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Texas Sportsman
Run A River For Catfish
Catfish not biting at your favorite lake right now? Then maybe you should try a run at catching the whiskered fish at these river hotspots in the southern half of our state. (July 2006)

Interested in sampling some of the Lone Star State's best flowing-water whiskerfish hotspots? Well, you're in luck.

Why? San Angeloan Bobby Farquhar, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's inland fisheries biologist, explains it this way: While legal access to some of the state's rivers can be tricky at best, the reward of finding such access can certainly justify the effort this month.

"River catfishing is probably an underutilized resource in some areas," he noted, "although that's mainly due to the difficult access issues. But it's very popular in some areas, although you've got to kind of work at it. Some are willing to do that -- and they're probably rewarded with some pretty good fishing."

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Steve Magnelia, a TPWD inland fisheries biologist based in Central Texas, isn't going to disagree, especially when the subject turns to the Colorado River flowing between Austin and LaGrange.

"That's our best one," he said. "It has an unbelievable channel cat population and some really large flathead catfish, along with relatively good access with its boat ramps." He added that blue catfish can also be picked up farther downstream.

Magnelia recommends running the Colorado with a flat-bottomed johnboat equipped with either a jet-drive outboard engine or a small outboard that can negotiate the rocky, shallow stretches of the river. The biologist pointed to two prime types of area in which anglers employing such means can target cats.

"They seem to like riffle-type areas, believe it or not," Magnelia said. "You would think that catfish would be in the slower-moving sections, but they like those broken rocks where there are a lot of insects. The catfish are feeding heavily on those.

"For the other good spot, find any large, woody debris that is breaking the current -- like an old tree in the water. Those are magnets, and catfish seem to hang around those."

What types of bait work for whiskerfish anglers on the Colorado? On many days, the same myriad of catfish baits that work elsewhere in the state including stink baits, dough baits, sponge dip baits, earthworms, and various live or cut baits like shad.

"Dip baits work real well -- that's probably the No. 1 bait at this time of the year," Magnelia offered. "And many of the commercially-made baits work pretty well too. If you want to fish for flatheads, you'll have to use some sort of live bait, though."

While most forms of fishing -- catfishing included -- can be best early and late, the Colorado River offers the mobile angler rewarding all-day fishing.

"The surprising thing is that this river doesn't receive all that much fishing pressure, except around the access areas," remarked Magnelia. "If an angler gets away from that, there's no reason he can't fish right on during the day. A lot of those fish in those unpressured areas can be pretty naïve, and relatively easy to catch."

What can an angler expect to catch here? "It's both numbers and quality of fish," said the biologist. "There are good numbers of smaller fish, but surprisingly, there are a lot of bigger channel cats too.

"The growth rates on the Colorado are incredible. They grow pretty quickly, getting to 14 inches by age 3. That sounds low, but it's not; that's pretty quick for channel cats in Central Texas. And they get to be 18 inches by age 4, and 21 inches by age 5."

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