Catfishing Utah Lake
Utah lake offers two species of catfish: The channel catfish (Ictalurus puncatus) has bluish gray to silvery sides, usually with dark spots on smaller fish, and the tail has a deep fork. The Bullhead or commonly known as the Mudcat (Ictalurus melas) is smaller then the channel catfish with the average being about 12 inches. Mudcats are blackish-olive with a yellowish belly. They have a very large head that makes up most of the fishes weight.
Although both species are very tasty at the table, you will have to catch more of the Mudcats to make a good meal. Catfish begin to spawn in Utah Lake around mid-May and well into June. During this time the fish can be found in shallow close to the shore making this a perfect opportunity for the shore angler to catch these fish. Some of the prime spawning areas are the American Fork Boat Harbor and the Powell Slough. Other areas of the lake that offer great catfishing opportunities are the Utah Lake State Park Marina, Lincoln Beach, Geneva Bubble up and even the west side of the lake. After the spawn, catfishing continues to be good through the summer months, then starts to decline when the water temperatures start to drop.
Although I have caught catfish during the day time hours, catfish generally feed one hour before the sun goes down, through out the night and into early morning. There are several catfish baits on the market today, but the baits that I have had success with are the shrimp and night crawler combo, night crawlers alone, link sausage, and commercial stink baits preferably blood and fish flavors. A lot other anglers choose to use the ever popular carp meat, and chicken livers.
Utah Lake produces some very large catfish, the record being 32 lbs. 5oz. caught in 1978, so when fishing for these species make sure your tackle is up to the challenge. I prefer a medium weight spinning rod with at least 12 pound test. Your tackle also depends on the area you plan to fish, some of the areas of the lake has a lot of vegetation such as cattails, and sunken trees. These areas may require a heavier line. Also remember there is always the chance of catching a new state record, so be sure your rod, reel and line are in good condition.
There are several rigs that you can use to catch catfish. One of my favorites is the slip sinker rig. With this rig I use a 3/8 oz. to 1/2 oz. bullet sinker. Push the bullet sinker up your line tie on a barrel swivel, and then add 12 to 18 inches of leader, and at last the hook suited to your bait. If you are using shrimp, night crawlers or carp meat I would use 2/0 size hooks. For other baits such as stink baits, sausage, chicken livers I would use a treble hook.
Cleaning And Caring For Your Fish: If you catch some catfish or any species a fish for that matter, it is very important to take some steps in caring for your fish. When fishing in the hot summer months fish can spoil very quickly in the heat and also in the warm water. Always place the fish you plan to keep and eat on ice immediately after caught. When cleaning catfish, I have found the method I like most is to fillet them. If you chose this method be sure to remove the skin and any red meat that may be found under the skin, as this red meat will give your fillets a very fishy taste.
Cooking Catfish: Here are a few catfish recipes that I enjoy.
Deep Fried Catfish In Beer Batter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 cup beer
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
In medium bowl, mix dry ingredients. Blend in beer and vegetable oil until smooth. Cut catfish fillets into bite size pieces. Dip fish into beer batter, deep fry until golden brown. This recipe is also great for Stripers, Large and Smallmouth Bass and Perch.
Classic Fried Catfish:
¾ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
4 catfish fillets or whole catfish vegetable oil
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne pepper and garlic powder. Coat catfish with mixture, shaking off excess. Fill deep pot or 12 in. skillet half full with vegetable oil. Heat to 350°. Add catfish in single layer, and fry until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes, depending on size. Remove and drain on paper towels.