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Tips for Catfishing on the Tug Fork River

Here in the Williamson area we are lucky enough to live with the Tug Fork River right in our backyards. Those of us who can’t get enough of the water can get our fix with boating, floating, swimming, wading, and, of course, fishing! The Tug Fork River is surrounded by beautiful wildlife on land and in the air, but that’s no match for what you can find below the surface. Today, we’re talking about one special type of fish, though: the catfish! June 25 is National Catfish Day, and it’s a great day to go out and celebrate by catching some of these popular fish.

Tips and Tricks From an Expert

Dustin Estep, a member of the Friends of the Tug Fork River Facebook group, and described as one of the group’s resident experts by founder Pete Runyon, shared some knowledge with Williamson Forward to help you get a great catch!

“I have catfished the whole Tug,” Dustin says. “From Ieager, West Virginia to Louisa, Kentucky, and I’ve floated in separate trips from Anawalt, West Virginia to Louisa, Kentucky.” On top of years of experience, Dustin has read quite a bit on the topic, and worked up a good deal of knowledge along the way.

To start with, Dustin explained how catfish movement works. “Catfish movement can generally be patterned and broken down into separate times of years,” he says. “Starting off with cold water in the winter, pre-spawn in the spring, spawn and post-spawn in the summer, and cool water in the spring.” Understanding how this works can help you understand the best times and places to catch a catfish. “Generally, if you’re catfishing during the winter, the deepest holes might harbor some cats,” Dustin says. Around 50 degrees, the cats will move out of wintering holes to look for more food. “As the water starts to warm, the cats start to move more,” Dustin says.

After spawning season is over, catfish tend to look for summer holes to set up in during late summer and early fall. This is Dustin’s favorite time of year for catfishing. During this time, you’ll need to look for holes with some real depth for luck while catfishing.

Dustin also advises not to overlook daytime when catfishing. “Don’t overlook daytime! There are people who believe catfish are only catchable at night, but all species of cats are catchable during the day. To have some luck, try setting up near some wood and logs.”

When it comes to bait, Dustin prefers natural baits. He prefers cutbait-- that is, using cut fish as bait. “Any fish can be used for cutbait, some might be better than others, but I generally use what I can obtain. Creek chubs and panfish are generally what I’ll use.” He doesn’t prefer frozen cutbait, but it can be used. “I do feel cats prefer fresh bait,'' he says. “I do use nightcrawlers at times, too”

As far as catfishing in Mingo County, there are some great spots. “Williamson’s dam can harbor some cats at times, and Naugatuck, where Pigeon Creek joins the river, holds cats, and has easy access.”

Dustin has one final suggestion: invest in a kayak. “If you get the cat bug, and you want quality and quantity, I highly suggest a kayak,” he says. “There are places to be fished that really can only be reached by kayak, and you can cover more ground, more quickly.”

Dustin is highly knowledgeable about catfishing, and hopefully, with the help of his tips, you’ll soon become a catfishing expert, too! Remember to stay safe out on the water, and for more fishing tips, and a place to post pictures of your next catch, check out the Friends of the Tug Fork River Facebook group!

Photo From Friends of the Tug Fork Facebook Group Page

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