Sunday, October 17, 2010

Manatee River cats dig the Myakka Minnow and other flies

This a perfect place to find catfish along the Manatee River

I don’t get taken into the backing of my fly line very often. It’s pretty rare for a redfish or snook to do it.

This 6-pound channel catfish put up quite a battle
 But I get taken into the backing quite often in fresh water.

I’ve discovered channel catfish are suckers for my Myakka Minnow. I’ve hooked about 15 big cats over the past two weeks and I’ve been into the backing four times.

When a channel cat inhales the fly, the battle is on. They jump and make lengthy runs. When they decided to head into the vegetation, I’m usually helpless. Most of the time I’m using a 1- or 2-weight rod and fishing for bluegill and other small panfish. Light rods aren’t meant to tame a cat.

I was fishing the Manatee River out of Ray’s Canoe Hideaway ( last week and hooked five big cats on successive casts. Why they suddenly turned on, I don’t know. Anyway, I lost four of them pretty quickly. Light rods and 8X tippet are great cat gear.

But I did land one. It was a 6-pounder that decided to head for open water. I was able to back my kayak away from the fallen tree and out in the open. A few minutes later, I was able to beach the boat on a sand bar and fight the fish standing up. It took more than five minutes to subdue that stubborn fish.

Channel catfish can grow to be up to four feet in length and weigh more than 50 pounds. They can live to be at least 40 years old.

Channel catfish can be found in both lakes and reservoirs and in more fast-moving waters such as rivers and streams. They are more numerous in lakes and streams. They prefer clear water with sandy to rocky bottom. Channel catfish are seldom found in areas with dense vegetation. They are normally found in freshwater, but do very well in brackish water.

Saltwater catfish are not prized. Even though a gafftopsail catfish are among saltwater’s best fighting fish, they are rarely targeted.

It’s just the opposite in fresh water where catfish are prized catches. In fact, there are guides throughout the country who make a pretty good living taking anglers out for monster catfish.

Channel catfish are extremely good to eat. Their meat is very tender and mild.

I don’t specifically target them, but I do enjoy it when I hook one. If I was to target them, I’d beef up to at least a 6-weight rod and 2X or 3X tippet. They seem to be structure oriented and I often encounter them around fallen trees.

In the Manatee River, you’ll find them in the deep river bends. And you’ll know it’s a really good spot if there are fallen trees in the bend. Most of the time, the catfish will try to get into the tree branches or whatever structure they’re around. So, you’re first take if you’re going to have any chance of landing them is to get them away from the structure.

I’ve hooked just about all of my channel cats on the Myakka Minnow. However, I think they’ll hit Wooly Buggers, Clousers and other subsurface fly. I’ve not had one rise up to take a popper, though.

Often, I’m lulled into a false sense of calmness when fishing for bluegill. You’ll catch 20 or so and then have all hell break loose when a channel cat interrupts the serenity of your outing.


  1. The catfish is somewhat like a huge strip on the fly, all you want to handle. Great Post

  2. Great story, Steve! I HAVE taken a number of channel cats on poppers. This tactic seems best at dusk or on into dark. They will hit just like a bass, and usually near shore as the popper is just resting after a couple short strips. In other words, make 'em think its a small frog!