John's Journal...


Large Rivers

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Watermelon, iced tea, suntan lotion, sunglasses and fishing for catfish comes to mind when the sun climbs high in the sky, and the mercury heads for the 100-degree mark. Many anglers believe that to catch catfish in the summer you simply throw a stink bait out on the bottom of any river. But to consistently catch more cats on every outing, you need to know where the fish most likely will occur, what they're most likely to eat in these spots, and what conditions cause them to feed most actively. Catfish like to eat almost anything. To catch catfish, determine the natural baits in the river you're fishing, and fish them first. Check with local anglers and sporting-goods stores to learn what baits catfish bite in that region at that time of the year. Several other factors affect when and what catfish eat. The temperature of the water governs how actively catfish feed, because the enzyme action in a catfish's stomach doubles with each 8-degree increase in water temperature. The hotter the weather becomes, the more catfish feed. Since most catfish prefer a dark habitat, they eat mostly at night during the hottest, sunniest weather.

Click to enlarge John Hill, who fishes the Tennessee River near Town Creek, Alabama, uses Asiatic clams for catfish. Hill says, "Each summer these clams will have a die-off. When you begin to see the clams on the surface, you know you'll find a catfish hotspot. The catfish will move in and feed on these mollusks as they begin to die. All we have to do is pick up some of these clams off the surface, put them on a No. 1 hook, add a piece of shot lead 8 inches up the line and let the clams float back down to the bottom." Hill went on to explain that anytime you located a bed of freshwater clams or river mussels, you generally could catch catfish near it. These shelled creatures died off frequently, which meant catfish often would hold and feed in these areas.

If you don't have clams to bait with, spoiled shrimp or worms also will produce catfish on large rivers in the summer. Use your depth finder in a large river to locate big, underwater boulders and underwater drop-offs and ledges that only may drop from 3 to 5 feet. These current breaks out in the middle of a river often will hold numbers of catfish because they provide ambush points for the catfish and current breaks where the fish can hold. Catfish also will hold on the inside bends of main rivers.

Click to enlargeToo, you'll find river cats where small run-offs pour into the main river. Often after a summer storm, little feeder creeks and streams will bring mud-stained water into a river. These clouds of mud will appear like giant mushrooms out in the river and present a dining table to catfish. The mud brings insects, worms and grubs into the river as well as microorganisms that cause baitfish to concentrate on the edges of the mud line. In these kinds of spots, the catfish have the option of feeding on the food brought in by the running water or the baitfish that the stained water attracts. Often within an hour after a run-off begins, catfish will stack-up in these types of areas.

Also to take river cats, travel the middle of the river, and watch your depth finder. You'll notice most of the fish you see in the middle of the river will hold in about the same depth of water. Anchor upstream of the school. Use a slip bobber to set the depth at which you'll fish. Then you can bait with either live or dead bait and let the current carry your bait and your bobber to the catfish.

Click to enlarge Don't overlook little puddles as catfish hotspots. Often a small funnel of water trickling from the main river into a small pond, a drainage ditch or a side creek will hold catfish that use these small channels to get into these back-water regions. Because these areas seldom have fishing pressure, from time to time, you can locate high concentrations of catfish in these out-of-the-way places.

Shallow-river flats that break off into the main river channel also will produce catfish, especially after dark in the summertime. The catfish often will move up to the lip of the break or even into the shallow water to feed when the stars come out. By fishing with a float to keep your bait just off the bottom or by using an egg-shaped slip sinker with a barrel swivel, 20 inches of leader and a No. 6 hook on the bottom, you can catch the catfish as they move onto the flats.


Check back each day this week for more about SUMMERTIME RIVER CATS

Day 1: Small Streams and Little Rivers
Day 2: Large Rivers
Day 3: Below Dams
Day 4: Summertime River-Catfish Baits
Day 5: Other Summertime River-Catfish Baits



Entry 310, Day 2