Late summer, early fall fishing produces some of year's biggest catfish
Cecil Mallory of Derby, IN, displays a large flathead catfish he caught using a trot line in the Ohio River.
Catfish in both streams and lakes like to feed during late summer and fall for the coming winter, and in cold weather they slow down, but don’t hibernate like bears.
Catfish feed heavily until water turns cold and during this eating frenzy, some of the biggest cats of the year usually are caught.
Back in late August of 1999, the late Bruce Midkiff of Owensboro caught the record blue cat from the Cannelton pool in the Ohio River. The monster cat weighed 104.5 pounds, and after getting the official weight, Bruce released it back into the river.
Bruce caught several other big fish late that month that tipped the scales over 50 pounds. Other anglers did as well, and have since during the late summer period.
Just a few weeks ago, a fisherman caught a big blue that weighed 94 pounds below the Cannelton dam.
In a recent Cabela’s King Kat tournament at Vevay on the Ohio River, big cats were caught by the first-place team of Scott Cress of Covington and Carl Crone of Villa Hills, KY.
The pair weighed-in a two-day total of 142.95 pounds. Each team is permitted to keep seven fish per day, which later are returned to the water alive.
The team fished the Markland Pool in 25-50 feet of water where the fish were scattered on the bottom in the channel and on flats. The team used skipjack and mooneyes to catch their winning limits.
Besides blue cats, anglers this time of year are after flatheads and channel cats. The flatheads also grow to monster size.
The Kentucky record flathead was caught back in 1956 in the Green River and weighed 97 pounds.
Not all catfish are alike. Different types of catfish have different habits, including what they prefer to bulk up on as winter approaches. Blue cats and channel catfish select from a varied menu and will bite on night crawlers, chicken livers, cheese, stink baits, and minnows.
Channel cats at times can be aggressive. I’ve caught a number of channels on bass lures. What I anticipated was a dandy largemouth turned out to have whiskers.
Flathead catfish, who earn their name from the shape of their head, prefer a diet of live fish, and among their favorites are shad, skipjack herring and bluegill. In late summer they prefer deeper holes, but they will come up at times in search of food.
Of the big cats, most anglers agree that the flathead is the best eating.
Small channels are tasty, but a big one caught this time of year is best returned to the water. The same goes for blue cats. Not everyone agrees. It’s a matter of taste.
It seems there are almost as many ways to fish for catfish as there are cat fishermen. Some use rod and reel, others use trot lines, and still others may use limb lines. Another fun way is with bottles or jugs.
Whatever method you use, fall is a good time to fill the freezer with catfish so you will have plenty of fish during winter months.