Ladies and gentlemen, Urban Anglers USA would like to introduce you to Catterman!
Kevin is an East coast angler who slays big urban catfish. When we first came across his channel, we were blown away by the size of the fish he was catching in our nation’s capital, so we reached out to him to feature another angler who shares the joy of fishing in urban environments. We are proud to share his story and his tips/techniques with our followers, so please show him some love and subscribe to his youtube channel. He puts out a lot of great videos and you will definitely learn some great fishing tips from his page. You can also follow him on Instagram at the_catterman.
I’m Kevin ‘Catterman’ van Vlijmen. I’ve never found it easy to talk about myself… well, here goes.
I was born and raised in Rosengarten, a town outside of Hamburg, Germany. At the tender age of one I went fishing for the first time and owned my first fishing rod by the age of 4. Growing up in Germany, I had many opportunities to fish pristine water bodies for European yellow perch and rainbow trout (included is a picture of my first trout catch and my sister). Since nobody else in the family liked fishing I had to teach myself how to fish. I read countless of books on where to pursue certain fish, especially trout, and became an avid fishing book and magazine reader at an early age. If I had started in this time, I would’ve learned from the internet. Specifically, YouTube has become the learning ground for many beginners in 2017. This is also why I started my ‘Catterman Adventures’ channel.
After moving from Germany to Geneva, Switzerland, I was still able to pursue my passion. Fishing Lake Geneva was quite an experience. What was even better than fishing Lake Geneva was eating the fish that came out of it. Filet de Perche (yellow perch filets pan fried with French fries) was a family favorite for the duration of our stay near the Swiss mountains.
After living there for a year, it was time to migrate to the United States of America. This was a turning point in my life for my favorite hobby. While central New Jersey does not boast many pristine water bodies, there are quite a few species to catch here. Around middle school/high-school I got very involved in fishing for largemouth bass. I would spend almost every summer day biking to the local lake, and wouldn’t come home until I had either caught a fish or advanced the spread of my sun burn, or both. (Included are pictures of some of my biggest bass to date, PS: They’re not huge, but keep in mind I am a large guy and 6’3” tall)
While I did enjoy catching bass, there was always the internal drive to catch bigger fish. So, I progressed to catching carp. This kind of fishing was totally new to me. Sitting in a spot with a few baits out, waiting for a long time and not walking around much had a very relaxing touch to it. I could sit for hours and watch the tip of the rod, waiting for my pole to almost get yanked into the water. This was the fishing that I could really get into. I would spend hours chasing carp, but eventually even they were no match for my appetite to catch bigger fish.
At this point I was watching YouTube steadily every day and soon enough came across a guy named ‘Steve Douglas’. What was he catching? Well, Catfish and BIG catfish at that. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, but he’s a pretty well known guy in the catfish fishing industry. I started watching all of his videos and paid attention to all of his tips. Now, Steve was fishing in Kentucky. According to my research, he was in an area in which large catfish were a common occurrence. On the other hand, I was in New Jersey where we were stuck with channel catfish. While they were by no means small, they weren’t the fish of late night southern haunts. The huge mysterious flathead catfish that would lurk into the shallows or the big bruiser blue catfish found in the deeper channels of rivers. Those were the ones I really wanted to catch.
The biggest thing that I started to learn as I was picking up cat fishing was the importance of fresh bait. While chicken livers seem to be the popular bait of choice, by no means would they produce as well as if one was to choose to ‘match-the-hatch’, as we call it. Before targeting any fish, you need to figure out what they’re feeding on. In the summer, Channel catfish feed primarily on sunfish, but in the colder times of the year they prefer Gizzard or Threadfin shad.
By now I had spent quite some time chasing Channel catfish and had learned how to access an unlimited source of Gizzard shad. Soon after learning to catch these, my fishing success increased and I caught my personal best channel catfish, weighing in at 19 pounds and 3 ounces.
