Are you nuts?
What would make you think that is fun? These are just a couple of the comments I received last year when I got the bright idea to purchase a fleet of kayaks to expand my guide service into adventure catfishing.
I must admit that I was (and still am not) and expert kayaker but the idea of tussling with a trophy channel cat just seemed really fun to me and with the booming market of kayak fishing, it just seemed like a great thing to do.
In my case, I had to take some time to learn my kayak. I equipped myself with an Old Town Predator kayak and rigged it with a Humminbird Helix 5 depth finder and two Driftmaster rod holders. I spent a few weeks in the shallow coulee behind my house getting the feel for paddling and moving around in my kayak with comfort. You see, I am far from a physical specimen of fitness. In fact, I have the stereotypical catfisherman physique.
Once the catfish season got rolling and the water was of a manageable pace, I jumped in with both feet so to speak. I launched my kayak and headed to one of my favorite areas to fish. Still not comfortable with an anchor, I just pinned myself to the bank with a fiberglass post when I wanted to fish. It took nearly two hours to get a bite. Filled with anticipation and uncertainty I set the hook and fought about a 12-pound channel cat. I quickly learned that they are in control when you are stuck in a seat at their level. I landed that fish and had a complete mess of a boat but learned a ton in those few moments.
Over the next couple of months, I went out a few more times catching small to mid-sized catfish with some success and everyone was still a rush. During this time, I got very comfortable in my kayak and learned to anchor comfortably in the middle of the river giving me even more options on locations.
One morning in August I made another step in going out fishing with the kayak alone. I paddled to the general area I wanted to fish, found my spot, anchored, cranked up the tunes and sat back. It was no more than 15 minutes and I had a hit that I knew was not a small fish by any means. This time I was under anchor in the middle and didn’t have a bank nearby should something go wrong. This fish pretty much owned me until I was able to get him vertical and wear him out. I finally landed this 17-pound monster over my legs. For the first time in years, I was shaking and cheering out loud with the excitement of landing a catfish.
As the season wound down, I talked a buddy into traveling to a section of river with heavier current and bigger fish. We had a great time that day landing nine catfish in under four hours. One cat in particular that I caught went 20 pounds, a true trophy. This one I was pinned to the bank and had my second line out when he hit. Once he was hooked up, I pulled the pin and let him tow me down the river during the fight. Right after I was free, I realized this was a bad idea since he was dragging me into a snag pile. With one hand holding the rod, I paddled with the other to try to steer the fish to the middle.
I finally got by the snag, then the fish did a circle getting me backward in the river while free floating and fighting this fish. I am told the commentary I was giving was quite entertaining. After about five minutes I was able to get a grip on the fish and get it onto my lap.
I am still not sure if the Adventure Catfishing guide service is going to make it, but I can say certainty that fighting channel cats from a kayak is an absolute blast and I will be doing it more in the future. It takes an already good fight and makes it into an epic battle.
Captain Brad Durick is a nationally recognized catfish guide on the Red River of the North, seminar speaker, and author of the books Cracking the Channel Catfish Code and Advanced Catfishing Made Easy. www.redrivercatfish.com