Posts belonging to Category Seasonal Patterns



Shallow water Cats in the Springtime: Tactics for both bank and boat fisherman

Catfish are driven internally to move upstream for the spawn in the springtime and you can use this annual migratory pattern to your advantage. This is a great opportunity to look to the shallower water for success.

As the days are getting longer and the weather warms things up this will trigger the catfish’s biological senses to begin to moving from their wintering holes, to places that will allow them to feed heavily before the spawn.

The shallow water on sunny days can sometimes be 4-8 degrees warmer than the rest of the system there for drawing the bait fish as well as other fish including the cats.
In rivers the catfish begin to move up stream and as they do they will follow the underwater highways so to say, such as channels ledges, deep-water impressions, long points or other structure and contour irregularities but as they make their way upstream, they visit the shallower areas because they know it means food.

The shallow flats adjacent the deep water, north facing shallow banks or inside bends and tributary mouths are some examples of shallow water areas where you can cut the off at the pass as they travel up stream.

In reservoirs and lakes the catfish will begin to move and feed in the warmest parts of the lake as the warmer water will draw the baitfish and in turn will draw the predator fish such as a catfish. Again look to the north banks and coves these types of example will warm the fastest.

Other examples are shallow water with wood structure, mid lake flats or humps and feeder creeks. The spring rains will wash insects and other critters into the lake and the catfish have learned to frequent these areas , waiting for an easy meal.

Although the flats are featureless with little or no structure, they do attract catfish because of a flats ability to produce warmth and large amounts of algae from the suns energy attracting the shad and baitfish to the area which feed on the algae in turn creating a buffet for the catfish and other species as well.

THE RIG

3-way-rigsantee525

(Santee Rig for dragging baits)
Items needed for the basic 3-Way rig
Keep in mind item specs listed below will change according to the size fish your ‘re targeting.
Example below is a good all around combination of tackle required. It’s what I use to target trophy size catfish but is also effective on smaller fish also.
65lb braided or mono main line. (I prefer braid)
3- Way swivel
50 lb mono Leader line
20 lb mono drop line
#8-10 Circle hook
Bank sinker
*(Santee option- 3 inch peg float)

Tip: Notice the break rating on the drop line is less than the mainline. This is one option you may want to take advantage of to save tackle and time when fishing with any 3-way combination. It’s called a sacrificial weight, meaning it will break before the mainline when hung up on structure, keeping the rest of your rig intact so all you have to do is retie the drop line and weight instead of the whole rig, this saves a lot of time and frustration.

HOW-TO
3-way rig for catfishing

(Dragging the shallow flats)

Once you determine where you will fishing, just throw your baited rig behind your boat at different lengths of main line and place your rod in your Monster Rod Holder and begin to pull to drag your baits behind your boat.
I normally sling my first rod out behind my boat about 75 feet and the second one a little closer than the first and so on, keeping them staggered at different lengths.
The idea here is to drag your baits along the contour of the bottom using your trolling motor.

Although drifting with the wind will produce catfish, I prefer to control my (pull/drift) and target more precise contour structure, such as flats, humps and ledges.
The drag speed will be determined by the catfishes activity level the size sinker you are using; the heavier it is, the faster and deeper you can drag. After cold fronts and low activity levels I prefer to start with a 2 oz sinker and keep my speed at about .5 mph.
dragging4
As your dragging your baits across the contour of the bottom, your pole will go to bouncing, this is normal. At times, your pole will even appear to be getting hung up, this is ok, just keep dragging and most likely it will pop off of whatever it got caught on.
When dragging the flats for instance, there is just not a lot you can get hung on other that maybe small stones and the occasional water logged limbs and twigs and as I indicted, you will most likely just pull yourself out what ever small obstacle it got snagged on along the bottom and continue to drag your baits across the flats but this rod bouncing and occasional jerking action of the rods with this technique again normal.

THE BITE
The bite on this technique will look somewhat similar to getting hung on the bottom on the initial takedown in the aspect of the rod bending; however when you’re dragging the baits at certain speed, your rod tip movements will also move at that same speed.
The bite of the catfish will start to look different the rod after the initial take down but keep in mind, all take downs are not created equal. Some takedowns are slow and steady, just as it appears when you get hung on the bottom and some will just flat-out be fast and hard. But once you have him hooked, the rod tip will begin to continuously pull and bounce violently unlike being hung on the bottom which would be more described as dead weight.

CAUTION-
The Santee dragging rig is good method to search out feeding catfish, at the same time learning what your bottom contour is like and discovering new pieces of structure, however in the process you will get snagged and loose some rigs. (Don’t get discouraged), it just the way it is. I’ve fished places before where I’d lose 20 rigs a day and I’ve fished others and never gotten hung up. It is a proven fish catching rig.

Fishing from the bank?
For all of our friends that are bank bound anglers, this dragging technique is not going to help you at all.
However not to fret, as the catfish don’t know you are bank bound and you too can take advantage of the shallow water springtime phenomenon but you will just have to approach it differently.

Whether you have access to a big lake or small ponds or rivers, the catfish will have the same internal urges to do what it takes to complete the spawn just as these big river cats do and migration to feeding grounds or comfort zones is their first move. So with that in mind you will need to find areas in the waters you fish that will provide this type of comfort or activity.
In lakes I would look for the shallow north banks as they will be the first to warm in the springtime especially shallow coves on the north banks. This warmer water will definitely be a spot that can produce some real nice cats but other areas like the mouths of feeder creeks and shallow ditches are equally as good.

