Traditionalists who fish for catfish solely after they need to swat mosquitoes miss out on improbable fishing. A development in catfishing attitudes and techniques over time has turned the coldest months into the most popular time to catch a few of the greatest fish of the yr.

In fact, winter catfish have regional restrictions. South of a line from southern Pennsylvania, throughout southern-Ohio to central Missouri after which trailing down towards Arizona and New Mexico, anglers have found that blue and channel catfish, and to a lesser diploma flatheads, feed via the winter—usually aggressively—on baitfish schooled tightly in distinct and predictable places. Realizing the place large fish feed is step one to catching them any time of the yr, so the restricted motion of baitfish throughout midwinter usually permits anglers to remain on catfish for days or perhaps weeks at a time.

James and Potomac Rivers, Virginia-Maryland

“A lot of the trophy catfishing within the Mid-Atlantic area focuses on the blue cat fishery within the tidal parts of the James and Potomac rivers,” says Maryland resident and In-Fisherman contributor Jim Gronaw. “Late January and February is trophy time for the native guides. There are many blues over 50 kilos, and so they’re extra energetic in winter than are the smaller ones, so it is simpler to give attention to the largest fish. That point of yr the resident shad are 16 to 18 inches lengthy, and that is what large blues are feeding on, so utilizing large chunks of shad targets the biggest fish.”


All-Deal with World Report – Ken Paulie

If Ken Paulie’s gargantuan world-record flathead does not make your coronary heart skip a beat, you greatest test your pulse. At 123 kilos even, it tops the Nationwide Recent Water Fishing Corridor of Fame’s all-tackle and 14-pound line class standings, and images of the behemoth will make you suppose twice about dabbling your toes off the dock.

Taken from Elk Metropolis Reservoir, Kansas, on Could 14, 1998, the fish stretched the tape a whopping 61 inches and sported a pleasantly plump, 42¾-inch girth. Paulie was crappie fishing on the time, and hooked it on a jig-and-minnow. Like many world data, it was not with out controversy. It was verified whereas alive by Kansas Division of Wildlife and Parks fishery biologist Sean Lynott. However particulars of the catch — such because the comparatively gentle deal with Paulie was utilizing, and his assertion that it did not put up a lot of a battle — raised eyebrows within the cat group. Nonetheless, the file stands to this present day as a testomony to the immense proportions flatheads are able to attaining.

Georgia – Carl Sawyer

The Peachtree flathead file rests in a tie, and it is a whopper. Eighty-three kilos is the mark to beat, due to Carl Sawyer and Jim Dieveney. Sawyer struck first, pulling his 83-pounder from the Altamaha River close to Jesup on June 22, 2006. In doing so, he actually destroyed the previous file of 67 kilos, 8 ounces. Sawyer was fishing a ‘hand-sized ‘ bluegill on a 7/0 circle hook with 50-pound mainline and a 3-ounce sinker, in a 15- to 17-foot deep gap. He reported that the 54-inch big provided a 15- to 20-minute battle earlier than surrendering boatside.

Georgia – Jim Dieveney

Carl Sawyer retained solo declare to the file till Dieveney hooked a virtually an identical leviathan July 11, 2010, whereas fishing the Altamaha in Wayne County. Fishing alone however wielding a rod match for sharks, he managed to land his 52½-inch prize all by himself. Curiously, a mammoth 103-pound flathead was taken on trotline on the Ocmulgee River in August of 2009, leaving little doubt a tiebreaker resides someplace in Georgia’s cat-rich waterways.

Iowa – Joe Baze

‘Catfish ‘ Joe Baze of Chariton, Iowa, set the Hawkeye flathead file in June 1958 with this 81-pound behemoth, taken from Lucas County’s Lake Ellis. Baze was a consummate fisherman, with quite a few trophy catches to his credit score. Because the story goes, he liked devoting Saturdays to fishing a close-by lake, however nearly stayed dwelling the day of his large catch as a consequence of a foul east wind. When the wind switched late within the day, nevertheless, he and his son equipped, headed for Ellis — and made historical past.

Michigan – Dale Blakely

Michigan’s state file may not rank among the many prime 10 fattest flatheads of all time. But it surely’s the most recent record-holder we ran throughout — taken on January 12, 2014 — and has an fascinating story besides. For starters, the 52-pound fish was caught via the ice on Cass County’s Barron Lake. Dale Blakely was having fun with his second-ever hardwater journey, fishing a jig and waxworm for crappies. He hadn’t had a chunk all day when, at 3 p.m., the enormous cat inhaled his jig. The catch trumped the present file of 49.8 kilos, and was rapidly verified by the state DNR. Officers famous that flatheads don’t naturally happen within the lake, and speculated that the fish might have arrived with the illicit help of a ‘bucket biologist ‘ sooner or later in its life. No matter its origins, Blakely’s file stands. ‘Catching this fish was essentially the most exhilarating expertise, ‘ he mentioned.

