Kitties in the South Jersey cities -- and in the suburbs and rural areas as well.

To be sure, the channel catfish, or “kittie” as it’s oft referred to by aficionados of the bewhiskered bait grabber clan, is a major player on the freshwater scene.

Sure, it’s eclipsed by the largemouth and smallmouth bass duo, the muskie, northern pike, hybrid striper and trout, but when it comes to a fish you can catch pretty much anywhere, that grows to very respectable sizes, that bites both day and night, and really puts a bend in a rod, well, the channel catfish is the headliner. That it’s a winner via the deep fryer makes the channel cat a summertime fave.

“It (the channel kittie) is an Everyman’s gamefish,” opines Hackettstown Hatchery superintendent Craig Lemon. The state-of-the-art Division of Fish & Wildlife facility in Warren County breeds, rears and stocks hundreds of thousands various size channel kitties every year statewide on a rotating basis in 90 or so lakes, ponds and reservoirs up, down and across the Garden State. The significant percentage of the kitties set loose are at or above the 12-inch minimum limit, making for available harvest.

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Swims such as the lower Delaware River, Tuckahoe River, Salem River, and Mullica River host natural populations of channels.

The list, numbers and average lengths of the cats stocked is available at www.njfishandwildlife.com and going to the freshwater link then to the Hackettstown Hatchery page.

In addition, every couple of years, there is an early October stocking in select waters of spent breeders ranging from 18- to 30-plus inches and weighing upwards of 10-pounds. Top baits for channels are chicken livers, small live bluegills and shiners, hot dog chunks, bunker chunks, cut mackerel, nightcrawlers, and the Berkley Gulp! Catfish and PowerBait Catfish chunks.

Some top south Jersey channel catfish waters with easy access include Heritage Park Pond, the DOD, Swedesboro Lake, Birch Grove Park Pond, Turnmill Pond, Lake Shenandoah, Sylvan Lake, Lake Carasaljo, Ponderlodge Pond, Grenloch Lake, Oak Pond, Greenwich Lake and Woodstown Memorial Lake.

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