Going Old School
Since bank anglers don’t have the advantage of using the depth finders, we will have to determine the contour from observing the bank you can see above the water line. Most likely if you are seeing a small ditch running off the hill into the water, it more than likely will continue underwater and this type of areas can be very productive in the spring of the year. In farm ponds, use the same knowledge of fishing the north bank first in the spring to find the active catfish. Stay to the upper incoming, drainage or fill ditch area portion of the pond away from the dam to find the warmer water.

The Preferred bank bound Rig

The rigs I would opt for in this bank bound situation would be either a Carolina rig or float rig tied on a 7-8 foot spin or baitcast combos.

(Slip float)
bobberslip

carolina rig

(Carolina Rig)
Whether you’re fishing from a boat or the bank the shallow water springtime patterns are working now.
Remember though, the bigger catfish in the water you’re fishing will prefer cut bait over worms or stink bait but grocery shrimp, chicken livers, shiners and minnows are just a few other good bait choices for small lakes and ponds. Worms and night crawlers tend to be stolen by the pan fish and other small fish so I would avoid them completely unless you use them to catch pan fish with, to cut up for catfish bait.
This shallow spring action is the best times to get the family out for a fun, fresh spring day of catfishing.

Happy springtime folks. Let’s go catfishin’

Where to find Flathead Catfish in Rivers and How to catch them.

How to catch Flathead catfish

The shear brute strength and fight these fish give you are challenging to say the least. Keeping the fish from taking you to a snag once hooked is the challenging part. A forty pound flathead does what it wants, so using good equipment to turn and control the fish is a must.

Understanding there patterns and feeding habits much like deer hunting, figuring out where and when to intercept them.

Flatheads are loners and very territorial and their habits of ambush feeding is somewhat different that other catfish species however they are also an opportunist when it comes to feeding as is all catfish, but their appetite tends to be a bit more finicky than the other catfish species.

Most folks think flatheads can only be caught at night but for the guys who chase the flatheads will tell you different. Flatheads can be taken in the day; you just have to put the bait in front of them where they hold up during the day which is generally heavy cover. Flathead prefer live bait over the dead bait, however they will take a piece of fresh and I mean fresh cut, still bleeding piece of cut bait.


A flathead catfish will take up residence in or around a good baitfish attracter such as rock piles or log jams and they will protect and ward off any competing flatheads. Generally the bigger fish calls the shots.

Other good ambush points are tributaries that feed the main river, scour holes, drops and ledges along the river channel and docked barges, flathead will lay tight under the barges and wait on an unsuspecting prey to pass by for the ambush.

Flatheads will tolerate current but prefer some slack water. I will generally target eddies, current breaks and current seams in the spring and summer when there is current flow. These types of places allow the flatheads to rest and take advantage of the food that washes by them in the current.

The equipment required for targeting the flathead catfish  is a medium heavy seven foot rod, either a bait cast or spin casting combo which ever you prefer, spooled with at least 65 lb braided fishing line. The heavy pound test will help you pull the flathead away from cover or possible snags.

I use the 65lb test braided mainline and  I use a 50 lb. mono leader with a #9 Mustad demon circle hook. If I do get snagged the leader will break before the mainline keeping me from having to retie the whole rig again, I just replace the leader and hook and I’m fishing again quickly.

The best rig for search for monster flatheads is the slip rig /Carolina rig, it allows the flathead to take the bait and feel little resistance. I like to use a short leader and at least a 4 oz egg or no roll sinker, the heavier weight and shorter leader helps keep the lively baitfish from swimming of into nearby cover getting you tangled up.

The bite of the flathead is not at all like other species of catfish, and I think this is why a lot of anglers miss them.

The first indication of a flathead bite might be a short subtle pull of the rod and a pause if the fish is interested after that you will get another slow pull with a shorter pause, this is when you should carefully pick up the rod and get ready. As the fish takes the bait and you feel a strong steady pull as if he’s just swimming off which it is, this is when you just start reeling, slowly putting pressure against the fish and let the circle hook do its job and hook up. Setting the hook while using a circle hook is not recommended, you will lose the fish every time if you pull back hard and to set the hook.

The bite may even be more subtle if you happen to put your bait close to one that is tucked in cover. A lot of times when that happens the flathead will move out take the bait, you will see that initial pull down and that’s all, giving you the indication that he didn’t take the bait. But you have sit on that spot and had no action and you decide to move to another spot, you start reeling in your rods and the one that got that subtle bite but no commitment you thought, has a fish on the other end.

What happens is, you have put your bait close to where it’s laying and it eased out took your bait and just backed back into the cover only moving a bit, the flathead is the dominate fish and is at the top of the food chain and doesn’t have to swim away from home with the bait like other species do. Usually the fish that you catch like that have swallowed the hook.

flat head catfish

The best baits for flatheads are live shad or pan fish. I prefer the shad when available, however they will die quicker when hooked. The pan fish are easy to catch and will stay alive on a hook a lot longer than shad. In current in rivers, I like to hook the baits through the nose so they are always facing the current but in non current situations like lakes I will hook  the bait in the tail portion at the top near the dorsal fin. Sometimes I will cut the bait to make it bleed and create a scent trail.

In the summer months I will target the flatheads at night simply because of the heat factor, fishing shallower water around cover.  But as the fall season rolls around and the water begins to cool, I will target them in their deep water lairs throughout the day.

The bite of a flathead catfish can be subtle at times but the fight will absolutely be powerful and full steam ahead.