Oklahoma – Richard Williams

Richard Williams was fishing for bass in El Reno Metropolis Reservoir on Could 11, 2010 when he hooked right into a monstrous fish far larger than something he’d anticipated to hit his Strike King crankbait. After a pitched battle, he reeled in a 51-inch-long, Sooner state file flathead weighing in at 78 kilos, 8 ounces. Williams’ large cat topped the previous file of 76 kilos, set on the Poteau River close to Wister. Although admittedly not a cat fancier, Williams informed the press on the time that he thought-about his file catch ‘fairly cool. ‘ Certainly. And so will we. Though reality be informed, we might fairly hook up with the 60-inch, 106-pound thug C. Clubb caught on a trotline in Wister Lake in 1977. That outstanding big holds the Oklahoma file for ‘unrestricted ‘ deal with.

Texas – James Laster

At 98 kilos, 8 ounces, James Laster’s Lone Star lunker was large enough to topple the earlier Texas benchmark, however not the all-tackle world file. It did, nevertheless, seize the Recent Water Fishing Corridor of Fame’s 16-pound line-class file. Laster pulled the mighty flathead from Lake Palestine on December 2, 1998 whereas bank-fishing for crappies. It measured 53 inches lengthy, with a 40-inch girth. The earlier Texas file, 98 kilos even, had stood for 22 years. The brand new file flathead — named Taylor after Laster’s grandson — was transported to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Middle in Athens for show, however was launched again into Palestine two years later after it stopped consuming.

Winters are typically delicate within the Mid-Atlantic area, and on sunny winter days when air temperatures rise to the 55°F to 60°F vary, blues within the Potomac and James rivers comply with faculties of shad in search of heat water on shallow flats. One of the best flats are related to distinct channel edges that enable blues to maneuver into deeper water as situations and appetites change. “It is a daytime chunk, and hotter temperatures transfer fish shallower,” Gronaw says. “There are nonetheless fish in 20 to 50 ft of water, however the ones in shallower water are extra energetic and aggressive.”

Contact: Information Joe Hecht, Fats Cat Information ­Service, 804/221-1951; Information Josh Fitchett, 804/836-5220,­.

North Texas Reservoirs

Anglers have choices when fishing for midwinter catfish in Texas reservoirs, says North Texas fishing information Chad Ferguson. Channel cat fans can benefit from rapid-fire motion beneath cormorant nests from dawn until mid-morning. “Search for a tree coated with what appears like white paint, then toss a hook with dipbait in opposition to the bottom of that tree. It is nearly a certain factor for 2- to 5-pound channel cats and an occasional blue cat as much as 10 kilos. Simply do not get too shut, as a result of the water is shallow and the cats spook.” He shifts efforts to shallow flats on sunny afternoons and catches channel cats feeding in these sun-warmed waters.

Ferguson factors to Eagle Mountain Lake as a prime possibility for blue cats. “If you do not know the lake or aren’t on the water daily to maintain monitor of the blues, drifting is the most suitable choice to catch the largest fish,” he says. “I often have a good suggestion of the place they’re, so I anchor to remain on prime of them.”

He says baitfish motion and site are the keys to catching large blues in midwinter. “When the climate is chilly, within the 40s, shad transfer deeper so I goal middepths adjoining to deeper areas. If it is a bluebird day, with sunshine and temperatures within the 50°F to 55°F vary, shad transfer up onto shallower flats and the blues comply with. It is the best time of yr to catch a bunch of 20- to 30-pounders, and the very best time to cross paths with 50- or 60-pounders.”

Contact: Information Chad Ferguson, North Texas Catfish Information Service, 817/522-3804,

Santee, Cooper, & Edisto Rivers, South Carolina

Many guides on the Santee-Cooper advanced of lakes take into account midwinter the very best time for trophy blue catfish. John Archambault of Charleston, South Carolina, says the sheer dimension of the lakes has overshadowed the numerous blue catfish alternatives that exist in tidal rivers in that area.

