Best Times Blues
Wiseman also targets blue cats on the Ohio River. "They're more of a day bite, and winter is the easiest time to catch and find them during the daytime," he explains. "My friends think I'm nuts to launch a boat when the air temperature is 2°F and I have to break ice to get out to the main channel; but at that time of year, if you find a current break associated with a deep hole and mark fish on your sonar, you're on blues and there's a good chance you'll catch a 40- or 50-pound fish.
"Summer or winter, I fish during the day and look for scour holes below bridge pilings and those associated with submerged wing dams. The deep holes along outside bends are good spots if you can find a current break. Fifteen to 40 feet of water is the most productive depth range where I fish. Big, fresh cutbaits — skipjack, gizzard shad and mooneye — are my favorites. I use a 5- to 10-inch chunk on a 8/0 or 10/0 Gamakatsu circle hook, rigged Carolina-style.
Phil King, catfish guide and tournament angler from Corinth, Mississippi, (h2othouse.com/catfish) along with team members Tim Hanie and Lealon Harris, caught the first 100-plus-pound blue weighed in at a catfishing tournament. "I prefer to fish during the day because it lets me target specific areas — deep ledges on inside or outside bends of rivers, and humps and old creek channels in lakes," King says. "Daytime fish seem to seek the security of deeper, darker areas of lakes or rivers. Once we identify those locations, we mark them on a GPS and then go back and catch fish off them time after time." King notes that he's seen research indicating that blue cats often roam extensively when feeding, in some cases up to 14 miles, making it difficult to locate them. By targeting their daytime areas, he puts his baits into higher concentrations of fish.
Channel Cat Clock
Tom Davis, Latimer, Iowa, fishes catfish tournaments in lakes and reservoirs across the Upper Midwest: "I'd just as soon fish at night because there's less recreational boat traffic. For a tournament, I usually prefish during the day to find the depths and structure I'm looking for and mark them on GPS. I fish them long enough to prove to myself there are fish there. Then I come back the night of the tournament and fish those spots, sometimes a little shallower. The good thing about lakes is that channel cats tend to stay in an area for days at a time, with the only movement being deeper during the day and shallower at night.
"I look for spots with shallow tapering shoreline near deep water. In the lakes around here, 10 or 12 feet is deep. Shallow is 2 to 4 feet. It's good to have the wind blowing into that shoreline. I cast right up against the shore if I'm fishing after dark. The cats can be so shallow that their backs are nearly out of the water. Most of the tournaments go all night, so we stay out and generally catch fish all night. There are a few lakes where the channel cats just plain shut off at midnight and absolutely refuse to bite till about an hour before dawn. That happens in West Lake Osceola in southern Iowa, and I can't figure why."
If there are no nearshore areas that meet these requirements, Davis looks to riprap or major points. "Riprapped shorelines are good all summer at night. The cats are in there looking for crawdads, so that's what I use for bait. Riprap is especially good during the spawn, when channel cats are looking for cavities for spawning. Otherwise, a major point can be a good spot if the wind is blowing across it. I'll fish right on top of it, or just to the downwind side."
Jack Love: "Channel cats bite night or day. In fact, I've caught some of my biggest channel cats — 10- to 15-pounders — during the day. I catch them on livebait, because liver and commercial baits tend to produce the 1- to 5-pound channels. I use live goldfish, small carp, small sunfish, and chubs during the day and pick up nice cats around drop-offs or along the edges of logjams. The fish are usually associated with a current break, some sort of structure, and it doesn't really seem to matter whether it's daylight or dark."
Fishing in small rivers and streams is a good option if you like daytime catting. From Prespawn through summer, resident channel cats, or those that use these smaller systems as seasonal habitat, are often eager biters holding in predictable locations in good numbers. Look to logjams, undercut banks, and neckdowns as catfish magnets. Cutbait on a lightweight rig is a universal option to bring home a nice brace of eaters at the end of the day.
Tradition says catfishing can be best after dark, and research supports that cats are often more active after sunset. But anglers who know where and how to fish for flatheads, blues, and channels during the day can enjoy success rates equal to, and possibly better than, their nocturnal brethren because catfish rarely turn down a well-placed bait. The ultimate conclusion is that there is no poor time to fish. For knowledgeable anglers, it's all good. –
*Dan Anderson, Bouton, Iowa, is a frequent contributor to In-Fisherman publications.