Archive for the ‘Tailwaters’ 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

dscn1026

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.

 

CATFISH ACTION IN AUGUST   2 comments

058063-R1-53-53

Summer sunshine in August is often a sure sign that the fish will not bite during the day. Most anglers switch to night fishing or at least early morning and late evening. That is not the whole story.

If you adapt your program you might catch some nice fish.

In southern Missouri and Illinois, fishing 90-degree water calls for a change of tactic. These southern lakes and ponds contain smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill and some assorted sunfish.

I recently was introduced to a new pattern for these suspended cats.

Lakes and rivers experience a thermocline effect in the water during the hot summer months. The water below that level lacks adequate oxygen for most species of fish. As a result most fish suspend above the thermocline which is usually at a depth of about 20-feet.

The thermocline is a band of water in which the temperature is 5- to 10-degrees cooler than the water above. Below this band the water is even cooler. The fish will be in the water above the thermocline all summer but tend to hang close to it.

Catfish are usually at about 20-foot depth and with other species above them. They relate to any structure at those depths. For instance humps and sunken islands attract catfish. These fish are active in hot weather contrary to popular belief.

The shad in a lake will be in the top section of the water column driven there by white bass. Seagulls fly over the shad breaking the surface. It is the presence of the birds that alerts fishermen to the presence of potential action. Below the white bass is where the catfish lurk.

All the traditional catfish baits and lures will work in August just as they do the year around. Channel catfish will take almost anything but the blues and flatheads prefer live bait such as a sunfish or shad. It is important to place the bait/lure at the right depth. The slip bobber rig is a good choice to keep the bait off the bottom. In the case of crankbaits one can count down to a desired depth before retrieving the lure. A deep diving crankbait trolled at 2-miles per hour should run at about 18-feet down.

Crankbaits in shad imitation shapes and colors work in clear water. In rivers work the slack water behind structure as well as hollowed out holes in the bottom. There is more current above them and less down deep in the hole. In river situations you probably will have to travel more to find schools of fish.

As for color in the use of crankbaits adjust according to water clarity. Murky water calls for orange, chartreuse or yellow fire tiger baits. In clear water you can use blue or the more natural colors including brown and black.

 

FOR ANGLERS CATFISH ARE THE BEST CHOICE IN SUMMER   Leave a comment

058063-R1-99-99

Throughout the Mississippi River drainage, catfish seclude themselves in root wads, submerged brush, deep holes and bayous. Ever since man arrived on the scene, the cat has been a primary source of food and sport.

Catfish are probably the most popular single species of fish for eating and catching.  Almost every angler has a theory on what bait to use as well as where to find the big ones.  Most towns have favorite locations for a fish fry, be it a restaurant, church social, civic function or someone’s backyard.  The catfish is king.

But, what about the angler who wants to catch his own catfish? Williamson county and southern Illinois are the places for him.  The large lakes of The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and Lake of Egypt have excellent populations of catfish.  It is not that people do not fish for catfish.  It is just that there are just so many fish in these fertile waters.

Of the catfish species mostly anglers pursue mostly channels and flatheads. All area lakes are home to both of these species with Channel catfish readily added to many area ponds.

The channel catfish is probably the most popular with anglers. Channels seek faster flowing and cleaner water with sand, gravel or rock bottoms.

Catfish anglers are usually the most laid back of fishermen.  They tend to prefer a leisurely time.  Their rigs are simple with a weight and hook on a line that cast into the probable location of some fish.  The rod is propped on a forked stick sunk into the bank.  There are other variations used from boats and shore.   But the basic is the same.  Bait used for catfish can be alive or dead and can range from minnows to leeches, crayfish, catalpa worms, leaf worms, red worms, frogs and cut bait.

More sophisticated catfish anglers have other patterns to fish. One of these, popular on small rivers and streams during the summer, an angler wades and fish live bait.  This involves fishing live bait below a slip bobber and allowing it to drift downstream over the larger holes, washouts, undercut banks and beneath brush piles or other dark hideouts.

The idea is to present a natural presentation of the bait by allowing the current to drift the bait in a natural way. The bait is set so that it floats just a few inches off the bottom much the same as any other food source.  Popular baits for this kind of fishing are grasshoppers, night crawlers and crayfish.

