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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Late summer, early fall top time for catching big catfish; Ohio River excellent cat fishing territory

Cecil Mallory of Derby, IN, with a big flathead catfish taken on a trotline in the Ohio River.

Late summer and early fall is prime time for catfishing the Ohio River and other rivers and lakes in Kentucky and Indiana.
With the advent of reality (or lack thereof) television shows, catfishing has taken on a different meaning, but for the old-fashioned kind for blues, channels and flatheads, this is prime time.
It is the time when big catfish start feeding for winter. It’s when many of the biggest catfish are caught, especially in rivers. 
The Ohio River has yielded a large number of big catfish already this summer in King Kat tournaments as well as to recreational anglers.. The tournament fish are returned to the river, but point out the excellent opportunity for big fish.
Two Arkansas anglers teamed and won the July 26 tourney at Metropolis, Ill., across from Paducah. They weighed in seven fish that totaled slightly over 139 pounds. They also had the biggest cat with a 71.38-pound monster.
A Bowling Green, Ky, team of Bob Benningfield and Nathan Helm took fifth with more than 104 pounds and Judy Beavin of Owensboro and Ben Goebel of Mt. Vernon, IN, were ninth with 87.12 pounds.
Wayne and Jennifer King of Mount Vernon were eleventh with 85.98 pounds, and their big fish was 44.8 pounds.
Back in May, Beavin and Goebel won a tournament at Henderson with 119.44 pounds.
The state record blue cat (104.5 pounds) was taken  August 28, 1999, from the Ohio River near Cannelton. During the week Bruce Midkiff caught and released the monster, numerous cats over 50 pounds were landed in the same area of the Ohio River, downstream from Cannelton.
Kentucky's record flathead catfish was a 97-pounder caught in the Green River during June back in 1956.
Catfish can be caught any time of the year and any time of the day, but probably the most likely time to catch big cats would be in warm weather and at night. Catfish seem to prefer feeding late evening and early night. Some studies show there also is another significant feeding period in early morning, before daylight.
Most cats go into deep, cooler, darker water in summer time, especially during the daylight hours. But like everything else, there are exceptions. They often will come up to feed in early evening,
Not all catfish are alike. There are number of different species of cats and they have different habits, including what they prefer on their menu. Blue cats and channel catfish select from a varied menu, and will bite on night crawlers and other worms, cheese and stink baits, plus minnows. 
Channels 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.
Channel cats like cut bait, but they also like chicken livers, stink baits and night crawlers. I have known folks to even catch them on hot dogs.
Flathead catfish, which 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 staying deeper holes, but they will come up at times in search of food.
Among the big cats, most anglers would agree the flathead is the best eating.
Small channel cats also are tasty, but a big one caught this time of year is best returned to the water. The same goes for blue cats. Anyway, that’s one old writer’s opinion.
No mater which catfish you catch and decide to clean and eat, you should cut away the fat, especially the belly fat. Not only is it not tasty, this is the area of a big fish that can pickup and retain contaminants.
While hot weather may mean slow fishing for some species, it’s a good time for catfish.

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