John's Journal... Entry 254, Day 2
HOW TO FISH SUMMERTIME CATFISH
Large River Cats
Editor's Note: "Don't want no bream or crappie, Only one fish that makes me happy: Catfish, catfish." (Taken from the musical "Pumpboys & Dinettes") Plenty of anglers across the U.S. share the sentiments of this song from "Pumpboys and Dinettes." They love the fun of matching baits to the seasons of the year and the places where they fish to catch cats, and they enjoy the delicious white meat of catfish. Although many anglers believe that throwing a stink bait out on the bottom of any river in the summer will catch catfish, to consistently take more cats on every outing, you need to know where the fish most likely will occur, what they will eat in these spots, and what conditions will cause them to feed most actively. You can check with biologists, local anglers and area sporting-goods stores to learn what catfish prefer to eat in your part of the state at each time of the year. Several 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. My friend, Phil King of Corinth, Mississippi, an expert angler and guide for catfish who primarily fishes Pickwick Lake on the Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee border, says that during the summer you'll most likely catch big catfish an hour or two after daylight with the secondary peak time from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.
"What are those white things floating on the surface of the water?" I asked John Hill, my friend who fishes the Tennessee River regularly. Hill answered, "Those are Asiatic clams. Each summer these clams will have a die-off, which signals a catfish bonanza. The catfish will move in and feed on these mollusks as they begin to die. If you'll 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, you'll catch all the catfish you want."
You also can 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 an ambush point for the catfish and a current break where the fish can hold. Catfish also will concentrate on the inside bends of main rivers. Too, I enjoy finding river cats where small run-offs pour into the main river. Sometimes after a summer storm, little feeder creeks and streams will bring mud-stained water with an abundance of insects, worms, grubs and microorganisms into the river. The baitfish will concentrate on the edges of the mud line. In these kinds of places, the catfish have the option of feeding on the food brought in by the running water or the baitfish attracted to that stained water. Often within an hour after a run-off begins, catfish will stack-up in these types of areas.
To take river cats in the summer, 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, and then bait. You often can locate catfish in little puddles in a large river. 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 backwater regions. Because these areas seldom have fishing pressure, you may can pinpoint high concentrations of catfish in these out-of-the-way places. You'll consistently produce catfish where shallow flats break off into the main river channel, 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.
To learn more about Phil King and his fishing and guide service, you can call him at (662) 286-8644, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.h2ow.com/catfish/. For more information about catching catfish, order John E. Phillips' book, "The Masters' Secrets of Catfishing," at www.nighthawkpublications.com/fishing/masterscatfish.htm. To learn more about fishing below the dam at Pickwick, contact the Hardin County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at email@example.com, call 731-925-8181 or 800-552-3866, or visit www.tourhardincounty.org. Pickwick Landing State Park offers fishing, boating, hiking, camping, swimming and golf. Lodging includes the lakeside inn with over 100 rooms, cabins that sleep eight and a campground that contains 48 sites with grill and electric/water hookup at each site. A restaurant at the park offers delicious southern cuisine. Call 731-689-3135 or 800-250-8615 to learn more.
TOMORROW: BELOW DAMS AND IN MAIN LAKES