Catfish are one of the most popular sport fish. Anyone with a chunk of bait on the bottom has a chance to experience the strength of these brutes. For several consecutive weekends in the in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area anglers have competed for fish with whiskers.
Recently the First Annual Field & Stream Catfish Classic was won by Team “Nite Shift.” They beat 35 boats with teams of two as well as shoreline competitors. However, winning was a complete surprise.
“When we returned to the boat ramp, we were pretty disappointed with what we had in the boat,” shared tournament angler Joe Stefanacci. “Then we saw how blank the leader board was!”
This tournament was held from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. However, some catfish tournaments have been held overnight. It is believed that the daylight schedule kept the bites fewer and smaller. Pre-fishing a few days earlier, support crew member Crystal Nelson landed a flathead over 20 pounds but it was late afternoon/early evening and the night loving big cats were starting to get more active. For the 2015 tournament, Ben Sladick, tournament director is “already leaning for an overnight tournament.”
Tournament anglers were allowed 3 rods each. Because flathead catfish can grow to large sizes and the swift river current, heavy line and sinkers were used, along with live bait. Channel catfish and bullheads would have counted too, but usually are much smaller fish. Catfish were kept alive in live wells or large, aerated tubs of water and released after weigh-in.
Some catfish tournaments are held in the smaller river systems but in Pittsburgh, the substantial Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet and form the Ohio River. In general the bigger the river, the bigger the fish. When fishing this urban deep, murky water, these anglers are seeking rocky bottoms. If the anchor gets stuck in mud, they’ll move to another location.
Another nice result from this tournament was a $1700 check donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A portion of the entry fee and a raffle for donated fishing gear helped support this wonderful cause.
There are impressive catfish in many urban rivers, both in quantity and quality. This is an overlooked fishing opportunity by many. But thanks to my fishing friends, I’ve seen what lurks in these waters and I look forward to casting for these big urban catfish too.
Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Pennsylvania. Visit him at www.justkeepreeling.com.