Target anchoring for big cats.

The winter time Bluecats become predictable and will school up or congregate in wintering areas that offer some sort of thermal or stable comfort zone and food availability. February one of the best times for hooking up with one of them monster cats along the Ohio River or its major tributaries like the Green or Kentucky rivers. Other areas like outside bends, drop-offs, creek beds and deep ledges. Look for the deepest contours and water depths that have been carved by nature. Blucats remain fairly active and aggressive in the winter months and will travel in and around these deep lairs looking for its next meal.

Target anchoring is my preferred method for wintertime catfishing. It involves the use of a GPS/Depth finder to find, mark and fish areas such as natural or manmade structure or cover, places where catfish will frequent for food, travel or spawn.
Anchoring on specific spots known to be high traffic areas such as ledges, humps or holes will increase an angler’s success, but if an angler can find certain that spot within the spot such as a big log laying among some rocks along the edge of a channel break, then you will more than likely have a productive day.

fishing map

Custom Mapping your favorite fishing spots

(Custom Mapping your favorite fishing spots)
Gps mapping lake charts has made fishing more productive as it allows the angler to discover, map, mark and return to these spots like clockwork. The mapping card technology in fish finders makes it a lot easier to understand, pinpoint and mark certain underwater structure, cover and contours that will most likely produce some action. Most lakes or impoundments map cards are very well defined in the contour terrain of the bottom which gives an angler the edge by taking of a lot of the guess work out of finding certain types of structure and it can position an angler precisely on a ledge or other obvious mapped contour changes.

Marking and setting up on specific fish that have been spotted on the sonar is another good use for this GPS technology. However the Rivers maps are not as defined in the contour terrain but more concentrate more on the navigational aspects. But with effort spent manually mapping the rivers bottom contour changes, an angler can still reveal those same productive types of contour or structure changes that are so well defined in the lake cards. Combining the depth finder and GPS to determine depth changes and GPS co ordinances to precisely mark spots to give anglers a blank canvas to personalize their own mapping charts of favorite locations either recently found or previously mapped. This is useful when scouting new areas marking the data that the angler inputs from their mapping also serves as a fishing log.

Find and anchor above your target about 80 to 100 feet and then cast the baits out of the back of the boat into the target area, staggering or fanning them out behind the boat in different depths. Lift your rod tip up and down a few times with the bait/sinker tension. This will straighten the line and remove any un wanted slack.
Channel bends in a river are great wintering holes and the best place to start your search, the river continuously keeps the bottom cut out and creates deep holes or runs in the bottom contour with lots of ledges, wood and irregularities, in general a catfish magnet.
Fan cast your baits to cover a wider areas, Anchor the boat closer to the bank so that it’s in the positioned in middle so to say of zero or the bank and its deepest point which is 50 feet. This way we can cover more area by spreading the baits, throw one rod out of the side of your boat in the deeper 50 ft. section, a couple straight out of the back of the boat one In the 40 foot section the other in the 30 ft section and the last one out of the opposite side towards the shallower 20 foot of water.

anchor for big catfish

Target anchoring for big catfish.

(Target anchoring)
In rivers, the deep winter holes are often found along outside bends or old river channels that run alongside a hard rock bank. In reservoirs, the old creek and river channels or in the reservoirs’ lower reaches. Channel confluences where the creek channels collide with the old river channels also tend to have deeper holes associated with them, run-ins or ditches will also provide some deep water habitat or HOT SPOTS.
Once you’re anchored on a spot, give it 30-35 minutes to see if you get any interest. If it’s been inactive it’s time to move down river a bit, but you don’t want to go far. The idea is to keep the scent trail close to the structure your fishing for the catfish to follow but to move just simply pull your anchor up and move your boat 40-50 feet down and re-anchor where you last placed your baits on the previous anchor and cast out again, keeping your bait in the same scent trail just a little further downstream. Because some of these channel bends can be up to a half mile long, you may need to bound down 4-5 times until you find the concentration of catfish.

