I've done this brand of fishing three times, the first on the Huron River just south of Huron. Why the Huron? Because on most nights it, like many other lake tributaries, has a run of channel cats that ascend the river from Lake Erie and spread out foraging for food, then return to the big lake around dawn. To do the float fishing I gathered up a half dozen gallon plastic jugs, tied about 3 1/2 feet of sturdy trotline cord to each handle, then added a one ounce sinker near lines end and a No. 2 hook.
I tossed the lot into my little canoe, added a packet of gizzard shad halves, though I could have used anything from fresh shrimp to crayfish or slightly crushed minnows, then just before dark motored up the river a mile or so. Final step was to bait the jugs, toss them out in all directions, and relax, listening to the night sounds so normal on a river. From time to time I'd send the beam of a powerful flashlight around the river, checking on the jugs, then clearing any that had snagged on the shoreline or fallen timber.
In about 30 minutes I spotted one jug bouncing around and moving off across the river. I paddled over, grabbed the jug and hoisted a two pound channel cat aboard, then placed it on my stringer, rebaited and tossed out the jug again. I kept it up until nearly midnight, and it was great fun, chasing jugs and lifting cats of up to four pounds aboard. No skill needed, no finess, just paddling here and there and hauling up the floats. Final tally was six nice cats, which ended up partly in my skillet and partly in my smoker.
The next question was — Would cats hit the jugs in the daytime? To check that I went to Charles Mill Lake one morning, launched my canoe at the Ohio 430 bridge, and motored north. I used the same jugs and the same bait, starting more or less on the west side since winds were out of the west, and again settled back in my little boat to relax, watch wood ducks whistling by, and keeping an eye on the floats. In less than 20 minutes I had an answer to my question.
One of the floats went hurrying off and I sank paddles into the slightly murky water to chase it down. A fat three pounder came aboard in a shower of water, then as I was unhooking the cat, another bottle took off and was eventually caught and its hungry customer strung. By this time the floats were entering shallow water on the east side, so I gathered them up, motored back to my original starting point and tossed out the jugs again. Final tally this time in the limited time I had to fish was five catfish ranging from a pound or so up to five pounds.
The third time happened almost by accident. I was planning to fish a big farm pond in Knox County with a friend, and the friend happened to mention "They stocked channel cats in that pond about 12 years ago. I bet there are some whoppers living there now."
We started out fishing for bluegills, filleted the biggest and fried them for dinner, then cut the smaller ones in halves, and as darkness fell, baited the jugs and scattered them in the shallow end before going back to our little fire for lazy conversation.
Suddenly my partner said, "Look there," as a jug came flying by bouncing madly. We jumped in the canoe, ran it down and my friend fought it out with a cat that had to weigh 12 pounds, bringing it aboard in a welter of water. We caught another whopper that night, did some frogging, napped and had one fillet for breakfast next morning. Again, fun fishing and little effort or cost at all. The summer will last for months, and jugging is a fun way to spend a night or two. I think you'll like this unusual sport.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.
HOOKS & BULLETS
• There is still time for high school students to register for Camp Canopy which is held June 9 through 14. Camp Canopy is held by the Ohio Division of Forestry and is a good opportunity for students interested in the outdoors, to spend a week outside learning about Ohio's forests, wildlife and conservation with some of the state's top foresters and wildlife biologists. There will also be such activities as archery, swimming, fishing, and more. For further information about a Camp Canopy visit, Google 2019 Camp Canopy. The camp costs $375.
• Would your kid like to be a Captain? The Miller Ferries will host a contest called that which will be open to kids 6 to 12 yeas of age. He or she can sit at the helm in the pilot house aboard a Miller Ferries boat, and learn about navigation controls, surrounding islands, and what it takes to run a Lake Erie ferry. Have your child submit an essay (100 words or less) about why he or she would be the greatest Lake Ferry Captain. Mail to Miller Ferries at 535 Bayview Ave., Put-in-Bay, OH 43456.
• A quick note about South Bass Island — Put-in-Bay will host a Music Festival on Satuday, June 8 from noon to 7 p.m. There will be music, games, workshops, food and fun for this free family event.