Archive for the ‘Catfish’ Tag

SUMMER CATFISHING   Leave a comment

Buzzing mosquitoes are deafening in still morning air.  A river flows along slowly to some unknown destination.  A float suddenly disappears beneath the surface jolting a fisherman back to the present.

It is not just any fish that took that float under, it was a channel catfish.  The forked-tailed channel and his sluggish flathead cousin are the most frequently encountered member of the catfish family.  Maybe gamefish are just prettier but none can match the catfish pound for pound in the fighting ability.

Fishermen with long poles and smelly baits prowl the banks of rivers.  Mostly they concentrate on the large rivers systems.  However, there are some big fish found in the smaller waterways.

Large catfish move from larger rivers into the feeder waters to spawn.  Many find areas to their liking and remain as king of the waterway.  The competition for forage is not great and they tend to grow old and fat in these smaller waters.

Channel catfish will seek out areas where fast water turns into slow flowing water.  Cats like current breaks.  Shore anglers look for a point of land or a large tree that has fallen into the water and blocks the current.  Often the flowing water will wash out a hole and the big cats move into it.

Cats take up residence on the downstream side of the hole and move up to the edge on the upstream side to feed.  Then they return to the slack water to rest in peace.  The angler who casts to the upstream areas from these holes can allow their bait to float into the fish’s feeding area.

Early in the day, it is a good idea to fish any water were fast moving current meets slower current.  Catfish feed along slack water borders.

Downstream, rocks that break the speed of the water current are good locations for finding fish.  An eddy forms behind them and fish stack up waiting for food washing to them.  By casting upstream of these areas, anglers can allow their bait to float right to the waiting fish.  As with the holes, the fish feed on the upstream side and rest downstream.

Regardless of the water, it is a good idea to remember that catfish prefer cover.  They feed near the bottom and around rocks and stumps.  Often they will stay in the deep water near structure except when feeding.  During warm water periods they move up to feed in shallow flats late in the day and during the night.  In the morning they move under any existing vegetation such as weed cover or submerged logs.  Once the water warms to the point they are uncomfortable, they will return to the deeper water.

Tackle for catfishing is simple.  It usually involves along pole or rod.  It can vary from a simple cane pole to the more sophisticated graphite or fiberglass rod.  The rod must be sensitive enough to detect a bite, yet stout enough to horse in the big ones.  Most are 7 feet or more in length.  Ideally it will have a stiff center section and flexible tip.

The reel must cast well; have a smooth drag and preferably a clicker mode.

Nightcrawlers, crayfish and minnows make good baits.  For those who do not mind a mess, cheese baits and cut pieces of bait fish are effective.  Sucker, shad and chubs are good bait fish.

Rigs for catfish fishing are uncomplicated regardless of the bait used.  There are four basic styles.  The first is a swivel tied to the line and a 12-inch leader down to the bait.  The second rig is a variation of that with a snap attached to a short leader of 6-inhes or less.  These two rigs are popular with dip bait anglers as they permit the quick change of dip bait worms.

The third rig is a three-way swivel tied to the main line.  A 6-inch drop line holds a heavy lead sinker.  The third part of the swivel ties to a 12-inch leader holding the bait.

A fourth rig involves a slip float that is held in place by a bead and stop knot.  The movable stop allows for the adjustment of the float to control the depth of the bait.  The line continues to a swivel, weight to hold the bait near the bottom in slow water areas.

In all of these cases the swivel prevents a twisting catfish from tangling the line as it attempts to get off the hook.  Speaking of hooks, Kale and circle hooks seem the best bet as they aid the fish in hooking himself as he grabs the bait.

Summertime is catfish time when anglers enjoy a banquet of fishing opportunities.  Do not neglect those channel catfish.

 

REND LAKE (IL) A CATFISH FACTORY   Leave a comment

 

 

 

On a quiet summer evening one can hear the slurping sound of a catfish as he rises to the surface and rolls over in a swell as he devours a small insect or other aquatic life.  Anglers use a variety of baits and presentations entice this whiskered wonder.  The brushy areas of the coves and along Gun Creek and the Highway 57 bridges are popular hot spots.  That is not to mention the action found along the railway, Interstate 57 and Illinois Highway 37 shallows.

