May is a time for catfishing from the banks of Rend Lake. Spawning cats prowl the shoreline of this 18,000-acre reservoir in search of bedding areas, mates and later in protection of the fry. It is an excellent time for anglers to also prowl the shoreline in search of a mess of fish for a family meal.
Rend Lake is found in Franklin and Jefferson Counties just off Interstate 57. It contains some 162-miles of shoreline much of which contains prime habitat for spawning catfish. Especially productive are the coves near campgrounds and rip rap at boat ramps.
The “11th Commandment” for catfish anglers is “Know Thy Water.” Life beneath the surface is dependant upon the plant nutrients, both mineral and organic, dissolved the water. The nutrients enter the food chain from both wind and water runoff that happens each spring. They contribute to the plant growth which contributes to forage fish growth. In turn that leads to the catfish population that is so healthy in this lake.
Mike Hoe, IDNR Fisheries Biologist for Rend Lake, reports that both the channel and flathead catfish populations of the lake are in good shape. Fishing prospects for several years has been excellent and he sees no reason to change his prognosis for this year.
There is a strong natural reproduction in the lake. Hooe’s most recent surveys of the catfishery find that the Channel cats ranged in the 1 to l 1/2 pound range. He did find fish up to seven pounds in his survey nets. The Flathead populations ranged up to 20 pounds with some fish even larger.
Most of the flatheads are taken by jug fishermen at night. A few are taken by hook and line anglers. The latter take mainly channel catfish the basic staple of the lake.
Shore fishing is permitted virtually all over the lake. However, anglers should stop by the Corps of Engineers office to obtain a parking permit for the lots that are owned by them. Parking in the state park areas is free.
Tackle for shore fishing catfish is pretty basic. It consists of a rod and reel with monofilament line of about 12-pound test. The terminal tackle is usually a 1/0 hook suspended about 18-inches below a small float. Bait is generally a night crawler but other baits such as chicken liver, cut shad, and dough balls are sometimes used. For those using dip baits (cheese bait) the plastic dip worms are used instead of the bait hook. Some people prefer treble hooks but those wanting to release their fish are advised to use a single hook as it is easier to remove.
For those who really like shore fishing, a lawn chair, cooler, and grill might be a welcome addition. There is nothing like the comforts of home when fishing for catfish.
Catfish are a basic fish for teaching kids and other novices to enjoy the sport of fishing. They are easy to catch and pull hard providing and exciting experience. With the big Memorial Day holiday weekend coming up soon, it might be a good time to plan a trip to Rend Lake for a catfishing excursion.