Surely you’ve seen the videos on YouTube where anglers go casting for catfish with chicken nuggets, hamburger chunks, or some other bizarre bait to prove that you can catch these fish on just about anything. It’s okay, you can admit to having watched them. It’s even alright if you giggled a bit. Just don’t tell anyone it was at two in the afternoon on a Wednesday while you were at the office. And just n case that happens to be where you are right now... well, click below for gosh sakes!

I have no idea who first had the brainstorm to go fishing with fast food, but I certainly credit them with creative thinking. Still, after watching one of those videos recently I was left with a nagging question: would they have caught more fish, had they been using a traditional bait? How do those pieces-parts fused together stack up against cut fish when fished side-by-side?

To put nuggets to the test Team FishTalk decided to run an experiment and pit them head-to-head with normal bait. We went on a fast food frenzy and collected up a batch of nuggets from McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-a, and RoFo. Then for good measure (curiosity got the best of us) we added a bag of White Castle burgers into the mix. And for our traditional contender, we hit the tackle shop and grabbed a bag of the catfish classic: gizzard shad.

eating a chicken nugget for bait
Zach may have been a bit confused as to who was supposed to eat what, but the good news is that when you go fishing with chicken nuggets you know you won’t go home hungry.

Fishin’ with a Mission

We rigged up with 6/0 circle hooks and 30-pound fluorocarbon leaders, jumped into the boat, and cruised up the Patuxent River to a hole scoured out in a bend just north of Jug Bay. I’ve fished this hole many times, and it’s often so riddled with catfish that it’s impossible to catch anything else. There, we each fished a different bait, then rotated baits, keeping two nugget varieties plus gizzard shad in the water at all times.

Our first big discovery: McDonald’s chicken nuggets are buoyant, while the other brands sink. Go figure. Regardless, I decided it was wise to strip a bit of the breading away and leave some actual chicken(?) exposed. Eventually this was revealed to be folly, when I checked the nugget after a missed bite and found that some wary catfish had nibbled away the breading without bothering to eat the actual chicken.

Our next revelation came when trying to fish the White Castle burger. Turns out they basically dissolve. Contributor Eric Packard had the crafty notion to put it into a mesh bag, but by the time he had it set to deploy, the offering was oversized and fish under 10 or so pounds wouldn’t have been able to choke the monstrosity down. Regardless, after 15 minutes without any action the (unused) White Castles went back into the cooler for future consumption by humans.

Fish, or Fowl?

eric holds up a blue catfish from the patuxent river
Contributor Eric Packard holds up the first catfish of the day, caught on gizzard shad.

Before presenting our irrefutable scientific data, it must be noted that for some reason the catfish proved particularly finicky on this day. It may have been due to a strong front having just pushed through (it was a bluebird day with winds in the 20-knot range), but they nibbled then spit the bait — regardless of its phylum — a lot more often than they struck with gusto. Time and again we watched a rod tip pump two or three times then hang limply, without the fish ever fully committing. All of that said, here were the results:

  • Chick-Fil-A – Zero bites.
  • McDonalds – Five bites.
  • Royal Farms – Two bites.
  • Gizzard Shad – Constant action — we lost count of the exact number of bites, but it was in the dozens. Gizzard shad was also responsible for catching the first fish, the most fish, and the biggest fish.

So, what have we learned here? First off, if you want to actually catch fish, you’re best off using “real” bait as opposed to fast food chicken nuggets (or weird little mini frozen hamburgers from Ohio). Second, we need to address the question of why McDonald’s chicken nuggets float. We did learn that it’s not the breading, because after being stripped away by nibblers the chicken itself still floated. An extensive Google search on the topic proved unhelpful, but we did learn that in 2012 a McNugget resembling George Washington sold on eBay for $8100. (There’s a picture, and in all fairness it really did look kind of like him).

Yes, yes, we know, there are a lot of other nontraditional baits like chicken livers and chicken breast soaked in Kool-Aid which some anglers swear works just as well as cut fish. We have no doubt as to their effectiveness, and just for the record I personally consider chicken livers a topnotch catfish bait. But we couldn’t test everything in the grocery store at once and the whole idea here was simply to put this myth that fast food nuggets are “good” bait to rest. And also, to get out of the office at two o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. Mission accomplished.