Boat activity stirs up the shallows and provides and attractant for the catfish to feed on the aquatic life released.  The catfish are everywhere.

Rend Lake is a 19,000-acre reservoir located on the border of Franklin and Jefferson counties.  It is about 300 miles south of Chicago (via Interstate 57) and 100 miles east of St. Louis (via Interstate 64).  A Marina on the south end caters to anglers and boaters from across southern Illinois.

In late summer the good places for catfish include the whole north end of the lake north of Route 154, in the stick ups and other shallow areas.  If there is a north or south wind and the lake is choppy the catfish move deep.  Then the fish like the environmental protection afforded by Gun Creek.

On windy days fish the creeks and coves.  On calm days one can move out into the main lake.

Catfish seem to relate to structure.  Look for stumps, weed beds, and brush.  A lot of Flathead Catfish fishermen tie jugs to the trees along the shoreline baited with live bait.  Bluegills are the preferred bait for the big flatheads. Under Illinois law the bluegills used as bait must come from the lake.

Some of the rod and reel anglers seeking flatheads suspend a minnow or bluegill about 3 feet below a flat in water with some current.  The rod and reel anglers do manage to take some flatheads.  It is that they just do not measure up to the really big ones that the jug fishermen seem to take.

One of the nice things about Rend Lake is the access afforded the pole and line angler.  From both the shore and a boat, it is possible to work the shoreline of the lake as well as the river channels for channel catfish. In the spring, when the water is high with winter run off, the sub impoundment areas are popular catfish locations.

During the summer months the fish are plentiful.  Only the weather can be a bit oppressive, as temperatures tend to be in the 90-plus degree range with high humidity. Anglers often prefer to fish during the low light hour of late evening or early morning.  Night fishing is also a possibility.

In late summer, the sub-impoundment areas are normally dry. But the area just below the sub-impoundment dam is a good catfish area.

The average size of channel catfish caught is 1 to 1 ½ pounds.  That is about average for the lake.  Some will get to 2 pounds.  All are excellent eating size fish.

Most of the line and pole anglers prefer a stiff 6 foot rod.  Most veteran catfish fishermen recommend line of the 10 to 20 pound test.  A 1/0 hook or something fairly good sized is best.  Most anglers tie a sinker about a foot above the hook, right on the main line.  That way it sits on the bottom and allows the bait to float just above it.  Some will tie the sinker on a drop line off the main line in the same location.

The bait of choice for the channel catfish in this area is generally stink bait.  Other baits include shad cut into pieces, shad guts, leeches, chicken livers, nightcrawlers and minnows.

Rend Lake is a summer catfisherman’s heaven.

NIGHT FISHIING IN SUMMER   Leave a comment

Night fishing becomes important in summer for two basic reasons weather and recreational pressure.  The heat and humidity of the day is often oppressive.  The cooler temperatures of evening bring out feeding fish as well as anglers looking for relief.  Recreational boating pressures make the daylight hours less productive for fishermen.

As the weather fronts pass through they set off thunderstorms.  Usually a late afternoon situation, these storms present dangerous situations from wind and lightning.  When out in a boat or on shore, it wise to keep one eye on the horizon while fishing.  But, the fishing can be really good just before and just after these storms pass through the area.

During summer, a fish’s metabolism is at a high point and he feeds frequently.  The weather may be hot but there is a distinct lack of fronts going through to upset his lifestyle.  The lush vegetation provides ambush pints for fish to lay in wait and allow hapless minnows to come to them.  Competition for the forage from other fish is low, as the weeds tend to scatter fish of all species.

Surface water temperatures are warm and tend to be uncomfortable for fish.  Small fish generally inhabit it as they try to escape the big guys who are trying to eat them.  The larger fish are deeper in their comfort zone.

Night fishing is not all that productive right after sunset.  One can use those hours to get into position for the night action.  By getting into position, one can be sure of finding just the right location for the evening’s activities.  Know where all your tackle is in the boat so you can find it in the dark.

Once on the water at night, it is advisable to make sure the night vision is working.  Do not look at bright lights, as it will spoil ones night vision for several minutes.

Night fishing is comfortable from an angler’s point of view.  It is a time to soothe and heal. But, it also is a time when senses become more alert and fine-tuned to the environment.

