Indian Winter Catfishing with Bob Crosby
By Phillip Gentry
During the months of September and October, it is common to have weather that is referred to as Indian Summer. It is unseasonably warm at a time when winter is definitely on its way. It may not be called Indian Winter, but the same weather patterns often occur during the months of February and March as well. The air temperatures may climb into the 60’s and even low 70’s but if you are a catfisherman, like B’n’M pro-staffer Bob Crosby from Madison, Mississippi, you know that the weather below the surface of the Mississippi River is still very much winter.
“I love fishing on these days when it’s nice outside, but the water temperatures are still well below 50 degrees,” said Crosby. “That’s my favorite time to fish for catfish.”
With the cold-water temperatures, catfish, particularly trophy sized catfish will bunch up in the deepest holes that can find and really do not move around much.
Lower water levels in the river make for softer currents, a plus when targeting catfish with slower metabolisms.
For much of the year, Crosby, like a lot of other catfish anglers will bump for catfish to cover as much water as possible. In the cold weather, however, the idea is to cover as little water as possible, but it must be the right kind of water.
“We fish deep holes in the summer and spring and many times of the year, but it’s usually current that catfish are orienting to,” said Crosby. “Current means food, so catfish will be working the currents and they move around a lot more.”
The guide said the deep holes he is looking for in the winter have a much softer current than what he would target other times of the year. Catfish are more lethargic, their metabolisms have slowed down, but they will still feed if an opportunity they cannot pass up comes by.
“In warmer weather I will use my sonar and graph a deep hole looking for trees, current breaks, and primarily baitfish,” he said. “I will look for fish too, but I know that catfish will be moving in and out a lot in warm water.”
B’n’M’s 10-foot Silver Cat Magnum rods allow catfish anglers to fish vertically in the water column while keeping baits and lines spaced apart.
“In cold water, I don’t fish a deep hole unless I see that it has catfish in it,” he said. “Most likely the ones I mark are the ones I’m going to catch so I’m going to pay close attention to the fish and where they are holding in that hole.”
Crosby said he may fan cast rods when catfish are on the prowl during warm water periods, but in cold water, he is more inclined to position his boat right over the top of the fish and present his baits straight down to them.
While conditions often change water levels, Crosby said he favors lower water levels for cold water fishing. Lower water means less current, which makes for better winter fishing as catfish will not fight much current, preferring instead to move somewhere else.
When setting up on trophy catfish in the Mississippi River, boat positioning is critical. Not too many years ago, there would be a discussion about where to anchor and how much rope to use, but since he obtained a trolling motor with a positioning sensor that holds the boat in place automatically via the trolling motor, he has discarded most of his anchors.
“Anchoring in the Mississippi River is tough business and probably the most dangerous thing you can do,” he said. “I have a Minn Kota trolling motor that has a feature called “spot-lock” and it will hold the boat in position with a lot less hassle and backache than fooling with ropes and anchors.”
Using his trolling motor to position the boat in place allows Crosby to fish without having to hassle with anchors and ropes.
Another options for moving short distances around the hole is by using the jog feature on his trolling motor to fish with baits suspended directly beneath the boat.
“I love the B’n’M 10-foot Silver Cat Magnum rod for helping spread baits out when you are fishing suspended,” he said. “I will stagger baits deep, just a couple turns off the bottom, and shallow, maybe about halfway to the bottom.”
In this manner of suspended fishing, Crosby will double or even triple his weight size to keep the line vertical in the water column. He has installed heavy duty rod holders around the perimeter of his boat which gives him the option of spreading his lines out even more to keep them from tangling.
The bait of choice for Mississippi River catfish is fresh caught skipjack herring. The bait is often caught and preserved by several methods including vacuum sealing and freezing. Crosby points out that gizzard shad are also a good choice and one bait that is rapidly gaining in popularity is Asian carp, an invasive species that catfish have learned to add to their diets in recent years.
To hook up with Bob Crosby of Blue Cat Guide Service, give him a call at home: 601-856-5796 or cell: 601-953-5767 or visit his website at bluecatguideservice.com.
Looking to get outfitted for big catfish? Go to the B’n’M website at bnmpoles.com and check out our complete lineup of catfishing rods and tackle or request one of our catalogs.
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