March 28, 2008

Jugging For Cats

Stupid Question ™
Jan. 23, 2003
By John Ruch
© 2003

Q: What is “jugging for cats”?

A: The “cats” in question are catfish, and jugging is a method of fishing for them. The method is popular in the South; there’s even a jug-fishing tournament in Tennessee.

As the name implies, jugging involves a sealed, empty jug used as a float, with a hook, line and sinker attached to the handle or neck. The jug is typically released from a boat and is allowed to float freely. Usually, several jugs are released simultaneously.

When a fish bites, the jug will naturally tip bottom-up and be visibly pulled around, at which point the fisher will row out and haul the jug in.

Glass and crockery jugs aren’t used much anymore, both because of expense and because they can shatter. Plastic milk jugs, laundry detergent containers, oil cans and even 20-ounce drink bottles are now used. Some “jug” fishers even forego the jug and use a block of florists’ Styrofoam instead.

You can also now buy specially-designed plastic fishing jugs, such as the can-shaped model sold by Tennessee-based Fat Cat Jugs and the disc-shaped model sold by Oklahoma-based Jugs by Bert.

To juice things up, some juggers fish by night with jugs marked with reflective tape or fluorescent paint.

Though chasing a fish-pulled jug can be a challenge, jugging today is a relatively sedate sport, carried out on ponds, lakes and slow-moving streams.

However, it wasn’t always this way. The 1886 edition of Daniel Beard’s “Boy’s Book of Sports” suggests turning it into an action sport by releasing the jugs in a line across a stream with a good current, adding to the challenge of chasing them.

“One would think that the pursuit of just one jug, which a fish is piloting around, might prove exciting enough,” Beard wrote. “But imagine the sport of seeing four or five of them start off on their antics at about the same moment.”

Of course, such “sport” resulted in many lost jugs with unfortunate fish still attached and left to die. That’s why jugging is now a regulated sport. Some states ban it. Many other limit the number of jugs used and require the fisher to put his or her name and address on the jug.

* * * * *

For my Jan. 9 column on wind, I wrote a lovely and very accurate explanation of the sea and land breezes. Of course, I didn’t have room for it. Sloppily editing my column down to the required word limit, I reduced this explanation to a nicely-worded, concise—and entirely incorrect—sentence.

The correct version: The sea breeze is the cooler sea air moving toward the warmer land during the day; the land breeze is the cooler land air moving toward the warmer sea at night.

My thanks to reader Joe Hetzel for noting the error.

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