My 6 Year Old Won T Sleep Through The Night Night Catfishing Magic on Sprague Lake

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Night Catfishing Magic on Sprague Lake

Some of the most enjoyable fishing I’ve done in the Northwest was the time I spent the night catfishing on Sprague Lake.

One of the reasons I wanted to do an article about catfish fishing on Sprague Lake is that I recently learned about plans proposed by the WDFW, (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife), to restore the lake this fall. The concentration of anglers seems to have dropped off in the past few years to one of the lowest in the state. WDFW studies say the lake attracts less than five anglers per acre per year. You can read the entire story by Rich Landers of the Spokesman-Review on their website.

Although Catfish can be caught during the day at Sprague Lake, I have always had the best results and experience at night.

I, for one, would miss the magic of Catfish fishing at night on the Sprague. My son and I usually go out with plans to be on the water before they sink. The best times for us are the hot summer nights when the air temperature stays in the upper 60’s and higher after dark. Far enough from the city lights, the stars overhead shine brilliantly and the band of our Milky Way Galaxy is clearly visible. The stars seem close enough to reach out and touch.

Another part of the magic is the multitude of bats, eating flying insects, moving so close that they often tickle your line as it leaves your rod tip to the water Besides being harmless to humans, bats eat their weight in mosquitoes and other nightly blood-sucking insects, which might otherwise feed on you. Despite this advantage, I still recommend using a good repellant spray or lotion that contains “deet”. The best I have found is the Avon product called, “Skin-so-Soft”. It is by far the best anti-odor product I have used that was still very effective.

Harper Island on the south west end of the lake is a very active bird nesting site and even at night the sounds of seagulls and other waterfowl fill the air. I have often wondered if the birds on the island sleep forever. If they do, you wouldn’t know it from the sounds that come from it, even well after dark.

Because the nature of Catfish fishing is to be a waiting game … a lot of that time is spent talking, telling stories about past fishing trips and anything else that comes to mind. We usually bring a small propane barbecue and cook burgers and hotdogs. Good flashlights are essential, and one of the foam head lights that can be attached to your 12 volt battery can be very useful for navigating to and from the boat launch, on the shore, and around Harper Island (see map above) on the south-west end of the lake. Usually one angler holds the light for the person fighting the fish or overhead lights can also be good. Our favorite spot for nocturnal cats was east of Harper Island, but I’ve heard from others that the mouth of the creek, (Cow Creek), at the southwest end of the lake is also good. . The second location is just a short distance from the public launch at that end of the lake.

Now let’s get down to the equipment you need for these monsters.

rods: First you need a very strong rod. A heavy to medium heavy rod in a length of 6 to 7 feet may be sufficient. Ugly sticks will do the job well enough.

Line: Line requirements are also, quite simply, 15 to 25 pound monofilament or braid or heavy test fluorocarbon. If you are fishing for trophies that get much larger than 20 to 25 pounds you may want to increase your line to 30 or even 35 pound test.

The Right Hook: The right hooks are probably the most important thing to consider. Since almost every bite you get on your bait is swallowed, you want to make sure when you set the hook that you don’t snag or choke your fish. A circle hook slides back up the neck and then usually a hook in the jaw.

In addition to setting without rod action, circle hooks are preferred in commercial fishing because they hook and hold fish, even on slow lines. They also tend to hook fish in the jaw, causing less mortality than standard J-hooks. Make sure you use a heavy gauge hook. Cats have been known to climb thin wire hooks.

The hook set: Using circle hooks requires you to pay some attention to your hook set. With clicker reels you would set your drag light and turn on your reel clicker. When the clicker starts to click, (indicating that the bait has been taken), tighten your drag and slowly retrieve your rod with a gentle sweep. Too early or too aggressive a hook set can force the bait out of the catfish’s mouth.

What material should be used? I have the best luck with a golf ball size piece of fish on a size 3/0, 4/0 or even a size 5/0 circle hook. Trout bits work very well, (but you didn’t hear it from me), and some people continue to use earthworms, chicken livers, stink bait and even cornflakes, oatmeal and flour concoctions. The truth is, it seems that just about anything edible with a strong smell will attract and entice catfish to bite.

Reels: Hands down, big bait casting style reels have the cranking power to move those big fish. Spinning reels can and do spin and many catfish anglers swear by them. Just for fun, my 31 year old son hooked and played one big catfish with a kid’s Scooby-Doo pole and even his bottom reel could have been taken over the side of the boat if the line hadn’t broken on the outboard motor.

Other equipment: Some use weights to keep the bait on the bottom. With a big chunk of fish on your hook I didn’t find it necessary. Plus, Sprague’s rocky bottom can put your weight up in the rocks. Some cats like to roll when hooked, so a good swivel with a ball can be an advantage. Bobbers can be a good idea both from the point of view of being a bite indicator, and, (if it is blown slowly over the surface), it can drag your bait along with it and present it to a larger area . I prefer to watch my line and rod tip. There is usually little doubt when you have a catfish. Last but not least, a good big net is a must for boating these behemoths.

The Fight: I’ve heard some people say that catching a big catfish is like pulling in a big log, or some other nonsense like that. These comments are usually made by someone who has never caught a big catfish. I can testify that good sized catfish in Sprague Lake usually put up one fight.

Getting there: The town of Sprague is just 37 miles from Spokane, WA. After exiting I-90 go through the town to South Shore Road following it to the public road near the southwest end of the lake.

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