Jugging for cats

Baylor Allen shows off a catfish caught using jug lines. (Picture by Ricky Aucoin)

Your summertime guide to catching big catfish

If you want to experience an exciting type of catfishing, try your hand at jug lining. Using a jug line will accomplish multiple things. Quite often you will catch large catfish. You will also begin to fill up your freezer. (This will make your family quite happy!) Finally, it is just so much fun to battle huge catfish on a hand line.

Let’s start with the basics. You can buy a premade jug line at your local sports store for about five bucks a piece. You can also make them yourself. It is very easy and inexpensive. Choose a bright, fluorescent pool noodle to slip over some PVC pipe to form your jug. Be sure to include some strong braided mason line with stout leaders, barrel swivels and a number 7 to 12 circle hook. The blue and flathead catfish I catch on a jug average 10 pounds. However, I have caught many 20-30 pounders and a few more up to 50 pounds. Use strong materials suitable for larger fish.

A weight is very important. I use half of a brick. Some use railroad spikes or Dixie cups filled with concrete. The idea is to have sufficient weight to get to the bottom and hold the location. This is important both before the bite and during the catch. I have found jugs more than 1000 yards from where I dropped them. A large catfish, swimming with the current, can cover a tremendous amount of territory overnight.

I throw a cast net to catch my bait. Shad works well, but my top choice is cut mullet. It stays on the hook much longer and seems to be a catfish favorite. Carp and croakers have done very well for me as well.

Set and check

Location is key. I choose my location as follows: I prefer small bayous/canals with plenty of current. I avoid main bayous due to the boat traffic. Boats that are constantly driving around your jugs are not going to be conducive to high catch rates. Since I usually leave my jugs out overnight, there is also the possibility of theft. It is rare, but not worth the risk in my opinion. Know the depths so the weight can reach the bottom. If the bayou is too deep, your jug will disappear.

I set them out at a convenient time of day. After they are set, I go back to check them. Sometimes I stay and check them periodically until late that night or I leave them and recheck them in the morning. Either way, the nighttime bite is best, especially for the bigger cats.

LDWF regs say up to 50 jugs per person.  In addition, name, telephone number and fishing license number must be attached to each jug.

While jugging, check for possible limb line locations. Sturdy limbs sticking out from the bank offer a rod-like opportunity to catch a big cat. Use the same equipment, with a much lighter weight. Same LDWF rules apply as well. Be sure to mark each one for legal purposes and for the safety of your fellow fishermen.

Spring and summer jug/limb lining seems to work best for me, but other times of the year can be productive as well.

If you are looking to fill up your ice chest or freezer with big catfish fillets, give this method of fishing a try. You and those whom you feed will be happy you did!