Just be careful not to sit on a crankbait.

 

FALL FISHING ACTION MOVES TO THE SHORE   Leave a comment

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An excellent adjunct to the fall hunting seasons is fall fishing. Anglers do not have to possess boats and all that goes with them to enjoy some great fishing.

The key factor is finding an area with abundant shoreline access. Scout the area for clues as to promising locations of fish.  Natural vegetation, manmade structures and natural structure are often keys to good fish habitat.

Most bodies of water have forage fish. They can be minnows, shad, shiners or any number of other fish and crustacean.  The big predator fish movement follows the aquatic forage.  In early fall, they tend to move into the shallows and coves to find warmer water.  The predators follow them.  The action seems to move near the bank.

Promising locations include such areas as may be windblown and those areas near the entrance to bays and coves. A good location is one made for an ambush.

Veteran boat less fishermen obtains maps of the areas they plan to fish. On the maps they mark the location of structure, vegetation and depths of water.  They also search out natural situations such as overhanging branches, fallen trees, submerged timber and flooded brush.

Man-made structures also provide fish habitat. This includes marinas, docks, deriving platforms, rip rap, spillways and dams.  One angler of reports he has an old refrigerator marked on his map.  He claims to have taken some big bass off that appliance.

Areas where streams and rivers enter or exit lakes and ponds attract predator fish. They use the adjacent structure for concealment and then move to the faster water to feed.  Eddies in rivers and streams serve a similar purpose.

Before embarking on a fishing trip along one of these shorelines, be sure to have the landowner’s permission. Assure him that you will respect his property, close gates and not break fences.

Also be sure to take all your trash out with you. It helps to carry a plastic garbage bag for this purpose.  Pick up any other litter you might finds along the way.  Leave the land better than you found it, and you will be welcomed back the next time.

As for your tackle, it is important to rig your equipment to match the targeted fish species. Bank anglers should use a rod stiff enough and line heavy enough to control your cast in the shoreline environment.

A variety of jigs, spoons, crankbaits, topwater lures and live bait rigs will cover most situations. A small tackle box is good so you maintain the ability to be mobile.  A selection of lures smaller than 1/4-ounce are a good choice.  Light color jigs are good as they are representative of a number of bait species.

Chest waders are a good choice for bank fishermen. Using waders allow allows the angler more flexibility as to where he can go along the shoreline.  Bank anglers are usually most successful if they can quietly and efficiently cast to key locations for feeding fish.  These areas may not always be available from land.

Patience is an important element in bank fishing. The angler must wait for the fish to come to him.   The good thing about fall fishing is the fish are hungry and ones does not have to wait too long to be in feeding fish.

 

FALL FISHING   Leave a comment

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As the colors of fall become apparent and temperatures cool, the challenges to anglers also change. Early daytime temperatures can vary considerably from morning to evening.  Cool mists appear as colder air moves across the water whose temperatures lag behind those over the land.

Some species of fish gorge on the forage base in preparation for a winter when they eat less often. Threadfin shad begin to ball up and many start to die, as they are unable to adapt to colder weather.  Other forage moves into shallow water found near shore, in buck brush and the backs of coves.

Anglers often find larger fish in the fall. They have feasted on forage species all summer.  In the southern Illinois lakes they have been active almost all year munching on shad and other forage.  Anglers often find that they are catching fewer fish but the ones they find are often larger than they found last spring.

As an example, with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, bass leave the shallows to suspend some 6 to 12-feet down in the water column. They move back to the shallows in search of food but are more comfortable away from there.  Crankbaits and spinners in the natural colors of crawfish and shad produce better results than the plastics the bass angler has been using all summer.  Baits with gold and copper hues work well in stained water.  In clear water blue, silver or white lures are better.

As fishing for warm water fish like bass and crappies slows late in the month look for action to pick up for walleye and muskies. The latter like colder temperature zones in the water column.  September seems to be a transition month for fish and the anglers who pursue them.

FALL CATFISH IN LAKE BALDWIN   Leave a comment

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Usually when one talks about Illinois catfish lakes, they are Channel Catfish waters. Baldwin Lake, in St. Clair and Randolph counties, does have a channel catfish population it is not the one producing large fish.  The competition for food is too great in this lake.  Catfish action here is with the Blues and Flatheads.