During periods of overcast or drizzle, catfish cruise flats in search of food much as they would at night. At this time one can employ a three-way rig. You attach the line going to the rod to one of the swivels.  The second goes to a drop line of about 8-inches that has a heavy sinker on it.  The third swivel attaches to a line of about 3-foot length with a hook at the end.  The float keeps the live bait, either minnow or leech, in a natural presentation.

Going back to the more leisurely approach to catfishing, one need only take a look at jug fishing and trot lining. Jug fishing is best in water with slow or no current with little or no snags under the surface.  Bait suspends below a plastic milk jug and allowed to float free.  A large number of jugs are usually used.  The angler sits back to wait for a jug to take off in a direction that is different from the rest.

Trot lines on the other hand are a line with a series of baited hooks tied in at intervals along its length. The snells are at varying lengths and baited with cut bait.  Varying lengths of snells cover the water at all levels from the bottom to the surface with baited hooks.  Anglers usually tie the line along the shoreline for easy access.  Sometimes they will go from shore to midstream.  Usually left overnight, or for several hours, then the angler retrieves the line and removes the fish.

Catfish are a marvelous fish for both sport and eating. They can be as finicky as any game fish and yet do not require a lot of expensive tackle or boats to pursue.  Catfish are king anywhere they are found.

 

 

BANK FISHING POST-SPAWN CHANNEL CATFISH   Leave a comment

SD Channel 0006

This is a good time to do a little ground pounding for catfish at Rend Lake in southern Illinois. It was after the spawn was over but the action was no less.  Post spawn catfish are still healthy eaters and constantly on the search for an easy meal.  They are also one of the most popular sport fish available throughout the Midwest.

Each spring, the catfishermen prowl the shores of Rend Lake in search of the spawning catfish so prolific in this lake.  All seem to enjoy the same success because the fish are on the rocks.  But, catfish action does not end with the spawn.

Biologists tell us that catfish are most active from sunset to sunrise. Our fathers knew this and fished mostly at night.  Another gem of wisdom from biologists is that they are most often in shallow water near standing and downed timber.

Channel catfish hang out near snags about 73 percent of the time and preferably in shallows. By summer the catfish are mostly in the shallower southern arms of a lake.  During fall and winter they use the middle and southeastern arms of lakes.

The conclusion is that one should fish the shallower arms of an impoundment such as Rend Lake on the warmer days.   Cats move to the shore when water temperatures reach the middle to upper sixties.  They spawn in earnest when the water reaches 72 degrees.  The biologists recommend fishing in water 2 feet or less in depth and near timber in the shallower head-ends of coves.

Rend Lake is a large Corps of Engineers impoundment in south-central Illinois on Interstate 57 at Exit 77.  The lake spreads over part of Franklin and Jefferson counties about five hours south of Chicago.  The 18,000-plus acres of water with its 160 miles of shoreline provide some excellent catfish habitat.  This comes primarily in the form of rock and rips rap areas with flooded timber.  This structure and the flooded roadbeds attract catfish in the early summer as they mate lay eggs and guard the nest while the young mature.

Fishing for spawning cats is simple. Move slowly along the shoreline casting to likely looking spots.  In terms of tackle, all one needs are good sharp hooks, a float, small pieces of lead and a can of worms.

As the season move along, the fish may move a little further out, but not much, until they move out to the deeper water in late June or early July, after the young are on their own.

The mistake many anglers make is in using hooks that are too large. A number 4 hook that is stout and sharp will do very nicely.  Skewer a nightcrawler onto the hook and you are in business.

By using ball swivels about 12 to 18 inches above the hook the line prevents the line breaking as a hooked fish twists and rolls. As they roll and twist, the line can become frayed and break.  With the use of a ball swivel, the lower portion of the line can twist with the fish and not have any effect on the main line.

Channel catfish feed by smell and a small piece of worm is all you need to catch any size fish. 12-pound line that matches the color of the water is a good choice.  The float is placed 2 ½ to 3 feet above the bait, depending upon the water depth.  The small sinker placed about 6 inches above the bait will keep the float upright and the bait just above the bottom of the lake.  Use only enough weight to keep the float upright.

Catfishing is great fun and a good source of fish for the freezer.

For information about boat rentals, accommodations, bait, guide service and restaurant facilities contact Rend Lake Resort at 1-800-633-3341.

%d bloggers like this: