Archive for the ‘Channel Catfish’ Tag

FALL ACTION AT REND LAKE   Leave a comment

Fall comes later to southern Illinois.  But it is still a great time of the year.  The trees change colors weeks after the northern part of the state.  Chilly nights often give way to a hot clear sky during the day.  Fall is a study of contrasts for the hunter and angler.

The fishing for crappie is terrific on Rend Lake during fall.  Although the weather determines how long into the winter it continues, anglers willing to brave cooler temperatures continue throughout the fall.

Rend Lake is a reservoir located on Interstate 57 about 5 hours south of Chicago.  To get to the state park boat ramps exit at Highway 154 east and proceeds to the entrance of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.  Proceed north on the road.

The fourth quarter of the year in southern Illinois is a great combination time in the Rend Lake area.  There is archery deer season beginning the first of October and yet fishing action is still great.  By the third week in November the duck season begins and still the fishing continues.

Fishing into December is not unusual. But, the main focus is waterfowl hunting and the firearms deer seasons.  In early November hunters enjoy rabbit and quail hunting as the Upland Game seasons open.

The quail hunting is for wild birds. Rabbit hunting is with beagles. If you have never experienced the beagle hunt is it worth doing just to see those little dogs in action.  There is commotion everywhere.  It is just a fun thing to do.

Fall is actually a great time of the year for the outdoorsman. He can pretty well do it all.

A fisherman need not necessary to get out on the water as early as might be the case in the late summer. In the fall one can usually have breakfast and be on the water by about 8 o’clock in the morning.

Deer hunting can be on both public and private land. The ample public land available in southern Illinois provides many deer hunting opportunities.  Private land hunts are for quality deer hunting and clients enjoy some pretty spectacular results.

 

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LURES FOR FALL CATFISH   Leave a comment

It is no secret that catfish will eat almost anything. Anglers are adding the artificial lures to their arsenal of more traditional catfish baits.  There are the plastics impregnated with attractants.  And then there are the chemical mixtures of both natural foods and various other ingredients.  Even crankbaits and other hard body lures are coming into use.

Both flathead and channel catfish will attack artificial lures.  Beginning in late summer as the water temperature gets into the 80’s and low 90’s channel catfish move to the shallow water up tight against dams.  The flatheads move to the deep holes.  In both of these areas, catfish will take an artificial lure.

Using bass fishing techniques to catch flatheads, a fisherman begins by trolling with a trolling motor on his Jon boat.  By trolling over holes modern electronics help him spot fish on the bottom.  Experience says flatheads about to go on a fall feeding spree.

Look for structure in the holes.  Submerged trees, rock structure or any other kind of “home habitat” that flatheads are known to frequent.

Bounce jigs right on their nose.  Use a 2 ounce jig with a salt craw attached.  In order for the fish to take it the jig has to be right on him.  Not being a bottom feeder by nature, the flatheads eyes are located to find food slightly above it.

Late summer also means low water conditions on most rivers.  Cats, be they flathead or channel, seek out deep water, fast running well oxygenated water, or both.  Beneath most dams are deep holes created by the water cascading from one level to another.

Anglers have long known that casting up under the dam they can catch fish.  But, few try it with a small jig.  A 1/8 ounce leadhead with a dark plastic grub body will do a good job enticing channel catfish.

With care, the shore angler can catch nice cats, holding in the highly oxygenated water found below dams.  One needs to exercise extreme care in this fast flowing water with all the washed out holes.

Over on the Ohio River flowage, some anglers use crankbaits to catch fall cats.  They get their boats right up in the shallow water at the dam and then cast floating Rapalas.  The river flow helps to provide action to the lure.  The #13 and #18 are most used.  Blue is the preferred color.

The use of artificial lures to catch catfish is relatively new. But we will probably hear more about them in the future.

 

FISHING WITH CANE POLES   Leave a comment

 

We often refer to the basics of fishing as a rod and reel and some terminal tackle. Yet there is nothing more “basic” than fishing with a cane pole.  To many it began a fishing career and a lifetime of fond memories.

Today’s fishing poles and rods come in a seemingly endless variety of lengths, materials and shapes. Yet, they all owe their beginnings to the cane pole.  Early anglers simply chopped down a bamboo or river cane stalk, tied a line to it containing a fishing hook baited with an insect or worm.

Back in the “stone age” when I was a youngster, my grandmother introduced me to the pleasures of fishing with a bamboo pole on a tailwater below the Mitchel Dam in northern Iowa. I was probably about 4 or 5 years of age.  We only caught one fish that day but it was a bass of about 6 or 7 pounds.  We did put it on the scale but I have forgotten just how much it weighed.

That summer I was allowed to fish with the bamboo pole at a creek on her farm and in the horse tank where she released some bullheads. It was a great summer.

Anglers can use a cane pole out of a boat, from shore, or from a dock. It works in rivers, streams, creeks, ponds and lakes.  Its limber nature allows one to notice the slightest jerk from a fish.

