Got Milk?

Jug-fishing for catfish is a popular southern pastime. A jugline is simply a float with a baited hook suspended below. Some jugs are weighted while others are left free to drift. Jug fishing is often done in the dark when catfish move out of their hiding places to feed.
After a recent, and unsuccessful jug-fishing attempt I decided to try again. I bought more foam pool noodles, which I cut into “jugs” and rigged up a total of 29 new juglines:
Surely, I thought, this would be enough to tip the scales in my favor. So, Tara and I headed out one evening in the boat. We baited the hooks with pieces of squid and placed the jugs in a shallow bay. After several hours paddling around in the dark and having caught nothing but an unfortunate snapping turtle, we headed home.
Maybe, I thought, squid wasn’t the right bait. So I called up Matt and headed out one morning to catch some panfish. Fresh cut bluegills, I had read, were an excellent catfish bait:
With our superior bait, Tara and I once again headed out into the darkness. This time we placed the jugs carefully, 25 of them in a long line along a submerged road bed, and four of them in a small lagoon nearby. Then we paddled in and headed home, leaving the jugs for the night. We returned early the next morning, anxious to see what we had caught.
The jugs were still in a long line. A bad sign. Indeed the baits were untouched all along the road bed, until the last one. The last jug had been pulled 20 or 30 feet from its original position. Expecting another turtle, I grabbed the line and gave it a pull. I felt a fish on the other end! We had caught a small flathead catfish.
After releasing our catch, we paddled over to collect the last four jugs from the lagoon. Mysteriously, all of these baits had been taken! In fact, one hook was missing completely, and the swivel-snap that held it had been twisted apart:
Later, I told all this to Ronnie “Grumpy” Howard. If Ronnie lived near the ocean, he would be the saltiest sea-dog I know – even though now he is primarily a fly fisherman and trout guide, when it comes to catching fish in Tennessee, Ronnie’s been there and done that. When he heard about the broken swivel-snap he told me that when a big cat gets hooked, it will spin in an attempt to free itself.
Had we hooked and lost a lunker?

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