New catfish rules should protect resource

If you have ever landed a hard-fighting catfish, then you know how exciting these magnificent fish are to catch.

Their value as a game fish is immeasurable.

To help protect this resource, the Indiana Natural Resources Commission recently approved rule changes to commercial and sport fishing for catfish.

Catfish are one of the most popular game fish in Indiana to catch and eat. A lot of this has to do with their widespread availability. They’re found in farm ponds, lakes, reservoirs, creeks and rivers. And it’s hard to find a rural restaurant worth dining at that doesn’t offer fried catfish with a side of slaw.

From youngsters sitting on the end of the dock watching a big red and white bobber, to hardcore big river catfishing experts, “whisker fish” are a Hoosier favorite.

The new rules raise the minimum size limit on catfish and work to protect trophy-sized fish. The new length limit is 13 inches. This is an increase from the old length limit of 10 inches. Also, under the new rules you can only keep one large fish of each catfish species per day. You can keep one channel catfish at least 28 inches long; one blue catfish at least 35 inches long; and one flathead catfish at least 35 inches long. These regulations apply to commercial fishing and sport fishing for catfish on all public Indiana lakes, reservoirs, streams and rivers, including the Ohio River.

According to the Indiana DNR, larger catfish have higher reproductive potential and can help control populations of forage species such as gizzard shad and Asian carp.

Catfishing is an enjoyable experience and is pretty simple to do. You don’t need a whole lot of fancy gear. You can enjoy an exceptional catfishing adventure with nothing more than a rod, reel, line, hook, sinker and bait. Since you’re targeting large fish, you need a heavy rod with a reel that has a strong drag. Your line needs to be stout. Use at least 25 lb. test line. The weight of your sinker is determined by the current. The faster it is, the heavier your sinker needs to be. In big rivers a three-ounce sinker is a common choice. I’m a lake or pond, where there is no current, you can just use some split shot. Hooks need to be big and strong enough for big fish. A 3/0 hook is a good all-around catfish hook.

There are plenty of favorite baits out there for catfishing. But for big catfish, you should plan to use either live or dead baitfish. Flatheads, which many regard as the best tasting catfish, prefer to eat live fish. Blue catfish, which grow the largest, usually are targeted with cut bait. Shad is often used, and the smellier it is, the better.

The new rules on catfish should ensure Hoosiers have an incredible resource for many years to come. They allow for the plentiful harvest of catfish for your deep fryer, while protecting larger fish for reproducing.

See you down the trail …