Again, I was not satisfied. I started researching which water bodies were close to me which held flathead and blue catfish. I was surprised to find out that the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia contained flatheads. According to articles, they were an invasive species which had taken over the river and were becoming abundant. As soon as this news reached my brain, a light bulb flickered on. I knew I had to catch myself a flathead catfish. I started investing time into reading articles about catching flatheads, their seasonal patterns, and also invested a lot of money into heavier gear. After a month or so of getting prepared, I headed out, purchased myself a Pennsylvania license and headed out to the Schuylkill River.
And then… it took me over 60 hours logged to catch my first flathead catfish. It was far from easy, but boy when I caught that first one was I thrilled.
Even after watching Chris ‘Sea-Money-Fishing’ Mcintee’s videos on YouTube about how to catch flatheads, it still took me ages to really get the hang of it. See, the thing is that flatheads are very affected by seasonal patterns. In the spring, once water temperatures rise to 60 degrees or above, they come out of their holes and ravenously feed. This is also one of the best times to catch them and I often catch them on cut bait. The summer gets more difficult to catch them, and the most important part is to wait for a heavy rain to come through and to feed the murky, muddy waters afterwards. Target the flats coming out of the holes and ledges. You can get your best bite this way. Another great location to catch flatheads is to target choke points, where the river narrows drastically. These are catfish highways. When July arrives the flatheads shut down, stop feeding, and breed for the whole month. Once the fall rolls around, the flatheads head out to their deep wintering holes and become very tough to catch unless you know where these locations are. Required are big, lively baits at the tip of these deep holes and contours. Eventually the water temperatures will drop below 60 degrees and the flatheads will shut down until the spring.
In 2016 I focused heavily on catching flatheads and was able to pull out my personal best at 31 pounds. This bad boy came in during a spring night in which we pulled in over 30 flatheads. This was also after a recent hot rain. Remember; take advantage of the hot rains whenever you can. Also, don’t ever try to catch flathead catfish if the water temperature hasn’t risen at least to 60 degrees. It’s a giant waste of time.
Now, I love catching flatheads, but there is one tiny, miniscule issue with them. They shut down during the winter, and that is something I cannot forgive easily. Due to this, I decided to find out if there was a blue catfish holding water body near my residence. I was surprised to find out that, according to recent articles, blue catfish had found their way in the lower Potomac River near our capitol. What was even more impressive about this was that they found a way to migrate all the way from the James River, along the lower salinity containing west side of the Chesapeake Bay, up into the top portion of the Bay. Eventually, this brought them into the Potomac, and this is where they have been for a while now.
While the Fish and Wildlife department had been waging a war against these blue catfish for a while (one which they were steadily losing), there were still plenty of reports of larger blue catfish being caught. In light of this news, I got myself some gizzard shad together, packed my Rippin Lips Supercat rods up and headed for Washington D.C. On my first trip there, after fishing the shallows off of an island, I hooked into my first decent size blue catfish. This was only the beginning. I had now officially caught each species of large North American catfish.
Today, I visit the Potomac almost every weekend and just recently caught my personal best Blue catfish. Weighing in at 45.2 pounds, this beast came in after a large, and fast, boat drove past our lines. I almost thought that I had hooked into the boat itself! Nonetheless, it was an epic experience. It also goes to show that cat fishing pays off if you put the time into it.
One of the most fun things about fishing for blue catfish in Washington D.C. is also the fact that you are literally fishing in the Urban city environment. Often times I am approached by tourists asking what I am catching and wanting to learn more about the fish in the waterways. Remember to try to be open minded and see if you can impart some knowledge if it is warranted. Personally, if approached by a large group of oriental tourists, do not be surprised if they hoard you when you pull up a fish. It is always important to keep in mind that meeting with tourists is also a culture clash. If you feel uncomfortable and feel that your private space is being invaded, just be sure to let them know in a respectful manner. Most of the time they will back up and understand.
In conclusion, I created my YouTube channel ‘Catterman Adventures’ to share my love for catfishing with the rest of the world. I want to show you, and everyone else, how much fun catfishing can be. I also want to share my experiences, failures, successes, tips and tricks with you so that you can learn something from my videos and can go out and catch some big hogs yourselves too. I hope you subscribe and stay tuned for future content. Good luck with the Urban Angling adventures.
Click here to read Catterman’s article on catfish techniques and guide to beginner catfish rigs and gear.