Blue catfish in this lake run from 8 to 60 pounds in weight. Sixty-three pound fish have been caught.  Flatheads tend to be from seven to 30 pounds with 63-pounds being the largest caught.  It is believed that 70-pound plus fish live in the lake.

The blue catfish feed on the extensive shad forage base and are most often taken by anglers using shad for bait. There both Gizzard Shad and Threadfin Shad are present.  Both populations do well in the warm water of this cooling lake.  Threadfin shad die in other lakes when the water temperatures reach 47-degrees and lower.  As a result, some IDNR fisheries managers from other parts of the state will capture threadfin at Baldwin and transfer them to lakes in their areas.

The Flatheads also like the shad but will feed just as well on bluegills. Because of the flathead consumption of bluegills the bluegill population is just OK.  No real large fish are caught.  However, another sunfish is doing very well.

Redear sunfish have flourished since being reintroduced into the lake. They are about 10-inches in length at this time which has surprised biologists. The Longear sunfish and Bluegills are not doing as well.

Largemouth bass in the 3 to 5-pound range are present but they are not caught by anglers in any great numbers. Hybrid bass, a cross between white bass and stripers, were once a great species in this lake but they have not been stocked in the lake for a number of years and do not reproduce.  Some hybrids are caught each year but not in large numbers.

Smallmouth bass were introduced to the lake and have adapted well. Today they are found all over the lake.  When water is being pumped into the lake on the south end from the Kaskaskia River smallmouth tend to be attracted.  If smallmouths are not present in that area you can check at the hot water discharge area.  It is where water is pumped out of the plant in the north end of the lake.

The smallmouths are up to 5 pounds in size and 22-inches in length. Most are in the three to five pound class.

Most people tend to fish the north end of the lake near the levy at the hot water discharge in the fall and winter. Most of the south half of the lake is closed then as a refuge for migrating waterfowl.

Parking for levy anglers can be found in the northwest portion of the lake area. The boat launch is just south of the parking area.

Baldwin Lake is found in the Baldwin Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area. The 2,018-acre perched cooling lake is owned by the Illinois Power Company but is leased to the IDNR to manage for recreational use.  Illinois Route 154 runs through the town of Baldwin.  In Baldwin, anglers can turn north on 5th Street and travel 4 miles to the intersection of 5th and Risdon School Road just past the power station.  Turn west and the park entrance is about a mile.

FALL FISHING LOCATIONS IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS   Leave a comment

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Lake Glendale in Pope County tops the list for nice peaceful fall fishing locations in southeast Illinois. Pope County is one of the prettiest counties in the state during the fall color changes.  The lake is located in the Shawnee National Forest and is part of the Lake Glendale Recreation Area.  It is located three miles north of the junction of Illinois Routes 145 and 146 and about 25 miles south of Harrisburg via route 145.

The heavily forested area near the lake provides excellent campsites for the fall hunter/fisherman. Because the lake waters come from a heavily forested watershed, it is clean and clear.  This makes it popular with swimmers, boaters and picnickers.  Swimming is limited to the beach area only.

The lake itself is 80-acres with clean clear water and an abundance of vegetation that is home to some nice bluegills and channel catfish. The largemouth bass are present but only about 12 to 14-inches in length and below the 16-inch legal size limit for keepers.  Regular stocking the lake has resulted in a steadily improving fishery.

There is a boat ramp at the northeast side of the lake and a 10 horsepower limit on motors. Anglers can access the lake from a variety of locations along the shore.  Boat rentals are available.

For those wanting to fish additional waters, Sugar Creek Lake is located just west of Lake Glendale near Dixon Springs. The crappies, catfish and bass are good in Sugar Creek Lake.  Shore fishing is good and boating is allowed with electric motors.

Outdoorsmen fishing and camping at these two lakes can easily take advantage of the ample hunting lands of the Shawnee National Forest.  Deer, squirrel, quail and turkey are found there.

For the hunter/anglers who wants a quiet place to camp and participate in hunting or fishing activities these two locations are ideal. They are perfect for a day or several days cast and blast vacation.  For more information contact the Lake Glendale Recreation area at 618-949-3807 or the U.S. Forest Service at 618-658-2111.

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