How big of catfish are you targeting, what size bluegill, etc? If you're not going after goliaths then you can use a smaller hook so that its easier on your bait. Make sure to hook it properly through the back. Give it enough line away from the weight to swim around a little, and be conscious of moving water if in a river/creek or the waves in a windy lake potentially bashing it. If you're catching turtles you might not be deep enough either, since its still September and not as many sizable cats will be shallow. Bait should be pretty much as big as possible and still fit into your target fishes mouth. Bullheads under 7 inches are also an option, those things refuse to die on a hook and will still get eaten up by blues and channels. I've personally never had a turtle except for soft shells go after my live bait so I'm inclined to think your gill is either dying or struggling to stay alive.