Target anchoring

Aaron Wheately Director of Monsters on the Ohio with a nice winter time blue cat.

Using fresh bait
Big Shad and skip jack is the popular baits among trophy blue cat anglers, but cut or whole pan fish will also work well.
When finding and catching bait is not an issue, I like to have enough to re-bait on every move to keep the bait and scent trail fresh. Re-baiting often doesn’t seem to be as important in the spring or summer when the water is warmer as much as it does in the winter months.
In the frigid winter water the scent trail doesn’t seem to dissolve or disburse as well as it does in the warmer months, so keeping the freshest bait on each anchor in the winter time will attract the best results.
Winter time is a great time to land some huge trophy blue cats and there fun to catch but they are also kind of vulnerable this time of year as they are easily patterned.
Please remember to keep conservation in mind and put the big ones back after you’ve snapped some braggin pictures. Keep the smaller cats for fryin! Selective harvest works.

Steve Douglas

Seasonal Patterns for catfish

Where to find catfish in all seasons

Catfish are like any other fish in the fact that they have very specific movement or migration patterns. These patterns are heavily influenced by the change of seasons.

The key to successful catfish fishing all year long is being able to identify their habits during the particular season you are fishing in.

Like all living things, catfish have biological clocks programmed into them and length of daylight hours will trigger certain movements also.

Spring weather changes bring on the first movement of the season. Catfish will begin to stir from there wintering patterns as the days get longer and the water begins to warm with two things on their minds; food and the spawn.

Catfish will leave the wintering holes and begin to move towards the spawning grounds. In rivers they will move up river or into the tributaries, feeding heavily in preparation of the spawn.

If the option to move up stream isn’t available, catfish will seek out shallow or wood laden or rocky banks instead.

During the pre-spawn, catfish will often hold up in deep holes close to the spawning beds. Once the spawn is on, the males will move into the beds and stake their claim to certain spawning beds prepping them for the female to lay her eggs.


Once the female is finished here business she will leave the nest and the males will protect the nest until the eggs have hatched.

After the business of reproduction is over, catfish will slowly make their way back to deeper waters.

Typically the catfish will be a little sluggish and not as active immediately after the spawn, they will need a few days to recuperate from the rigors of the spawn before they will again begin to feed heavily.

Once they have recuperated from the spawn, catfish will begin to feed more aggressively. In early summer, the catfish are fairly aggressive about food. They will begin to occupy deep water flats, humps and other underwater structures.

Any place that attracts the forage fish will typically have catfish nearby. In the day time look to the deeper water lairs and as the sun sets look a bit shallower as they will follow the baitfish to the shallows.

Summer temperatures and sunshine will slow the catfish bite down in the shallows, but probing the deep water lairs with some suspended baits will still get successful results.

The catfish will still eat, but the offerings needs to be easy for them to get as they have fed up after the spawn, however catfish are opportunistic feeders and will not pass up an easy meal.

Slow presentations are the best bet this time of year.

Fall is another season of change that triggers their biological clock. The bait fish will make a move to deeper water at this time to over winter and as the days get shorter and the water begins to cool off, the catfish start to feed actively anticipating the long winter ahead.

There are few reasons for this, one of which is the females will need to stock up on food for energy in order to produce their eggs over the winter for next year’s spawn.

As winter temperatures kick in, the catfish movements and activity slows down. The catfish typically find deep areas to reside in throughout the winter months, making them easier to target because they will be somewhat concentrated in the deep water holes where they can find some sort of thermal relief from the cold.

They prefer to suspend below schools of shad or other forage fish if possible. Just because its winter doesn’t mean the catfish won’t eat.

Catfish will eat in the winter; they just don’t invest as much energy into hunting for a meal. Some of the best trophy catfishing occurs during the winter months, because they are the most predictable to pattern at this time of year.


Seasonal changes play a big role in the way you should approach catfish at any given time.

Their seasonal movement patterns are affected strongly from Mother Nature’s moods.

Understanding how and why the catfish moves at certain times of the year will increase your chances of being successful.