You can keep the short line tight with a couple of sinkers and when a fish nibbles, one just jerks straight up. Jerking quickly is best.  But, don’t try to rip their lips.

The angler with a cane pole has to contrive to catch fish within the limit of the poles’ reach. That reach is only the length of the pole and line, less the distance from the butt to the grip.  Without a float (bobber) this distance could be as much as 20 feet.  But, as the bait sinks, the distance gets less due to the bait swinging in a pendulum fashion back toward the angler.

Without a float, the angler can lower the pole until it is horizontal with the surface of the water. That will place the bait roughly 10-feet deep.

A cane pole requires an angler be stealthy when approaching fish due to the limit of their tackle. He must read shoreline water and know where to find fish.  The shoreline also tells them what kind of bottom to expect.  Different species of fish like different bottom structure.

Cane pole fishermen might look for short stretches of rocks and gravel. Or for largemouth he might pick the weedy shoreline in low places where black dirt and vegetation is visible and where areas off shore are over grown.  The vegetation might be lily pads, coontail, cattails and rushes.

Areas below bluffs would be perpendicular and go to a depth beyond reach. It is vital to find areas of modest depth reachable by this equipment.  It serves as home to forage fish upon which game fish can feed.

Use care to avoid spooking the fish in clear water situations.  Shallows containing lots of emergent vegetation or weed beds provide the angler some concealment and a better chance of getting closer to fish.

The kind of bait used or strength of line varies according to the angler’s preference and species he is seeking.

For some it is fun to return occasionally to cane pole fishing and meet the challenge it presents. Such anglers experience the peace and tranquility of a type of fishing many of us grew up experiencing.

 

SUMMER ON THE OHIO RIVER   Leave a comment

The Ohio River has a long and varied history. It can be the mother of commerce or it might turn against civilization with floods beyond imaginations.  But to the angler it can lead to tributaries plump with a number of game species.

Nestled beneath a large bluff on the Ohio River, is the Golconda Marina, gateway to Smithland Pool.  The marina is the entrance to the some 23,000-acres of recreational water that is the river and its tributaries.

Unusually wet weather swells the normally placid looking main channel with high water.  It is not so much the volume of water that crimps the fishing in this region; it is the junk that washes downstream during the high water.  It can make navigation dangerous as huge cottonwoods floating down from areas to the northeast can damage a boat and snag fishing gear.

Smithland Pool refers to the section of the Ohio above the Smithland Lock and Dam at Hamletsburg.  The pool is more than 72 miles in length.  The shoreline, numerous islands and deep clean water attract thousands of anglers each year.  They prowl the shoreline in search of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky spotted bass, crappie, bluegill, walleye, sauger, striped bass, white bass and catfish.

Located in the town of Golconda, the marina offers overnight moorage, covered slips, boat rental, gas, diesel, shower facilities, mechanic service, and food.

Down river, the Smithland Lock and Dam is an exciting fishery of striped bass and hybrid striped bass.  These battlers are very challenging in the current of the river.  Anglers target these fish with big surface poppers, plastic jerkbaits and jigging spoons.  The fishing is best as the river is on the rise as well as when the water levels run about 35 feet.  Good locations for those looking for these scrappers are the heads of islands early in the morning and late in the evening. When the locks are open the stripers seek out the fast flowing water that washes bait fish through the dam.

Largemouth bass inhabit the river.  Generally the better bass action is in the feeder creeks just off the main river channel.  The brushy areas and stump fields of Lusk Creek are the most popular area for bass anglers.  The mouth of the creek is just a short distance from the marina and convenient to enter.  One just exits the marina cove and enters the first creek to the south.

The best summer fishing times are from dawn to about 9:00 a.m. and two hours before dusk until the light is gone.

During summer months, bass require a little finesse in lure presentation.  Slow roll spinnerbaits in standing timber of the old channel.  Following any rain, the creek tends to muddy up.  Then it is time to get out the salt craws.  Black, electric blue and chartreuse are the best colors.  Again it is good to fish the wood, any wood, which is just off the main channel.

Best known as a catfish factory, the Ohio has huge numbers of channels and blues.  Anglers present natural baits such as cut shad on the bottom near current breaks.  The best time to go catfishing seems to be when the water is rising or is at a high water mark.  The action seems to be best in about 10 to 18 feet of water and near the wing dams on the river.

For the bluegill anglers, the streams agree the best bet.  Good quality fish will take baits such as worms, pieces of shrimp, or crawfish.  Work the baits around the submerged tree tops and brush.

Crappie anglers jig with long poles back into the wood.  They “dip minnows” near the wood seeking big fish resting in the shade.  The key is to jig near visible cover.  The creeks have plenty to choose from.

Although the best known fishing locations are downstream from the marina, there are numerous feeder creeks to the upstream side.  In all the 51 miles stretch between Smithland Lock and Dam and the Saline River, there are 10 major and 12 minor streams entering the river from the Illinois side.  An additional 8 major streams and 5 minor ones enter the river from the Kentucky side.

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.

 

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