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Tactics for hot water cats

By DICK MARTIN • Jul 28, 2018 at 8:00 AM

The dog days of July and August and the first weeks of September are traditionally slow fishing times. And this year, with so many days over 90 degrees and water temperatures higher than usual, lockjaw among fish species is almost epidemic. But not among catfish. Channel cats and shovelheads LOVE hot water, and now is a peak time to catch the makings of crispy fried cat fillets.

These days excellent catches are being made at big lakes like Charles Mill, Pleasant Hill, Delaware, and such traditional hotspots as Indian and Buckeye lakes. They're searching hard for food in smaller lakes too, like Knox and Spencer, and in rivers from the Muskingum to Huron. In fact, almost anywhere you go is catfish territory this month, and many a local angler will find a likely lake or river, throw in a bait or two and catch some. Hopefully.

But if you're looking for a stringer full of fat catfish, there are ways to do it, and one fine way is to fish funnels. Channel cats (and shovelheads, too) traditionally start migrating to their feeding grounds in late evening. They favor fairly shallow water with a mix of mud, gravel, and/or rock bottom where they can seek minnows, aquatic insects, crayfish, and other tasty morsels. Then at or before daylight, depending on feeding success, they'll head back to their deeper water layup spots for the day.

One classic example of a funnel is at Charles Mill Lake where cats swim under the Ohio 430 bridge, coming from all directions, then head north to spread out and feed. That bridge sees a lot of catfish moving through a narrow area or funnel and produces excellent fishing. Back before Lake Erie channel cats got a bad report card for their PCB's, I loved to fish a boat channel that went from the main lake into East Harbor. Cats moved along that narrow channel nightly and I could easily catch a dozen or so fine keepers.

You can find other funnels in many Ohio lakes, just looking at a map for narrow, restricted areas into wide feeding grounds. Then setting up for business before twilight. Rivers are a little tougher, but not much, and top places to fish the larger ones is just below their river dams. Bait fish from shad to minnows tumble through the gates, stunned and easy pickings for waiting catfish, and if there are no dams in smaller rivers, try the bottoms of riffles just above deep pools.

How to catch them is easy, too. Many an area angler will simply head for a likely spot, rig up two No. 4 snelled hooks above a one ounce sinker, bait with night crawlers and toss it out. They catch fish, too. But cats feed at night mostly by smell, and scent washes off a crawler fairly fast. It's better to use shrimp which holds its odor much longer, or even better, take along a small hand seine, catch some shad, and cut them in pieces for cut bait. There are lots of prepared baits too, available in sporting goods stores, with a rich, fishy odor, and these usually work fine.

Few catfish hunters indeed fish with bait below a float, but sometimes a bobber works better than a bottom rig. Especially, where the bottom is soft mud or has lots of vegetation. A float will not only keep your offering above such concealing bottoms, but move it around to cover more territory. Here's a final thought that will up your catch. Tie a long line to a can of fish base catfood or jack mackerel, punch in lots of holes, and toss it out. Then fish just down current. I've done this a number of times and seldom failed to haul home a heavy stringer.

 

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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