Sandusky Bay: the channel catfish capital of the world

Jul 9, 2024 | Featured, Ottawa Outdoors | 0 comments

Captain Sam Horn uses a Humminbird Mega Live fishfinder, shown here, to locate fish in Sandusky Bay. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

Captain Sam Horn’s business in IT takes him around the world, and wherever he goes, his passion for fishing follows him. During the day, he installs state-of-the-art tracking technology on buses, and in the evenings, he finds the most promising local fishing holes to continue his search for the big five: sturgeon, alligator gar, king salmon, muskie and blue catfish.

So he was surprised when, about five years ago, a man in Oklahoma mentioned channel catfishing in Sandusky Bay. Horn, who lives in Cleveland, owns a lake home near the bay and had been fishing on Lake Erie for years. He had no idea the bay offered such good fishing.

Captain Sam Horn prepares to weigh a recently caught catfish on July 2. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Now Horn is one of the top experts on catching catfish in Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie’s own little fish bowl that acts like the quiet neighbor who is calm on the surface but has a lot of raging action underneath. The bay leaves the flashy, nausea-causing waves to the lake but still gives a wild ride to fishermen looking for a little catfish excitement.

Horn, who owns Angry Floater Fishing charters (www.angryfloater.com), knows how to find them, how to attract them, and how to make reeling them in more fun than an ocean charter. His guests catch them so big he started a “20 LB Club” to keep track of the anglers who reeled in the big ones.

Former Beacon Editor D’Arcy Egan recently spent a productive morning with Charter Captain Sam Horn and caught this massive catfish. (Photo by Capt. Sam Horn)

But it took time for Horn to learn the bay. When he came home from Oklahoma, he headed out on the water and caught one fish. The next trip he caught four.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said.

He decided to spend some time off the boat studying catfishing and the bay, and the next time he hauled his rods out there, he came back with 80 catfish. Now, he’s ready to share some of those secrets with Beacon readers.

Although catfish can be caught all summer long, peak catfish season begins about the second week of May and runs through early July. A full moon can jumpstart the action.

“A full moon will draw them in. It’s a trigger mechanism,” Horn said.

Horn uses farm-raised rainbow trout as bait.

“It’s illegal to use unless it’s farm-raised,” he said.

Sam Horn is an expert on catching catfish on Sandusky Bay. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Choosing the bait is easy, but finding the fish takes skill. Horn’s experience on the bay lets him know where to head, but his Humminbird Mega Live fishfinder helps him key in on the dense populations by providing real-time images of fish action.

“I’m probably the only guy on the bay who uses this,” he said. “It gives me an idea of what fish are down there, and it’s something the customers can relate to.”

Horn sets multiple poles at varying depths in the water, and experiments with lures to see what the fish are in the mood for that day. He uses lures of different colors, and some have rattles that seem to draw the big ones in. He even ties baby pacifiers to his lines. He calls them Binkie Lures.

“People say it’s ridiculous, but they catch a lot of fish, especially the green one,” he said. “There’s no rattle, so maybe it’s the way they run in the current.”

Current has a big impact on fishing in the bay, which has a depth of about six feet. The bay, which is like a swirling bowl of water, has no natural currents, making it more difficult to anticipate fish activity.

“It’s all wind-driven,” Horn said. “Channel catfish love currents. That’s what makes them so strong.”

Every trip onto the water is different.

“You use different colors, different depths, different speeds. Everything is kind of a variable,” Horn said.

But there’s one constant on Sandusky Bay. The channel catfishing is the best anywhere.

“Sandusky Bay is the channel catfish capital of the world,” Horn said. “I travel the world, and this is the best catfishing anywhere.”

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