“Flatheads are my ardour,” Archambault says, “however they’re notoriously inactive throughout chilly climate so I am going after blues within the rivers via the winter. Blues get energetic and are simpler to focus on when the shad runs start within the rivers after the primary of the yr. American shad and blueback herring runs start in early January, peak in late February and early March, and supply bait and focus for trophy blue catfish hunters all through that interval.

“Blues will probably be in holes and washouts within the riverbends,” he says. “They’re related to present breaks, ambushing shad as they work upstream. When the solar shines they get extra energetic and transfer onto shallow cabinets because the baitfish transfer shallower.” Information Marlin Ormseth says catches in Santee-Cooper lakes are declining, however the river nonetheless holds a number of large fish. He catches them slipdrifting and vertical fishing, relying on present speeds.

On Santee-Cooper, the diversion canal is nicely generally known as a sizzling spot for winter blue catfish. Guides usually give attention to flats, and keep on prime of the actions of faculties of shad and the monster blues that shadow them, to offer purchasers alternatives to land blues as much as about 70 kilos.

Contact: Captain Marlin Ormseth,; Santee Cooper Nation,

Ohio River, Cumberland and Barkley Lakes, Kentucky

“It by no means will get too chilly right here for me to go catfishing,” says Kentucky catfishing information Paul Willett. “If I can safely put a ship within the water and there is lower than a foot of snow within the forecast, I am going fishing. The climate does not have an effect on blue cats on the Ohio. Modifications in present are what turns them on or off.”

Willett fastidiously screens present move and different components within the large river to seek out small, scattered pods of shad related to ledges and dropoffs—and the massive blue catfish that lurk beneath the shad. Huge faculties of shad do not curiosity him as a result of they apparently do not curiosity blue catfish.

“I’ve seen that even when I mark large fish beneath or beside an enormous college of shad, the larger fish aren’t energetic and feeding,” he says. “But when I discover a small pod of shad off to the aspect, or an space with a number of smaller pods, and mark large fish round these pods, these catfish are actively feeding and simpler to catch.”

Willett screens the motion of shad within the river as a result of wherever shad go, blue catfish comply with. “Peak interval for blues is when shad make their transfer upriver, often from mid-November via mid-January,” he says. “When shad are piled up beneath dams, blues are there gorging on them. Later in winter the shad drift again downstream and the blues comply with them.

“Usually in mid-January, the Ohio rises, and I feel greater water ranges disperse the shad. When the river is excessive and harmful, I fish tributaries just like the Inexperienced River, or go to Cumberland or Barkley lakes. I fish these lakes like I fish a big space of the Ohio River, concentrating on present seams alongside ledges that run parallel to the present, or drop-offs into deep holes.”

He makes use of as much as 16 ounces of weight to anchor contemporary skipjack herring heads or entire gizzard shad. He makes use of 80-pound-test braided mainline, and says that the thinner diameter of braid in comparison with mono permits him to make use of much less weight in sturdy currents and retains him conscious of tentative bites by typically sluggish blues.

“If the move is correct in January and February—across the 22-foot level—fishing may be improbable,” he says. “I am upset if I do not catch 8 to fifteen blue cats in a day’s fishing, with nothing lower than 10 kilos and most of them over 20 or 30.”

Contact: Captain Paul Willett, Camo Fish Information Service, 270/748-6077,

Lake Nice, Bartlett Lake, Arizona

Flathead catfish information Ed “Flathead Ed” Wilcoxson actually lived in his boat 39 weekends final yr in pursuit of flathead catfish on Arizona’s Lake Nice and Bartlett Lake, and landed a 76.5-pounder that set a brand new state file. “There are larger ones on the market,” he says. “I hooked two final yr that I do know had been larger, however simply could not land them.”

Even in Arizona’s comparatively heat waters in winter, flatheads change into much less energetic, making exact bait placement vital. Wilcoxson fishes in 35 to 40 ft of water and focuses on deep construction. On heat, sunny days, desert flatheads transfer up onto shallower flats adjoining to their deeper lairs. A 2- or 3-degree enhance in temperature is sufficient to provoke motion. After they’re “sunbathing” on flats, they affiliate with rocks, sunken bushes, or different submerged cowl.

“They’re opportunists, nearly lazy,” he says. “They do not need to expend a lot power to feed, so that they’re usually in and round cowl that enables them to feed effectively. I have been in conditions the place merely transferring a pair boat lengths was the distinction between catching fish and never catching fish.”

He recommends that anglers preferring frequent motion and luxuriate in a meal of cats ought to goal channels in Arizona’s small reservoirs and concrete lakes. “Fish a wad of stinkbait, rooster liver, or nightcrawlers on the underside of a shallow bay or level and you’ll catch channel cats all day lengthy. They common 2 to three kilos, and there are many them,” he says.

