The hottest days of summer are here and water temperatures across the state's lakes are rising quickly. When water temperatures begin to stabilize in the 80s, catching fish on rod and reel can become increasingly challenging, especially for sought after game fish, during daylight hours. Now is the perfect time to bust out the lesser used, but no-less effective, methods of take to put supper on the table! Not to mention, these methods of take often produce trophy-sized fish.
Commonly used non-rod and reel methods of take for game fish include juglines, limblines, yo-yos and trotlines. All of these set-line methods allow the angler to fish while not having to be present with their lines. All set-line forms of fishing require the owner to check said lines at least every 24 hours, but by having the ability to leave bait soaking all day or overnight, the odds of producing a great haul of fish increases dramatically.
Jugline fishing is arguably the most popular and effective non-rod and reel way to catch fish, especially catfish. Juglines can be anchored in place or allowed to drift. I personally prefer to allow juglines to drift over channels and ledges off of flats during the day and check my lines every hour or so. This is an awesome way to multi-task at the lake. You can enjoy water sports, the beach or have a barbecue and still have the opportunity to fish. If I'm in a particularly fishy spot or it's a windy day, I try to check the lines at least every hour or else it's easy to lose a few jugs that have been towed away by fish or blown away out of sight.
If you have the ability to leave juglines overnight, you definitely want them anchored to bottom, but you can fish the shallower waters in coves and flats where catfish hunt at night. This is a great way to get the most out of a camping trip to the lake because while your juglines soak overnight you can night fish with rod and reel from your campsite, doubling the fun and your odds of catching a limit of fish.
Cut shad, preferably from the body of water you are fishing, is the best bait you can use to produce ample blue and channel catfish bites. A live bluegill anchored in a shallow woody cove is an excellent way to find a nice flathead catfish. If you're looking to catch eater-sized fish, size 3/0-5/0 circle hooks will do the trick. Size 7/0 thick-wire circle hooks are perfect for landing trophy cats and typically don't stop eater-sized fish from getting hooked up. You can also use size 2-1/0 wide-gap octopus hooks baited with live minnows or worms to target other game species such as bass, crappie and walleye/saugeye.
Yo-yos and limblines are great methods to use around submerged vegetation and woody debris for crappie, bass and catfish. They are typically deployed in creeks, rivers and swamps as trees hang over steep cutbanks, back eddies and deep runs. Usually in a lake, the water is too shallow where tree limbs are accessible to hang a yo-yo or limbline. Cut bait and processed baits are good for catfish, while live minnows and worms work for bass and crappie.
Trotlines work well for harvesting lots of catfish in private ponds. Trotlines should be used with caution in public bodies of water because if not deployed properly can lead to serious injury or death for swimmers and other water sports enthusiasts. If using a trotline on a public body of water where this method of take is legal, stick to woody coves or other areas of the lake that are undesirable to boaters, beach-goers and swimmers. Mix-up your baits on a trotline, using a mixture of cut bait, live bait and processed bait to improve your chances of catching multiple species of catfish.
Bowfishing can be used to target non-game species, but is not typically a means of acquiring fish for table fare. When bowfishing, try to identify non-native species to shoot, such as common carp and grass carp. Native species such as buffalo, drum, suckers and gar play an important role in a water body's ecosystem, but are often mistakenly referred to as trash fish. These native species should be harvested in reasonable numbers.
While bowfishing is an exhilarating and fun social sport, always remember to be respectful when disposing of your harvest. If you dispose of a fish back into the water it must only be fish remains, meaning the fish has been filleted or has had the entrails removed. It cannot simply be thrown back into the water whole with an arrow hole in it. Otherwise, fish left whole will take longer to sink and decompose. This causes rotting fish to collect around boat docks, boat ramps and shoreline, resulting in an unsightly and foul-smelling scene.
Adding one of these non-traditional methods of take to your fishing arsenal will add value to each trip to the lake no matter the time of year or weather condition. Always be sure to keep up with the most current Oklahoma fishing regulations and enjoy the last half of summer on the water with family and friends!
Until next time, tight lines my fishing friends!