John's Journal...

How to Catch Catfish in August

Fishing the Tailrace Waters of Dams for Cats

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note:  When you talk about catfishing, many anglers’ minds flash to visions of bubbling, swift-moving, tailrace waters. And in most areas of the country, the swift water below power plants and dams generally holds large concentrations of cats.

One such dam is Wheeler Dam on the Tennessee River in north Alabama. On a summer’s day, all day long, some years ago I watched a Click to enlargefisherman and his wife load the boat with catfish as they drifted through the swift water and bumped the bottom with heavy leads and shad gut for bait. At times I moved to within 8 or 10 feet of these folks to try and catch cats like they did. However, they consistently would catch four or five catfish to my one. At the end of the day, when my pride could stand it no longer, I went up and introduced myself to the catfishing team and asked what they were doing that I wasn’t. “Well, we’re fishing the groove, and you’re not,” the husband replied. I was totally bewildered. There were no grooves in the water. All I could see was the bubbling discharge from the 12-discharge holes of the hydroelectric plant. “What do you mean by the groove?” I asked. “Doesn’t the water come out of one of 12 holes, when it’s discharged out of each of the turbines?” he said. “Yes,” I agreed. The catfisherman answered, “Well, between each hole is a concrete divider. As the water comes out from the Click to enlargeturbines, those concrete dividers break the flow of the current and leave a ‘groove’ or water that’s not moving as fast as the water on either side of the groove. When you drift back and bump the bottom, the water in the groove is moving just a little slower than the water on either side of it, although all the water appears to be moving at the same rate. Also the two currents come together in the groove and bring food from both sides of the turbines. Even Click to enlargethough the water’s swift, the water between the two turbines is less swift than on either side of the turbine.

“As we drift back, we use two, three-way swivels. A lead heavy enough to get the line to the bottom is attached to the bottom of the first, three-way swivel. On the next eye of the swivel, we tie a 12-inch piece of leader and a No. 1 Eagle Claw catfish hook. To the next eye of the three-way swivel, we attach 12 inches of leader and fasten a second, three-way swivel to which another hook and line is attached and the line going to our rod. Then we pull up to the turbines, slow our motor down and let the boat drift back, while we bump the bottom with our catfish rigs. We’ve found that since shad gut is the natural food of the cats, they’ll hit this bait more readily than they will any other type of bait. By drifting with the current and bumping our bait along the bottom, we feel we present the bait more naturally to the catfish than any other way.” And after fishing a day like this husband-and-wife team, I soon learned the potency of their groove-fishing technique for catching catfish.

Tomorrow:   Trotlining for Catfish

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Catch Catfish in August"

Day 1: Locate Roaming Catfish
Day 2: How Carl Lowrance Caught Fish Along the Thermocline
Day 3: Fishing for Cats on the Windy Side of a Lake and in Small Waters
Day 4: Fishing the Tailrace Waters of Dams for Cats
Day 5: Trotlining for Catfish


Entry 522, Day 4