I never understood the appeal of fishing. My father would rise before the roosters, pack his gear and go out to sit idly on a rock, drink beer and coffee, trade stories with my Uncle Roosevelt and if he were lucky—come home with enough to feed the family. There were eleven of us and most times, he did just that.
My father had been an avid fisherman all of his life, so it came as no surprise when my siblings took up this activity. Still, I did not understand the joy of this hobby. But then a funny thing happened. While on vacation and going through a divorce, I was looking for a new hobby to occupy my time. I decided on fishing and I wouldn’t have to seek out a teacher because my brothers lived a few doors down from me.
That was 14 years ago and now I have become a more than capable angler. My favorite fishing spot is the California Delta, which offers a plethora of hard fighting whiskerfish. This 1100-mile region is a conjunction of three rivers—The Sacramento, San Joaquin and Mokelumne and numerous sloughs and lakes. There are a number of piers, levees, islands and crags that one can bank fish from and plenty of area for boat fishing. I know this area extensively and offer these five tips for bank fishing.
1. Get up early—preferably around three a.m. giving yourself room for last minute hold-ups—usually that sleepy headed buddy who isn’t ready when you arrive. The catfish bite is usually strongest around dawn and dusk. I also like night fishing.
2. Prepare your bait the night before, particularly stinkbait mixtures. Catfish rely on smell so if you fish with shrimp or grubs you might be wise to let it sit in the sun for several hours, then placing the bait in a jar for safekeeping. You can also soak shrimp in vanilla. But even if you buy pre-packaged bait, it is best to do so in advance. My choices of bait are clams, chicken liver, mackerel, nightcrawlers, blood worms and sometimes meal worms dipped in vanilla. (I’ll use the latter when I know that there are crappie and perch in the vicinity as well). Other fishermen suggest using whole kernel corn. Let it sit in the sun for a day or two, then add black pepper.
3. If you miss a catfish bite, be patient. These creatures are greedy. Theyw ill strike again, usually within seconds after the initial bite. They are also known to “hook themselves”. Once you snag one, be prepared for a tough and fun fight. Even the smaller ones are tenacious!
4. I tend to cast into the middle of the water, but when the bite slows, try fishing along shaded areas and amongst the tulles. Fish among the pilings and other debris if possible. In either case, be wary of getting hung up.
5. My five favorite sites: Hogback Slough (near Isleton), Frank's Tract, Lindsey Slough (near Rio Vista), Eight mile slough (near Stockton) and Jersey Island.
Now all you have to do is prepare, be on the bank before the sun rises, cast out and relax.
Timothy N. Stelly is a writer for several e-zines and is the author of two novels, "The Malice of Cain" and "Tempest In The Stone". He is an avid camper and fisherman.
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