Noted historian William Camden wrote, “The sea hath fish for every man.” If he were around Lake D’Arbonne this month, he would need to say, “The lake hath catfish for every man. Plenty of catfish.”
Local fisherman Rodney Roberts would agree. He spends most of his free time on the 16,000-acre Union Parish lake and he sums it up like this: “You get on a flat near the main river channel and drag just about any kind of bait across the bottom and you are going to catch a catfish this time of year. You put a big nightcrawler or catalpa worm on your hooks, put out about four poles and let the wind drift you. It won’t be long until you are pulling one in. But pay attention because when they hit it, they’ll jerk the rod out of the boat if you aren’t careful.”
Roberts suggests sticking with tough baits like Canadian cold worms, big nightcrawlers or catalpa worms for that kind of fishing, because dragging the bait will cause it to come off it if isn’t pretty substantial. You can also fish with goldfish or shiners as well, but those work better under a slip cork fished just a few inches off the bottom.
“It’s a great way to get kids into some fishing action,” he says. “I spend most of my time on the lake and we can catch catfish just about anywhere we go.”
There is one thing that you can do to increase your odds. That is fish on the flats near the river channel or near the edge of one of the many sloughs that are found in the lake. Being close to deep water seems to help increase your catch.
Roberts also likes to tie out stump lines, which he calls “overgrown limb lines.” While most of the fish caught on rod and reel are one to three pounds, it isn’t uncommon to catch blue or opelousas catfish up to 30 pounds or more on stump lines. Live bait like big goldfish work best. The best way to fish them is by trial and error, but once you find an area where you catch some, stay with that area.
D’Arbonne is also popular for noodling if you are brave enough to stick your hand in an old stump, sunken barrell or deep spot by the bank. Catfishermen also put their lines on swimming pool noodles cut in one foot lengths or floating jugs. The key is to keep them running regularly because if the fish are biting, it won’t be long until you’ve got one on.
“Catfish just have two things to do, swim and eat. And most of the time they are swimming, they are looking for something to eat,” says Roberts, who has been fishing for 40 of his 46 years on this earth.
You don’t even have to have a boat to enjoy D’Arbonne’s summer catfishing. The fishing piers at the State Park and the mile long Ramp Road fishing area offer good catfishing right from the bank.