VASSAR, Kan. — Channel catfish are the garbage disposals of the fish world.

Take it from Dave Schmidtlein, an avid fan of the bottom-feeding fish. He remembers a fishing trip several years ago at Coffey County Lake that convinced him that catfish will gobble up even the most unlikely of baits.

“We had found this hump that was just loaded with channel catfish,” said Schmidtlein, who lives in Topeka. “We were trying to eat our lunch and fish at the same time. My son had dropped one of my homemade dill pickles on to the bottom of the boat and he tossed it into the water.

“Later, we cleaned a few fish to see what they were feeding on and I noticed a big bulge in the stomach of one of the fish. I thought it was a crawdad, but when I opened it up, there was that 4½-inch long dill pickle.

“It must have swallowed that pickle whole right after we tossed it in the water.”

How about pickles for bait? Why not? Channel cat fishermen use just about everything else.

Schmidtlein remembers the time his brother caught some fish at Clinton Lake several years ago and, once he went to clean them, found several baby back ribs in the intestines of one of the fish.

And then there was the time Schmidtlein’s niece was chewing on some grape-flavored bubblegum and decided to put it on her hook. Within minutes, she had a channel catfish.

Other fishermen have used similarly strange baits to entice channel catfish.

Hot dogs are the all-American food of summer — for both humans and channel catfish. Many fishermen use chunks of hot dogs to catch the whiskered fish. Some even soak the dogs in a garlic solution before putting them on the hook to make them even more appealing.

Also in the grocery store’s meat aisle, beef, chicken and turkey liver has long been a favorite catfish bait.

Fishermen who run trotlines often use chunks of bar soap to lure catfish.

So what do you feed a big cat? Cat food, of course. Some fishermen use moist cat or dog food in a nylon with hooks and catch big channel cats.

When trees along the bank are dropping mulberries or persimmons into the water, fishermen will use chunks of those fruits as catfish bait.

Ordinary bread, soaked slightly and made into a ball, often works surprisingly well.

©2012 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)