Best fishing, indeed. Looking over past articles that I’ve written about catching catfish in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs across the country, I know I’ve probably made that same claim about every Calendar Period. Can’t help myself. Every time I hit the water, I believe — I know — that I’m going to catch catfish. I’m excited about the process of finding and catching catfish, and I want you to share in that excitement.
This, though, really is the best period of the year. The Prespawn Period begins soon after river levels stabilize from the high water caused by melting snow and spring rains. Unlike pike and walleyes, which move toward spawning areas before the ice fully melts, channel cats are in no hurry to reproduce. They’re much more concerned with finding food.
The Prespawn Period lasts for several weeks or even a couple months in many parts of the country; so this is an extended period when the overall mood of the fish is aggressive. This period provides the most consistent action of the year — both for size and numbers of fish. Still, you have to put the right bait in the right place at the right time. But when you get it right, it can be really right right now.
SCOUTING TOP LOCATIONS
Tracking studies in the North reveal that the best wintering holes are the deepest holes available in a long stretch of river. In some cases, channel cats swim down smaller streams to the confluence with a larger river. They hold in the core of deep, slack holes until the water level begins to rise and temperatures warm in late winter or early spring.
This begins a tumultuous period of rising water and catfish movement — usually upstream — toward productive feeding grounds. Wintering holes offer protection from current, but inadequate food for large numbers of fish. So the cats move toward areas that concentrate food. Fish on small rivers might move only a short distance before settling into mid-depth holes with downed trees or other cover. Cats in larger rivers might move many miles before a dam or other impassable barrier blocks further migration.
Identifying top catfish locations during the Prespawn Period depends largely on the size, depth, and current speed of the river you’re fishing. The nature of a river often changes from one stretch to another, making this process more complex. We’ve always advised learning to find cats on a small to midsize river, before tackling larger rivers. But that’s not an absolute rule.
Still, smaller rivers are easier to read, by virtue of their compact proportions and their visible cover and structural elements. A big-river hole might be a half-mile long and 200 yards wide, while a half-mile stretch of a smaller stream contains several holes. Holes, snags, and other catfish attractors also are more obvious in smaller rivers.
Continued – click on page link below.