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Catfish from Creeks and Bar Ditches

SMALL CREEKS AND DRAINAGE DITCHES (bar ditches) can hold a surprising number of catfish.

In fact, when looking for places to go catfishing, these smaller bodies of water generally go unutilized by all but the few locals who know the secrets held in their waters.

Not every one of them is going to hold channel cats. There are five species of catfish in Texas waters, and the channel cat is the most sought-after, but these ditches and creeks often hold bullheads (mud cats). Bullheads are not generally thought of as particularly good table fare, but if caught in good cold running water and handled properly, they can be quite good eating.

When you start looking for a fishing hole here are a few things I look for. I always start off with the obvious and look for creeks and canals crossing under roads I drive regularly—not just any creek, but creeks that always hold water year-round. Holding water all year, offers the resident fish time to mature and get a bit of size to them.

I also like one that runs relatively close to a larger body of water. Often catfish will travel upstream in these creeks following baitfish or seeking refuge from much larger predators in the main waters.

That being said, those away from larger waters still hold some great fun and fishing. No matter which creek or stream you fish, just look for the larger, deeper pools as they generally provide suitable habitat for better numbers and larger sizes of creek cats.

The tackle needed for taking advantage of these micro bodies of water, can be as simple as a cane pole with a few feet of line and a hook—or as elaborate as your best bass fishing rig with slip sinkers and circle hooks. It’s really up to you how fancy you want to make it.

I find that a short 5 ½-foot rod or shorter with an ultralight reel and 8- to 10-pound line plenty to take just about any creek cat in Texas. Tight lining on the bottom as well as using bobbers can produce catfish. A wide variety of tackle and techniques can be employed, and there really is no wrong way. As long as your hook is in the water and baited you are doing it right. 

One of the most useful baits in my creek fishing arsenal is bacon. I have caught more fish in creeks on bacon than just about anything. always love to use bacon, but I never go up or down the creek without a container of nightcrawlers and some Little Stinker stink bait of some flavor. 

Usually, I like to use the cheese flavored and smear it all over whatever bait I am using. Scent carried downstream will bring the cats in for a look at what you have to offer.

—story by JEFF STEWART

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