Two False River anglers load up on nice catfish every summer —without so much as a rod, or even a single hook. Read on to bone up on bottle fishing.
Catfishing is supposed to be all about a gob of slimy worms, or bloody chicken liver, or smelly cut bait — or better yet some concoction of secret ingredients, usually including spoiled sour cheese.
But not for Jeremy Gremillion.
No sir, nuh uh.
He catches them without bait.
The 38-year-old Erwinville resident is a consummate South Louisiana outdoorsman. From March to October he fishes at least twice a week (he has a good shift work schedule) for largemouth bass, sac-a-lait, bream and catfish.
Beginning in October, he hunts squirrels, deer and rabbits. During turkey season he chases turkeys, too.
His outdoor kitchen has 11 rack bucks on the wall, plus an assortment of mounted fish, turkeys and ducks. He calls it his Man Cave, even though he’s single.
You don’t think he could hunt and fish like this if he was married — do you?
“I first heard of fishing with bottles from guys I worked with that no longer did it,” said Gremillion. “From their descriptions, I made some out of emptied refrigerant bottles and they worked.
“That was probably 10 years ago. I’ve always done it in False River. It’s local for me. I call it ‘easy fishing,’ and it’s inexpensive.
“I especially enjoy bringing people that have never done it before. Everybody is amazed — no bait, no rod, no hook.
“I fish bottles from May to July. An easy way to remember when to start is when the kids get out of school. By July, I’m burned out — and the freezer is full.”
I met Gremillion and his regular fishing and hunting partner Ray Ramagos to run their bottles at 7:30 a.m., with a brilliant early summer sun already well over the horizon.
“You don’t need to be on the water at the crack of dawn to do this,” he cheerfully chirped.
Ramagos, also from Erwinville, is a retired refinery worker who has even more time to hunt and fish than Gremillion. At 70 now, he recalls when there were no deer to hunt. His father hooked him on hunting by running rabbits with Walker hounds.
Now he hunts deer, rabbits and squirrels, and after he bought a boat at age 22, he fishes for bass, bream and catfish.
“There’s a big age difference between us, but we share a love of the same thing and have the same views on hunting and fishing.
“The first time I fished bottles, I was surprised. They really work.”
The two fishermen were taking advantage of the biological drive of channel catfish to find a hollow cavity in which to spawn. So powerful is their urge to keep possession of the cavity that unless the bottles are unnecessary jarred, the romancing pair of fish stay inside it until its brought to the surface.
Running the bottles was a simple process, since all the work had been done beforehand. Ramagos manned the trolling motor, while Gremillion did the hand-work.
When the boat was directly beside the float attached to the bottle by a cord, Gremillion grabbed the float and swiftly, but smoothly raised it up from the bottom.
When it broke the surface, he immediately covered the opening with one hand to prevent the fish from jumping out, and then held the bottle above the surface, propped against the boat’s rail until it drained.
He then tilted the bottle opening over his ice chest and shook the bottle to jiggle the fish out. Large or a stubborn fish were gaffed out.
He lowered the empty bottle overboard to allow it to fill with water through holes on the bottom, then reached in above his elbows to firmly plant the bottle in an upright position on the bottom.
Gremillion and Ramagos admitted that the bottle could simply be dropped overboard and allowed to sink on its own, but they liked to plant the bottle upright so that its entry hole wasn’t accidentally blocked by soft mud on the bottom.
Their preferred fishing depth in False River, 3 feet or less, allowed them to set the bottles by hand, even though bottles will catch catfish in deeper waters as well.
It was slick — and quick.
Every bottle seemed to hold one or two fish.
When he was done, Gremillion flashed a toothy grin. “When I bring someone to do this, they talk about it forever.”