Jug fishing: Catching catfish by proxy



Back in the 1950s (I was still in high school), my father would drop me off at Merry Brothers Brickyard Ponds off East Boundary on Saturday mornings and then head for “The Patch” for a round of golf. I’d catch a ride home with fishermen who lived in my neighborhood.

Unlike the kids who wander around aimlessly at the mall, I had a plan. I rented a row boat for $2 and J-stroked my way out onto the main pond, a metal bait bucket with a dozen large golden shiners inside. (A “J-stroke” is wielding a paddle in “J” motion on one side of the boat, flaring the blade at the last minute to keep the boat straight).

I tied on a 3/0 hook to a stout length of line and the line to willow tree branches overhanging from the banks of the pond. I stuck the hook barb through the shoulder of the shiner in front of the dorsal fin, the line being just long enough to keep the bait fish just under the surface.

This was called a set hook and today in Georgia is legal only for catfish and other rough fish. Back then, I was after largemouth bass and in my early teens had no idea about fishing laws. But I never caught a bass or anything else. I’d be yards away when a bass struck the bait fish, but never hooked itself.

Oh, well. I thought it was a good idea at the time.

While set hooks are probably still in use, many fishermen opt to use plastic milk jugs, especially on Thurmond Lake, to target catfish. It was commonplace to see a dozen or more white jugs floating on the surface. While many of them were just floating placidly, others seemingly had lives of their own and were bobbing and darting this way and that.

Pretty soon, a fisherman in a jon boat would come onto the scene and chase down those active jugs, which had short lengths of line and hooks tied to the handles or around the necks close to the tops. The bait would be cut chunks of raw meat or blueback herring. Many times he had to use a large landing net to capture a larger than usual “Mister Whiskers,” the catfish.

There are no restrictions on jug fishing other than they can’t be used in state park lakes. Don’t spread out the jugs in areas loaded with recreational boaters and check the jugs regularly each time of use.

Not knowing what you’ll catch is a part of the fun. Check out the photo in the Sunday Sports Section to see what one Richmond County youngster caught jug fishing on Thurmond Lake.



Capt. David Willard, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed, fulltime professional guide specializing in hybrids, striped bass and trophy largemouth bass. (Boat phone: (706) 214-0236. (803) 637-6379 (www.crockett rocketstriperfishingcom) – That northeast cold front dropped the lake’s surface temperatures 10 degrees and, if that wasn’t enough, we also have a full moon. On the positive side, we are catching so many fish that even if we drop down by 50 percent, we would still have a good catch. Last week, I said we were in a perpetual spring pattern and that certainly seemed to be true this week. We may be going through a second spawn since the female fish we are catching are full of eggs and the males full of milt. The bite is very aggressive. All my clients this week hailed from the Midlands and upstate South Carolina. One particularly fun trip involved a group of spunky women (Terri White, Barbara Grubb and Brenda Kaufelds) who landed some big stripers. Col. Stewart also returned with his awesome fishing crew and enjoyed what has been a great season so far. You can check us out on Facebook at crocketrocketguide service.

Ralph Barbee Jr., professional guide specializing in largemouth bass. (706) 831-8756 – Kathy Wade and I fished last Saturday. She caught a 4-pound bass. I zeroed. The Pop-R and Hub’s Chub have been the best baits. Later, Charlie Wagner and I went to Raysville in his boat. I made a cast with the Hub’s Chub. A striper I estimated weighed 50 pounds slammed it, but hung it up in an underwater tree and it escaped.

Billy Murphy, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed guide specializing in striped bass and hybrid bass. (706) 733-0124 – We have finally traded our planer boards for down lie fishing. On our last three trips, fish have been stacked under my boat for a couple of hours. We are fishing humps (submerged islands) in 20 to 30 feet of water and limiting out each day by 8:30 a.m. Some of our fish are weighing up to 4 pounds. Fishing with me last week over a three-day period were Bonnie Jackson, Augusta, and Larry Freeman, Grovetown. Check our web site at www.doubletroublefishingguides.com.

William Sasser’s Guide Service, (Capt. William Sasser, Capt. Bradd Sasser, Capt. Andrew Tubbs, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed, full time professional guides specializing in crappies, hybrids and striped bass). (706) 589-5468 (William), (Bradd) (706) 267-4313, (Andrew) (803) 507-5083 – Bradd: The lake level is inching up along with the water temperature. Surface temperatures are in the low to mid 80s. One of the oxygen lines off Modoc has been cut on by the Corps of Engineers. The fish are congregating off mid-lake and lower lake points and humps in 30 to 40 feet of water. They are stacked up in schools along the bottom, feeding first thing in the morning and then they begin to move, staying at the same depth, but suspending along the edges of ditches in deeper water. As temperatures warm during the day, the bite slows, finally getting even slower around midday. The quality of the fish is nice, with slab hybrids 3 to 8 pounds and stripers 8 to 20 pounds mixed in. There is still a decent bite going on at the dam when generation begins, nice hybrids chasing bait along the riprap. Crappies are still holding in brush in 15 to 20 feet of water and can be caught by anchoring your boat over the brush. Plenty of catfish are being caught at the same depths as hybrids, using cut bait instead of live herring. Some better stripers also are being caught on cut bait.

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Ralph Goodison, Fripp Island, (843) 838-2530 --- The Fripp Island Memorial Day Fishing Tournament raised $7,000 for Fripp for a Cure and the Keyserling Cancer Center. Capt. Davis Tilton and his crew on Full Tilt captured the largest wahoo (45 pounds) and first-place king mackerel (10 pounds). Capt. Dee Ameaki and his Poltro Geist crew caught the largest dolphin (22.6 pounds) and Capt. Tripp Ameaki and his Gena Nenta crew caught the No. 2 dolphin (19.4 pounds). The largest Spanish mackerel was caught by Capt. Moly Sealy on Little Lue Lue. Next tournament is the two-day Labor Day weekend event.

Inshore, the bite is good for redfish and whiting, fair for flounder. Neqr shore. The bite is good for black sea bass and sheepshead. Spanish mackerel fishing is fair and there are some snapper blues out there, too.

Offshore, large black sea bass, trigger fish and grunt are good, but the Gulf Stream fishing is slow, most of the larger dolphins having migrated northward.


Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, (912) 897-4921 (www.missjudycharters.com.) P.O. Box 30771, Savannah, Ga. 31410-0771 – If you can use a cast net, bring one with your next trip because it may be the only way to make a haul of shrimp from tidal creeks. You can always substitute mud minnows for live shrimp.

Our artificial reefs are holding a variety of game fish, including Spanish mackerel, little tunny, barracuda, bluefish. Try pulling Clark Spoons in 0 to 00 sizes behind Nos. 1 to 3 planers or 1-2/3 ounce trolling sinkers.

Bottom fishing in the Savannah snapper banks is great, with vermilion, white grunt, black sea bass, trigger fish, cobia, grouper, red snapper, an assortment of pogies, mahi mahi, king mackerel, you name it. Cut squid and cut fish remain the best baits.