Contact: Information Ed Wilcoxson, 623/256-7245,­.

Colorado River, Arizona/California border

The vast majority of Individuals affiliate the Colorado River with white-water rafting, the Grand Canyon, and Hoover Dam. For flathead catfish hunters, the Colorado River alongside the California-Arizona border means prime fishing for his or her favourite species in three distinctly completely different conditions.

“There’s the primary river between Blythe and Yuma, there are backwaters, and there are canals,” says Winnetka, California’s Kirk McKay. “The river’s not actual quick in that stretch, with perhaps an 8-foot common depth, however that varies with how a lot water they launch from the dams upstream. The typical gap is 10 to fifteen ft deep, relying on river degree. Flatheads within the Colorado River are within the prime ends of holes or in the very best construction in holes.”

The backwaters and canals have a tendency to remain hotter via the winter due to their shallower water, and heat quicker within the spring, making them good areas to hunt for flatheads from December via March. Canals are a novel alternative to catch flatheads in locations that do not seem like flathead habitat.

“There are two forms of canals related to irrigation,” McKay says. “Influx canals are straight, usually lined with concrete and produce contemporary water from the river to the fields. They appear barren however there are fish in there wherever there’s shade or construction.

“The opposite type of canal, outflow canals, carry runoff from the fields again to the river. They’re weedy, muddy, filled with tules, and filled with fish. They’re often lined with dense brush, so a number of locals go to a bridge or canal crossing and drift baits alongside the shaded banks or beneath the bridge or right into a tube. They catch wonderful flatheads from plain-looking spots. The large problem while you hook an enormous one is battling the comb to get all the way down to the water and land it. Vegetation within the desert grows thick wherever it has an opportunity to get water.”

McKay says channel catfish are plentiful within the decrease Colorado River and adjoining waters. “The channel cats aren’t big, the largest I’ve caught is a 15-pounder, however you would sink a ship with them should you wished to catch that many. You may sit on a dock within the river at an entry level and use rooster liver, dough balls, nightcrawlers, or some other catfish bait and catch them simply.”

Most anglers fish throughout the day throughout the winter for channel cats and flatheads alongside the Colorado River, he says. Sluggish in cool mornings, each species regain their appetites on sunny afternoons, and keep hungry until water temperatures drop after sundown, making midday to twilight from December via March the very best time to catch catfish within the desert.

Contact: B&B Bait and Deal with, Blythe, California, 760/921-2248.

Chattahoochee River, Alabama/Georgia

Preston Hobbs, flathead angler from Thomaston, Georgia, says Chattahoochee River flatheads are cell and feed actively all through winter. “Each fish I catch is hooked within the mouth,” he says, “so they don’t seem to be holed-up and hibernating like they do up north. In winter, I fish a string of deep holes separated by shoals. At some point the flatheads in one of many holes chunk and the subsequent day the fish in one other gap chunk. On cloudy days they’re within the deepest a part of the holes, however they could be on the head of the opening or nearer to the tailout, so you have to discover them.

“If I am not getting bites, I slip out an additional 15 ft of anchor rope, and that usually strikes me sufficient to place me on hungry fish. On sunny days when the temperatures get within the 50s or 60s, that little bit of additional heat strikes fish up into 10 or 15 ft of water, particularly in areas with large boulders. These large rocks soak up warmth, and the flatheads like that.”

Hobbs baits with 4- to 8-inch bluegills or 3- to 4-inch goldfish, however says he usually has a bluegill head within the water alongside his livebaits. “Some days they need nothing however livebait. Different days they like contemporary brim heads and ignore livebait. You have to experiment to see what they need,” he says.

He makes use of slipsinker rigs anchored with as much as a 6-ounce weight within the comparatively quick waters of the Chattahoochee, and says the river from the Ringer boat ramp in higher West Level Lake to Franklin, Georgia, is 24 miles of prime habitat for winter flatheads.

“I’d hand over fishing some other time of yr simply to fish the Chattahoochee in winter for flatheads,” he says. “On day I can catch over 400 kilos of fish. Thus far I have never landed something larger than 40 kilos, however I have never been utilizing heavy sufficient deal with to deal with the actually large ones that I’ve hooked however could not land. However I’ve upgraded my gear, and this winter I will see how large they will get.”

Contact: Paul Parsons Information Service, 706/302-4778,

*Dan Anderson, a frequent contributor to In-Fisherman publications, lives in Bouton, Iowa.

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