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Texas Sportsman
Jug Your Way To North Texas Catfish
One sure way to catch catfish this month doesn't require a lot of finesse. Listen up as the pros tell how it's done. (August 2006)

Fort Worth catfisherman Ed Hope examines the mixed catch of channel and blue catfish that he and several jugliner friends made recently at Lake Texoma.
Photo by Bob Hood.

Whoever first observed that there's more than one way to skin a cat must have been a catfisherman! And my guess is that he'd have had a tubful of juglines just waiting to be tossed overboard.

Of the many ways to catch catfish, from bank-angling or boat fishing with rod and reel to trotlining, limblining and, yes, even noodling, jug-fishing has grown in popularity faster than has any other method. That's been true all across Texas, and especially so on a host of lakes like Texoma, Richland-Chambers, Whitney and Livingston.

Jugliners, I've concluded, are a separate breed of fishermen -- but they weren't necessarily born that way. Most of them grew up catching catfish just about any way they knew how, but turned to juglining because a friend or neighbor helped them learn how. It's gratifying to these anglers to catch big catfish on jugs, and particularly so when those jugs are crafted by hand to their own specifications.

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On many of our lakes, jugliners go after whatever type of catfish they can catch. But on some lakes, such as Texoma on the Texas/Oklahoma border, it's the big blue cats that attract the most attention -- which shouldn't be surprising, considering that Texoma consistently yields up blue cats weighing 30 to 70 pounds, and occasionally one even larger, such as the world-record 121-pounder caught on rod and reel there last year.

Juglining at Texoma almost has the aura of a deer-hunting camp -- except that the groups of men and women who gather to camp and to cook out together are after catfish fillets, not venison backstraps. You can gauge the seriousness of jugliners less by the number in the party than by the number of jugs stacked in cartons or in the boats' storage boxes.

On many occasions, four to 12 jugliners work as a team: two to a boat with 25 to 40 prerigged jugs, all helping to run and rebait the jugs. Multiply an average of 30 jugs per boat by a dozen fishermen and you can see just how serious these folks are about catching catfish.

Burleson resident Ed Hope rallies one group of successful jugliners to Texoma two to three times a year. Their "base camp" is a house or some cabins that they rent from a marina.

"I started jugging about 15 years ago," Hope said. "I learned how to jug from one of my neighbors that went to Texoma a lot. My wife, Susie, and our girls went up there on vacation one time, and my neighbor asked me if we wanted to put out some jugs.

"We set them in the back of a creek. All we had was a four-cell flashlight and a 12-foot aluminum boat. When we ran them, my neighbor said there was a little gap (in the line of jugs) and we found one jug that was just under the water. I pulled up on it and it went down. I pulled again and the fish came straight up. When I saw the fish it looked as wide as the boat. It was a 36-pounder -- and I was hooked!"

And Hope has learned a lot more about jug-fishing since that initial voyage.

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