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Night, a Prime-Time For Catfishing

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Night, a Prime-Time For Catfishing

Post  Carolina Kat on Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:14 pm

Nighttime's a prime time for catfishing

By John D. Simmons
jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Posted: Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010

What do anglers do on days so hot that it feels like the lakes will come to a boil? They cast about for a time when the waters calm down to a simmer. They turn to nighttime fishing.

Dieter Melhorn, 42, of Gastonia, is one such fisherman and he loves trying his luck for catfish. He still fishes during the day, and recently caught 22 of the forktail fish on Lake Wylie, but he looks forward to the evening, when the sun falls and the temperatures do likewise.

"The fishing is just as good during the day," Melhorn says. "It's just a lot hotter.

"Historically, a lot of people think they (the fish) feed more at night than they do during the day, and there's actually been a lot of research that proves that's not true," he says. "Catfish feed when they're hungry, and that can be daylight, that can be dark."

Another reason for dragging a line at night: less boat traffic.

"It's hard to catch fish in the middle of the day when you've got ski boats...running around, so there's probably a little more feeding at night just because it's calmer."

On this night, when Melhorn backs his 19-foot skiff down the Beatties Ford Area Access boat ramp, he almost has the waters near the Lake Norman dam to himself.

Things are looking up. And when he looks up and to the southwest, Melhorn notices the thunder clouds that threatened to wash out an evening of fishing are breaking up. It's almost 7:30.

Flipping his blue camo Pelagic visor upside down and backwards on his head, he puts his boat into gear and speeds across the lake to his destination near the McGuire Nuclear Station. Along the way, Melhorn encounters two pleasant surprises.

The first is a cool breeze blowing in front of the storm clouds that take the sting out of the daytime heat left on the lake.

The second: Several striped bass that have gone belly up in a fish die-off due to lower oxygen levels in the lake's warm waters.

Melhorn chuckles as he approaches the first dead striper: "They make really good cut bait (for catfish)."

He avoids fish that look bloated or have their gills flared out, because they've been dead too long and would make a smelly mess as he filets them for bait. Melhorn passes on the first two, fearing they're "too ripe" but the third striper is a keeper, sort of, and he scoops it out of the lake.

He already has bream he'd caught earlier, plus the striper, which he calls "nuggets of goodness," so he has a couple of different offerings to present to his catfish quarry.
"My bait of choice" he says, "is anything lower on the food chain than catfish."

Melhorn doesn't use grocery store-bought baits because, as he jokingly says, "I've checked with biologists, and we have never seen a naturally occurring chicken breast or chicken liver swimming in the lake." Since chicken parts are not something the catfish are used to seeing, Melhorn sticks with fish to catch fish.

"To get the bigger fish, you've got to use fish for bait," he says. "I caught a 60-pound catfish on Lake Wylie earlier this year on a largemouth bass."

Now it's time to bait the circle hooks and get to fishing. After a few minutes of preparation, Melhorn's boat bristles with six rods, three on each side.

He begins trolling the lake, using his fish finder to spot cats and the depths where they are holding. He says trolling for catfish isn't a method used by a lot of catfish fishers but that it works for him. And sure enough, soon a rod near the back of Melhorn's boat bows deep, tightening the 20-pound chartreuse-colored fishing line.

"That's a good bite right there. That's a fish," he says.

With a backdrop of keening osprey nested near McGuire, Melhorn begins to reel in the first fish of the night. As the fighting catfish nears, he grabs for his net and encircles a nice blue cat that thrashes and splashes as Melhorn lifts it into the boat. The chunky blue weighs 8.1 pounds.

During the next couple of hours, the sun sinks behind the distant storm clouds brushing the sky with ever deepening colors of orange and red. Soon darkness eases over the lake. And by the end of it, Melhorn has caught 13 more fish - some big, some small, but all welcomed and all released alive.

"We release almost all the fish we catch," he says, "I fish so much I'm not fishing for food. Most of the time I'm fishing for the fun of it."

Melhorn prepares to call it a night. The only light is from a fluorescent bulb he's rigged on an extension rod, giving the boat a blue hue, and poles at the power station that create shimmering streaks of orange-yellow light on the water.

An orange moon as big as a beach ball momentarily peeks from behind the clouds as Melhorn powers back across Lake Norman. It's 10 p.m.

On this evening, for this angler, nighttime had been the right time for catfishing.

Carolina Kat
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Re: Night, a Prime-Time For Catfishing

Post  BlueMadness33 on Wed Aug 11, 2010 10:11 pm

Any of you guys like to jug fish? If you've never tried it you should...it's easy and fun, plus you can catch a ton of fish.
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