I ended last week’s column with a promise to report on how well “fresh” sunfish cut bait that had spent three days in the refrigerator would work for blue catfish bait. In that it only took me and 28 juglines a little more than an hour and a half to pull a ten-fish limit out of Truman Lake, I’d say the simple answer would be quite well. On the other hand, those fish averaged less than 1.5 pounds apiece, which was significantly less than I’d hoped.
When I got back to Sedalia, I texted Mike Jenkins–whom regular readers know is my Numero Uno outdoor pal–to let him know how many fish I’d caught. After all, since he’d had to work that day, I was sure he’d want to know how things were going down at the lake. Much to my non-surprise, his reply included an insistence that he, his son Fisher and I go back to my new-found honey hole on the 21st, his next day off.
I’m only including the next part of this tale, because it so aptly illustrates a very important point, albeit at my own expense. The absolutely most important thing any recreational angler can do to insure fishing’s future is to seize every opportunity to share his or her knowledge of and enthusiasm for the sport with someone else. But be all that as it may, on this occasion, I fully intended to gather the bait we’d need solo.
Mike saved me from that miscue with a literally last-minute message that relayed Fisher’s request not only to accompany me but also to use the cane pole I’d introduced him to last summer. After an inconsequential delay in my planned departure time, Fisher and I were on our way to a small creek a few miles from town.
Within minutes of our arrival at the creek, it was obvious that its green sunfish and bluegills were eager to volunteer to help us catch catfish the following morning. In fact, our bait cooler was full long before Fisher was ready to quit. I let him talk me into about 15 minutes of catch and release fishing before telling him I needed to go. He suggested, “You could leave me here and come back for me in a few hours.” It didn’t work, of course, but I had to admit his plea had been worth a shot.
When I parked in front of Mike’s house at 4:30 a.m. the following morning, he and Fisher were ready to go. We hitched my boat to Mike’s Jeep and, after stopping for ice and coffee at the Temp Stop at the southern edge of Sedalia, were off in pursuit of the wily blue catfish.
I’ve proven on many occasions that it’s possible for one person to use juglines successfully. Even so, using juglines–like stationary setlines–is more fun as a team sport, and it’s at its very best as a multi-generational team sport. Mike and I are ten years apart in age, so, technically speaking, the team of Fisher Jenkins, Mike Jenkins and myself spans two and a half generations.
As would be the case with other team sports, each of us plays a specific role. Mike mans the bow-mounted trolling motor and is responsible for chasing down and grabbing fish-propelled jugs. Fisher stands just astern of the raised bow deck, where he’s in position to net large fish and to pull smaller fish directly over the side. I run the gas motor, unhook fish and rebait jugs. From time to time, the other guys let me land a fish.
Actually, the Jenkins/Jenkins/Scott team made its debut in 2015, and I told the story of what, at the time, I thought was never-to-be-repeated good luck in an earlier column. Fisher, on the other hand, with the enthusiasm that only the combination of youth and inexperience can generate, was firmly convinced that juglines were inherently magical catfish producers.
Maybe I should give Fisher’s opinions more credence. In a little over three hours of actual fishing time, 29 blue cats and two channel cats found their way into the livewell, and several of them threatened the lower end of the 26-34 inch protected slot.
Anglers in Missouri can employ a maximum of 33 hooks at any one time, so we could have had 99 juglines in the water. But just because it’s legal to do something doesn’t mean it’s either necessary or practical. The morning’s results proved that my standard 28-jugline spread is more than sufficient.
My next research project, which I hope is underway while you’re reading this, is to see if the blue cats in the area we’ve been fishing can be caught on rod and reel.
Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]