John's Journal...


Below Dams

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 Click to enlargeweather becomes, the more catfish feed. Since most catfish prefer a dark habitat, they eat mostly at night during the hottest, sunniest weather.

When fishermen discuss catfishing, many anglers' minds flash to images of bubbling, swift-moving tailrace waters. In most parts of the country, the swift water of the rivers below power plants and dams generally concentrates large numbers of cats. One day, all day long, I watched a fisherman and his wife loaded their boat with catfish as they drifted through the swift water below a dam and bumped the bottom with heavy leads and shad gut for bait. However, they Click to enlargeconsistently took four or five catfish to the other anglers in the area catching only one. "We're fishing the grooves between the bubbling discharge from the 12-discharge holes of the turbines of the hydroelectric plant.” Once I tried their tactic, I too started catching catfish.

Anglers on the Red River in Manitoba, Canada, use a tactic for catfish that you can use successfully anywhere in the U.S. Cast upstream into the slack water just on the edge of the current. The big channel catfish that weighed an average of 20-pounds each held in that slack-water area waiting on bait to drift by. To obtain the best results with this tactic, you must continue to take up the slack in your line as the current washes the bait back to you. When the catfish strikes, reel in the slack quickly, but don't set the hook until you feel the catfish.

Two anglers anchored in the middle of a tailrace area caught catfish on almost every cast until they caught their limit. They weren’t fishing a groove because of their position in Click to enlargethe middle of the turbulent water, downriver from a discharge hole. Several anglers in the region used their depth finders to reconnoiter the area. I discovered a large boulder that came up from the bottom about 3 feet. Then they moved upstream about 15 yards and tied a three-way swivel to their main lines. I attached a drop lead to the bottom eye of the three-way swivel, tied 20 inches of 20-pound-test line on the third eye of the swivel along with a No. 1 hook and baited with cut shad. They bumped the lead along the bottom until it hit the big boulder. Then they moved the lead around the boulder where the catfish attacked. Anytime you can find a large, underwater boulder in swift water, especially in a tailrace area, you usually can pinpoint catfish stacked-up like cordwood behind the boulder.


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 3