Kayak fishing with a rod and reel is certainly popular, but there are other ways to catch fish that work well in a ’yak.
For example, jug fishing from a kayak is a fun and exciting way to fill the cooler with a big mess of catfish.
Nearly any body of freshwater has catfish. While they can be caught on a rod and reel, setting out a dozen or two jug lines increases the amount of fish you can catch in a shorter period of time. Jug lines can be as simple as an empty soda or detergent bottle, or they can be constructed using “pool noodles” and PVC pipe.
Either way, they are an inexpensive and effective way to target all species of Louisiana catfish.
Jugs can be rigged several ways. They can be free-floated without a weight in areas where there is not too much current. This method is better suited for small lakes and ponds, where the jugs won’t easily be carried out of sight by the wind or current.
Rig the drop line to where the lowest hook sits at or near the bottom. Additional hooks can be placed at various depths to more thoroughly cover the water column. Contrary to popular belief, catfish do not always feed on the bottom.
Using weighted lines helps keep the jugs in place and makes it easier to keep track of them.
One of the most-effective methods is to rig the line “Carolina” style, where the weight sits above a swivel, and the leader and hook lays on the bottom.
This method allows the fish to swim off for a short distance with the bait without feeling the weight. Once the line comes taut, the buoyancy of the jug provides enough resistance to set the hook.
If you are fishing an area that has a pretty constant depth, you can also rig the jugs with a weight on the bottom. With the line at just the right depth, the bait will be suspended on a dropper hook just off the bottom.
Kayaks have limited space, so use the smallest bottles possible to make your jugs. A popular substitute for plastic jugs is to construct a “catfish noodle” using PVC pipe and round foam commonly sold as swimming pool “noodles.”
Glue a PVC cap on each end of the noodle, and slide on a piece of the foam to make it float. The noodles come in several colors that offer good visibility and make them easier to spot if a fish drags them out of the area.
The benefit of the foam noodles is that they are light, compact and can be easily stored in a plastic crate. For storage and transport, wrap the line around the foam and insert the hook into the foam to keep them tangle free.
Catfish noodles are available commercially, but also make a great DIY project. Video instructions are widely available on the internet and can be found with a simple Google search for “catfish noodles.”
One of the advantages of constructing the noodle-type jugs is that they can be made with a weight inside that tips the jug into an upright position and lets you know at a glance that a fish is on. This method allows you to look down your line of jugs and see which one(s) need to be pulled.
To rig the jugs, use tarred nylon twine as is commonly used on trot lines. The nylon twine is more abrasion resistant and much easier to pull in by hand than monofilament line.
Circle hooks are the preferred hook when using a jug-line.
Blue cats, channel cats and flathead cats can all be caught using jug lines.
Catfish feed by vibration and smell more than they do sight. Natural baits like night crawlers, shad, menhaden, beef/chicken liver, shrimp or crawfish will catch all species of catfish. Many a catfish has also been caught using simply a chunk of hot dog.
There’s also available a wide variety of store-bought baits. Dip- or squeeze-type baits are placed on a plastic tube or sponge that contains a hook. These baits are usually extremely smelly, and come in varieties such as “cheese and blood” or “rotten shad.”
Other prepared baits are dough-like and are molded onto the hook by hand. Both types slowly melt in the water and disperse scent to attract the catfish.
While they can be caught on other baits, flatheads generally prefer live bait. A small, live bream hooked just under the rear of the dorsal fin will give off frantic vibrations that will surely attract a big flathead.
It’s best to set your jugs in a line so they can more easily be kept track of. On the initial set, you might have a little time to fish with your rod and reel while giving the jugs some time to soak. However, if the fishing is good, you’ll find yourself paddling in all directions chasing down jugs as they are towed about.
You’ll think you’re reenacting jaws as you near a hooked-up jug and the fish pulls it underwater. They won’t stay down long, however; scan in every direction, and the jug will soon pop back to the surface.
Wearing gloves protects your hands while pulling on the lines, as well as handling the catfish.
Jug fishing makes for a great group outing and is a lot of fun for kids. Whether they are in the kayak with you or in one of their own, jug fishing requires little fishing skill to be successful.
When running jug lines, it is a good practice to check them regularly, even if there is no sign of a bite. Crabs and other bait stealers might take your bait without disturbing the jug. Keeping fresh bait on the lines also greatly increases your chances of getting hooked-up.
Jugging from a kayak is a great, passive and relaxing fishing method. On days when the fishing is good, you’ll have a ball chasing down one jug after the next. It’s also a great project to get the kids involved and they will have lots of fun building, baiting and retrieving the jugs.