G. SAM PIATT
PDT Outdoors Writer
My eight-foot fly rod looked like a horseshoe as it danced up and down and the line swerved back and forth. I held on, managing to gain a little line and hoping my light line didn’t part or the pole break before I got to see what it was I was fighting.
It was a lengthy battle and my right forearm was starting to ache a little before my son, Kelly, was finally able to slide the dip net under the fish and hoist it into the boat.
It was a blue catfish and it would have weighed no more than 4 pounds, maybe a little over.
I unhooked it and held it up for admiration by me and Kelly and Creighton Stephens, who was fishing from the front of the boat. Then I released the fish that had given me all the pleasure that a fisherman seeks.
Some fishermen from this area travel far seeking such pleasure—to Lake Erie, using a passport to cross into Canada, driving south to the Georgia –Alabama border, or on to Florida.
I found my pleasure right here, in the Ohio River, one of the greatest fisheries in the world. We were just off the coast of Beattyville, across from the mouth of the Scioto River.
More specifically, we were fishing at the Kentucky-side pier of the Carl Perkins Memorial Bridge.
It was Wednesday of this past week. The air temperature was 95 degrees and the water temperature 85. There was not a whisper of a breeze. The river indeed lay like a mirror. We launched my old 16-foot Sears aluminum boat at Portsmouth’s Court Street landing and enjoyed the breeze as the 15-horse Merc took us under the bridge and a half-mile farther downstream to the sandbar on the Kentucky side.
The fish were so lazy on this afternoon that even the shiners declined to swim upstream to enter the mouth of my minnow jug to get the enticing cracker crumbs floating within.
We did some target shooting with my .22 revolver while waiting a half-hour and finding no minnows in the jug. Creighton, a retired prison guard, won the shooting match. We moved the minnow trap 30 yards downstream and waited again, with the same results.
We decided to leave it set while we motored a mile on down to the old dam site and tried our luck with artificial lures around what’s left of the concrete walls where the paddlewheelers once passed through.
I’ve found that Ohio River fish don’t cater much to artificials during hot summer months. They prefer a lively shiner minnow danced in front of their noses. We got not a strike before heading back upriver to look our minnow jug.
We had trapped three shiners, each about three inches long. We took them and headed upstream. The afternoon sun had moved enough toward the west that the bridge pier cast a shadow, enabling us to fish in the shade.
I fished one of the minnows on a line with a slip bobber set to stop at eight feet. The bobber drifted only a short distance downstream a foot from the pier before the catfish took it under.
Later, fishing at the mouth of Tygarts Creek above South Shore, Kelly used the last minnow to haul in a 13-inch sauger.
After that, with me holding the boat in position by tapping the electric trolling motor occasionally , we used spoons, jig-grub combinations, Rattletraps and just about everything we had in the tackle box – all to no avail.
We had gone a short distance back downriver with the outboard motor wide open before Kelly noticed that I was dragging the fish basket behind. We nearly drowned the poor sauger. I stopped and released him. If we had had a bucket of minnows, he would have wound up in a fry pan with other members of his family. He staggered a little, shook his head, and swam off. He headed back for the mouth of Tygarts and we headed for the Portsmouth waterfront.
Using the Court Street landing is convenient because, after launching, you have to move your truck and trailer ahead only about 40 feet, and that’s the distance you have to walk back to your boat.
Always before we’ve been able to trap more shiners on that sandbar in 15 or 20 minutes than we could use. They were there this time, because we saw them dimpling the surface around the trap. Why they didn’t go in remains a mystery.
To buy minnows requires, as far as I know, traveling to Souh Webster on the Ohio side or to Coal Branch on the Kentucky side.
PARTING SHOT: I’m still trying to figure out how I got over the hill without ever making it to the top.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at 606-932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.