Archive for the ‘Wabash River’ Tag


Wabash River Catfish


Les Frankland, Region V Fisheries Biologist for IDNR is the expert on the Ohio and the Wabash River.  His recommendation is Smithland Pool for catfish.  Fishing is available in the other two pools and the open water at the lower end where the river joins the Mississippi at Fort Defiance.

Smithland is the largest pool running some 72 miles from Uniontown, KY down to the dam.  It contains some 27,000 acres of water plus small embayment that hold fish.  An embayment is a small tributary impounded when they built the dam.

Frankland reports that the main channel of the river is probably too big to do much drifting. Anglers will put in and seek out areas around the grain elevators as well as any structure habitat areas such as brush piles and fallen trees.  Two good locations are at Mound City and Old Shawneetown.  Atwood reports that any place where grain is loaded attracts fish to the spilled grain.

Anglers anchor out of the channel along the edge in the shallows. Those fishing below the dams will drift fish with cut shad.

The blue catfish anglers like cut bait using skipjack or shad as they fish at Smithland off the rock pile. Flathead and channel anglers tend to prefer live bait and find fish the entire river anyplace where there are trees or brush in the water.

The river level can vary from 9 feet to 90 feet in depth. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers controls the water level for navigational and flood control purposes.  Information about the water flow and depth is available on their website at

The main channel and island borders of the pool provide flatheads, channels and blue catfish action. Tailwaters below the dam also produce the same action.

Access to Smithland Pool is at Old Shawneetown, Cave in Rock, Tower Rock, Elizabethtown, Rosiclare, Golconda Marina, Golconda and Barren Creek on the Illinois side of the river. One can lock through the dam to fish the tailwaters.  Otherwise one has to use the boat ramps at Smithland, KY.

Frankland has spent a lifetime in and around the Wabash River. Growing up in the area, he fished it and later as a fisheries biologist for the IDNR, he has studied it.

The Wabash is one of the largest free flowing rivers east of the Mississippi River.  The Illinois portion is over 200 miles in length.  It starts about 15 miles below Terre Haute, IN near Darwin and ends at Wabash Island on the Ohio River.

You can find blues, channels and flathead catfish throughout the entire length. There is angling access virtually all along the river.  Some of the better known locations, according to Frankland, are around Darwin, along Vincennes, IN the stretch at Mt Carmel, the areas at New Harmony, IN and the area at the mouth of the Little Wabash near New Haven.  The stretch of river below Maunie and the mouth of the Wabash River above Old Shawneetown are good locations.

There are public boat ramps on the Illinois and Indiana sides of the river. Public ramps on the Illinois side are at Hutsonville, Westport, St. Francisville, Mt. Carmel, Grayville, Brown’s Pond near Maunie, and New Haven via the Little Wabash River.

There are no navigational channels or commercial fishing on the Wabash.  Water depth can be challenging to boaters.  Depths can range from 6 inches to 50 feet.  When the water is lower there are areas unpassable to boat traffic.


Wabash River Catfish

Wabash River catfishermen find a magnificent gladiator which will challenge the skills of the best angler.  The placid face of the river conceals a fishery unmatched in other area streams save the Ohio River.  When a bobber disappears beneath the surface only to reappear for a second or two there is one of two fish ready to do battle.

The Wabash flows some 200 miles between Indiana and Illinois along the southeast border of Illinois.  Old broken dams, rocks and riffle areas offer excellent fishing for catfish.  The water is accessible from ramps on either the Illinois or Indiana side. Annual surveys by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and creels checks have long shown a healthy population of blue, flathead and channel catfish.

Les Frankland, IDNR fisheries biologist, speaks of the river and the fishing with a spark that betrays his love of the river.  He reports, “The entire section of the river along the Illinois border contains water where anglers can drift in search of holes and other structure.”

By allowing baits such as chicken livers, worms, etc. to drift into the holes and other structure from upstream, the fish are enticed to bite.  In many areas, anglers can wade and cast into the submerged wood in the water.

Frankland recommends the old dam and its shallows at Mt. Carmel, in Wabash County as an example.  He has taken as many as 40 channel catfish per hour while doing shocking surveys.  Old dams like the one at Mr. Carmel once harnessed the power of the Wabash River.  Today, the Wabash is the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi.

The wide, flat bottomlands along the river are peaceful and fall away to the gently rolling hills in the distance.  Wisconsin glacial episode nearly 22,000 years ago is responsible for the formations.

Another good location is near Mauine, Illinois in White County.  Frankland points out that there “is a railroad bridge about 2 miles south of town with three islands.”  “Channel catfish can be found where the shallow water dips into a hole,” says the biologist.

At New Haven, in Gallatin County, there is a boat ramp on U.S. Route 141.  The water just above the boat ramp is good for channel catfish according to Les.  In performing his duties, Les has taken good numbers of fish from the holes in the river.  Downstream, there is an old dam and more good catfish habitat.

Surveys of the river held in recent years show good populations of flathead and channel catfish over 3 pounds through out the river.  Blue cats in the lower 50 miles of the river are in good numbers as well.  Anglers report taking trophy flathead and blue catfish over 50 pounds in weight.

The peace and tranquility of the Wabash River is deceptive to the catfish angler.  The quiet lulls one into thinking that nothing will disturb it.  Catfish may just change ones thinking about that scene.

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