets to hot dog bites to more conventional live baits like shiners and Canadian crawler worms. There are even blood baits on the market that can be balled up and put on a hook for catfish.
But Chandler has a secret he doesn’t mind sharing.
“I use a 5- or 6-foot bait casting net and catch fresh shad for bait,” he said. “Sometimes I can catch them right off the dock and other times I have to go elsewhere. Catfish just seem to really like the shad. It is my favorite bait.”
Chandler prefers a 2- to 3-inch shad, hooked solidly just behind the dorsal fin, which allows it to swim around and attract the hungry catfish. When a fish hits the bait, the rod tip will usually show a couple of taps before the fish really takes the bait. When the line finally gets tight, that is when you set the hook. If Chandler catches bigger shad in his casting net, he’ll cut them up into smaller pieces and put the hook in the toughest place of the shad he can find. The last step of the fishing trip after catching a mess is pretty simple. It’s time to batter them up with cornmeal and have a great tasting fish supper.
The best thing about the D’Arbonne catfish this time of year? You can catch them almost anywhere on the lake, especially out from the banks during the day and up closer to the shore early and late. It is chocked full of the whiskered creatures.