Coldwater Catfish Tips From The B’n’M Pros
While many anglers are “waiting” on the weather before heading out to their local waters to chase some catfish, the catfish pros at B’n’M said a lot of anglers miss out on some hot catfishing action by staying inside during cold weather.
It’s a misconception that catfish of any species simply “go away” during the winter and anglers who apply a couple of these tips could end up with a trophy sized bruiser at the end of the line or a cooler full of tasty eaters ready for the skillet.
Below are some tried-and-true tips for the catfish angler who’s ready to get on the water.
B’n’M Catfish pro Jason Aycock of East Prairie, Missouri said it’s rare that he will anchor up to fish for catfish, but his most likely time of year for anchoring to fish is wintertime. The tournament angler said patience is the key as trophy catfish will continue to bite, even through colder water temperatures, but anglers need to be patient and give them more time in the winter.
“When I fish at anchor in the summer, I put the anchor on a clock,” said Aycock. “The fish get 20 minutes to show themselves or I’m on to the next spot. In the wintertime, however, I may give a spot 45 minutes or more. Their metabolism is slower and it often takes more time for them to make up their mind to bite and to find your bait.”
Don’t Overlook Flatheads
Pro staffer Joey Pounders of Steens, Mississippi advises catfish hunters not to bypass flathead catfish during the winter. He said it’s a fallacy that flatheads don’t bite in cold water. He has caught flatheads in single digit weather. For him, the key is knowing where to look.
|Flathead catfish don’t go into hibernation in the cold months but can often be found lurking in standing timber in the mid depths.|
“My best pattern for flathead fishing in the winter is going to be standing timber in the 25 – 30 foot depths,” he said. “Most of that depth and structure will be in old river runs off the main channels, of the rivers and waterways I fish on the Tenn-Tom Waterway. The main runs get dredged, but aren’t as deep, 15 feet is about the maximum for the main channels.”
He said flathead catfish will bunch up during the winter but they will still feed. He has caught 5 - 6 large flatheads, even as many as 10, out of an area that is no bigger than 30’ x 30’. The secret is to keep trying spots until you find the fish.
Pro-staffer and Lake Wilson guide Brian Barton from Muscle Shoals, Alabama said he looks for catfish to focus their feeding efforts higher in the water column on bright, sunny days during the winter. He said this was a trick he learned from many years as a commercial catfisherman when the first 3 – 5 baits on a trotline would hold fish while the hooks that sagged into deeper water were bare.
Sunny days will bring catfish up in the water column following sunfish, one of their primary prey.
“This is especially true in clear water,” he said. “I believe the sunfish move up, especially around rock bluffs or dam facings or steep rip-rap banks, anything that will absorb sunlight and heat the water. Of course, when the bait comes up, so do the catfish.”
Barton said he has seen this pattern work for blues, flatheads and channel catfish.
“Everyone says that only the sunfish react to sunlight, but I believe all fish do for one reason or another.”
Channel Your Efforts
B’n’M pro staffer Mark Blauvelt from New Lebanon, Ohio said the waters around his hometown are often frozen over with ice during the winter, but one catfish he consistently catches, even through the ice, are channel catfish. Blauvelt suggests moving away from major reservoirs and rivers and concentrating efforts on smaller bodies of water when targeting channel catfish.
“Channel catfish remain active throughout the winter,” he said. “The fish will move into wintertime patterns which means they’ll seek out the deepest holes but they will still feed heavily.”
|How about this channel cat caught by Mark Blauvelt through the ice as an answer to how active channels are in cold weather?|
Blauvelt said he loves B’n’M’s Silvercat Catfish pole for targeting channel catfish. The medium action rod with the sensitive tip helps detect bites while the serious backbone will land trophy channels exceeding 15 pounds with ease.
“My preferred bait during the winter is still fresh cut shad if you can find them,” said Blauvelt. “I will also use frozen shad that I’ve stored for the winter and I find the bigger baits do better for freezing than the smaller baits.”
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