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OUTDOORS: Bank as good as boat for catching catfish

If ice cream shop owner Jeff Fults were to design a flavor to tickle the taste buds of Rappahannock River catfish, it would certainly be “white perch.”

Fults, owner of Wally’s Homemade Ice Cream Shoppe on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg, learned the exciting way that few things tempt a big river cat’s appetite more than freshly cut perch.

Fishing from the river’s bank in Caroline County, Fults and his fishing buddy Greg Sullivan spent much of a recent evening and early morning battling big fish that were inhaling their baits.

He estimated the biggest fish exceeded 50 pounds, noting, “My granddaughter weighs 52 pounds and this fish was at least as heavy as she is.”

Most anglers pursue monster cats from boats. Catching really big ones from the bank is a rarity.

The men set up to fish in early evening almost directly across from King George County’s Hopyard farms subdivision. They set rod holders into the riverbanks and then used 10- to 12-foot surf casting rods to pitch the bait into the channel. The Penn reels were spooled with 50-pound monofilament line. A 2-ounce sinker helped propel the bait to the channel.

“We’re not pro catfish fishermen by any stretch of the imagination,” Fulks said. “We’d been using store-bought bait, but then saw where cut white perch was supposed to be a good bet.”

They caught a few white perch and cut them into strips to skewer on the 1/0 hooks they were using. Each line was set up with a standard double-hook bottom rig.

The weather turned sour as night fell and they escaped the rain and high winds from the front seat of a truck. Rod tips bending wildly toward the water signaled a bite.

A 20-pound catfish that bit at 11 p.m. was the first taker. They tangled with several more 15- to 25-pounders through the night.

At 6:30 a.m., with sunrise nearing, Fults looked over toward his rod and saw it seemingly ready to leave the security of the rod holder and get pulled into the river.

“I barely reached it in time,” he noted.

He couldn’t believe the power of the fish he felt on the other end of the line. As he worked the fish closer to shore, he saw the huge swirl in the water and he knew something truly impressive was hooked up.

“The fish didn’t like getting close to shore and stripped off at least another 50 yards of line,” Fults said. “Fortunately, my reel’s drag was perfectly set. About 20 minutes later, I finally worked the fish over to a small boat launch area. We didn’t have a net so Greg got in the water, grabbed the fish by the gills and pulled it to the shore. This was by far the biggest catfish I’ve ever caught.”

Most of the fish the men caught were blue catfish, although Sullivan did get one big channel cat.

Beyond the size of the fish, the durability of the bait impressed Fults. “I only had to replace one piece of bait all night long,” he said.


Reader Bob Kirkpatrick of Fredericksburg reported he caught a 32-pound blue cat on a jug line in Stafford County’s Abel Reservoir.

Kirkpatrick was surprised on two counts: He wasn’t aware blue catfish were even in Abel Reservoir, and he never heard of predatory blue cats liking something like the stinky deer liver chunk he used for bait.

“It was quite a shock to pull this one up when I was expecting a 2- to 3-pound channel cat,” he reported.

Kirkpatrick said Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries staff told him the reservoir was electro-fished in 2010 and no blue cats were observed, leading him to surmise someone transported the big fish to the reservoir and released it. Kirkpatrick released the egg-laden female fish after taking measurements.



The deadline for postmarked entries in the 15th annual “Why I Want to Take My Dad Fishing for Father’s Day Contest” is May 16.

Several free, guided fishing trips for a child and an adult they nominate to go with them will be awarded. These include a group trip on the Chesapeake Bay and several smaller boat trips on other regional bodies of water.

Entries are sparse to date—so few in fact that this may be the last year of this contest. The number of entries received this final week will determine that.

There are two age categories: 6–9 and 10–13. Kids should write by hand, in 250 words or fewer, why they want to take Dad or any other adult fulfilling that special mentorship role fishing for Father’s Day. Include phone number, address, full name, and age. Mail entries to: Perrotte–Fishing Contest, Box 1069 King George, VA 22485.

Please share the entry details with family and friends you know who may be interested in the contest.



Trick-shooting superstars who can amaze crowds with their skill have a lineage dating back to the old Wild West shows made popular by Buffalo Bill Cody.

One of America’s best-known, current-day exhibition shooters, Tom Knapp, 62, died two weeks ago. Pulmonary fibrosis was the reported cause of death.

Knapp was an exhibition shotgun wizard who could fire a pump-action shotgun behind his back and still bust tiny airborne targets ranging from clays to aspirins, among other feats of shooting prowess. He once set a record, breaking 10 airborne clay targets with separate rounds in 2.2 seconds.

He worked with the Hennepin County, Minn., parks department for 25 years before becoming a full-time exhibition shooter and television personality with sponsors such as Winchester Olin, Federal Cartridge, Benelli USA and CZ-USA.

Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or e–mail


For more on outdoors things to do around Fredericksburg and the region, sign up for The Free Lance–Star’s newest e–newsletter, Mighty Outdoors, at