Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mr. Whiskers

Ok, so the whiskers are should correctly be called barbels, but then there would be no association with a cat. Let's face it, the fact that the fish has really long tentacles coming out of its face is the reason it is called a catfish. These barbels are really an amazing adaptation for feeding in dark and murky water. A catfish actually has taste buds all over its body, but on the barbels they become extremely concentrated. This allows the fish to easily find the daily diet of, well, just about anything on the bottom. Catfish are easily caught by just throw some bait on the bottom of a likely looking hole, add a little bit of patience, and you will get one. Targeting the really big kitties is where it becomes more challenging.

Many anglers specifically target this worthy species. Big cats are the stuff of seems no one really knows just how big they can get. Bigger ones are always being found, and they can put up a serious battle. I guess I should get a little more specific here, and mention that I am referring to Channel Catfish. Now these are not the biggest catfish in the US...but they are the largest in Montana. Montana is starting to pump out some real trophy fish. Rivers like the Missouri, Yellowstone, Musselshell, and the Milk are all consistently producing fish over 20lbs with the Missouri currently having the state record at just over 30lbs.

I needed to catch a Channel Catfish for my native species challenge, and I wanted it to be a respectable fish. Not that there is anything wrong with the little guys...but you know how it goes. I went to the Missouri River, and after catching some goldeye to use as bait, I set up some heavy rods targeting some large cats. I have to say, I am impressed by the quality of the fishery in that river. We caught some really large fish, lots of really nice fish, and plenty of others. Montana does not come to mind when people talk about catfishing, but we have some tremendous fisheries available.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Big Eyes

What if we lived in a world that was consistently murky and cloudy? Would we evolve so that our eyes were larger to let in more light? Well, if you are a fish that depends its eyesight...and you make your home in the Missouri River, the answer would seem to be yes.

The fish I am referring to is the Goldeye. Although it is also known by a variety of other names such as Yellow Herring, Toothed Herring, Shad Mooneye, and my favorite Weepickeesis. This is a native fish in Montana that is really quite common, especially in rivers like the Missouri and the Yellowstone. Lewis and Clark even commented on it around the mouth of the Marias River. It is a unique fish in a family with only one other species, the Mooneye. When you look inside the mouth of this fish, you will see teeth all over...even on the tongue. Goldeye don't get exceptionally large, a 20" fish would be a real trophy.

I recently spent some time on the Missouri River fishing for Goldeye, and I can honestly say that they are ridiculously easy to catch. They will hit just about anything anywhere in the water. You can catch them with a fly rod on top, or with a nightcrawler on the bottom. For their size, however, I was impressed with their fighting ability. A while they begin to seem like a nuisance when targeting other species, remember that Goldeye cutbait is the hot ticket for big channel cats.