Research of radio-tagged channel catfish confirmed some fish moved as a lot as 35 miles in the course of the fall. 

The important thing to catching channel catfish within the fall is to overlook the place you caught them final summer time. As soon as water temperatures fall beneath about 50°F, channel cats transfer towards areas the place they spend the winter. Anglers conscious of that annual migration and who alter the place and the way they fish can take pleasure in catfishing success properly into November, possibly even to Christmas Day.

The problem to catching late-season channel catfish is that there are not any absolute guidelines about how far and how briskly catfish transfer. Research of radio-tagged channel catfish in rivers at a number of areas throughout the Midwest proved some fish moved as a lot as 35 miles between Labor Day and Thanksgiving to seek out appropriate wintering areas; others moved barely in any respect. Some fish moved from their summer time grounds to their wintering areas in a matter of days; others took a month or extra to make the migration.

Channel cats in northern rivers demonstrated probably the most dramatic seasonal actions, generally abandoning their summer time haunts in a single day after a major chilly entrance chilled the waters of their shallow rivers. Motion of fish in southern lakes and rivers wasn’t as pronounced, however was nonetheless vital sufficient to require anglers to change their techniques to remain on fish as waters cooled.

Analysis and angler expertise show that the key to catching channel catfish from fall into early winter is knowing how cooling water temperatures set off catfish motion, and anticipating when and the place catfish transfer throughout that migration.


Northern Rivers

Research in Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and South Dakota have documented large-scale actions of channel cats as soon as water temperatures in rivers cooled. The magic quantity appears to be round 50°F, though some motion was credited to elevated stream in small, shallow rivers attributable to seasonal rains. Fish that had been “trapped” in holes took benefit of the chance and moved when fall rains elevated flows. Regardless of the set off, tagged fish in small rivers constantly moved to areas of both deeper water in that river, or downstream all the way in which to the confluence of the small river with a bigger river, the place they wintered within the deeper waters of the large river.

Boat motoring across water in the early morning light with mist on water
Channel catfish on giant rivers don’t must journey lengthy distances to seek out passable wintering habitat, however nonetheless reply to modifications of their surroundings as winter approaches.

On the center part of the Wapsipinicon River in Iowa, most channel catfish from dozens of miles of that comparatively shallow waterway moved both upstream or downstream beginning in mid-October to succeed in a single space the place sand mining created an space of water as much as 20 toes deep simply off the shallower foremost channel. Tony Barada, assistant fisheries administrator with Nebraska Sport and Parks Fee, cites analysis on the Platte River (famed for being, “a mile extensive and an inch deep”) that indicated lots of the channel cats from the center reaches of the river, the place “deep” holes are sometimes solely a couple of meter deep (a little bit over 3 toes), migrated every fall downstream into 2- to 3-meter-deep holes, or moved farther downstream into the Missouri River for the winter.

“Water temperature and stream appear to be the triggers for the autumn migration,” Barada says. “The Platte is so shallow that it cools off shortly as soon as the air temperature falls. One other issue is that within the fall, irrigation calls for are diminished, so there’s extra stream, permitting fish to maneuver extra simply. It’s arduous to inform in the event that they’re merely responding to the chance to maneuver after a summer time of being trapped in shallow holes, or if decreased water temperature triggers motion that coincides with the elevated stream. Both approach, they positively transfer to deeper areas for the winter in October and November.”

illustration of where to find catfish on small to medium rivers

Channel catfish on giant rivers don’t must journey lengthy distances to seek out passable wintering habitat, however nonetheless reply to modifications of their surroundings as winter approaches.

“In October and into November, they’re shifting towards particular wintering areas on the Mississippi River,” says event catfisherman Tyson Emery of Fulton, Illinois. “On the Mississippi, I’ve good luck fishing beneath dams. Not proper on the dams, as a result of there’s an excessive amount of present instantly beneath a dam, however a mile or two downstream from the dams. That’s the place there appears to be areas with sufficient depth but have the diminished present that they like for wintering holes. My rule of thumb for chilly water catfishing is that I don’t need present that requires greater than a 2-ounce weight to carry my bait in place.”

A research achieved by fishery biologist Don Fago on the Wisconsin River concerned radio-tagging 187 catfish to watch their late-season actions. Whereas 64 % of the tagged fish moved downstream to overwinter within the Mississippi River, 23 % overwintered beneath the Prairie du Sac Dam on the Wisconsin River. Fago famous that fish tagged within the decrease portion of the river tended emigrate to the Mississippi, whereas fish initially tagged close to the dam tended to overwinter close to the dam.

On huge northern rivers just like the Mississippi and Ohio, present and canopy have an effect on the situation of channel cat wintering areas. Emery makes use of his electronics to scan the Mississippi for channel edges and drop-offs with submerged construction. His purpose is to seek out an edge, ledge or drop-off with submerged timber or construction that permits channel cats to be close to however not within the present. Wing dams additionally draw his consideration. Whereas he fishes the upstream sides and ideas of wing dams in summer time, in late fall and early winter he focuses on the slower currents on the downstream of aspect of wing dams. He makes use of the identical deal with year-round—B’n’M Elite 7-foot 6-inch medium-heavy rods geared up with Okuma Chilly Water 203 reels spooled with 65-pound-test Energy Professional braided mainline and 50-pound-test mono leaders rigged Carolina-style.

illustration of where to find catfish on medium to large rivers

“I like braided line in the summertime as a result of I stroll my baits, even for channel cats, and the braid lets me really feel the underside higher than mono,” he says. “Plus, there are some huge flatheads within the river up right here, so it’s good to have the stronger line. I take advantage of the identical line year-round so I don’t should spend time re-spooling my reels.”

Group Catfish 5/0 Double Motion hooks loaded with minimize shad or mooneye are his favourite late-season baits. “I take advantage of shad nearly solely,” he says. “Largely the center part, however later in fall I take advantage of 3-inch shad fillets or minimize creek chubs, or shad guts. The three-inch fillets work properly in late fall for some cause. They actually like shad guts that point of yr, however even contemporary guts such as you purchase from a baitshop in Mason jars are fairly nasty smelling.

Emery additionally fishes the Rock River in Illinois, concentrating on channel cats which have migrated upstream to dams or deeper holes in that smaller river. “There’s an out of doors bend that’s deep, with a variety of submerged timber and junk all alongside the channel that runs round that bend,” he says. “I catch a variety of channel cats from that bend in late fall. I believe the quilt alongside the underside in that space reduces the present sufficient to offer the catfish the circumstances they need for a wintering space. When you discover a spot like that, except there’s a significant change within the river, they appear to return to that very same space yr after yr.”

Lakes and Reservoirs

Channel catfish in lakes and reservoirs additionally transfer in response to modifications in water temperature in late fall, although the actions could appear to contradict the way in which their brethren in rivers transfer. Whereas river cats journey to seek out deeper water, channel cats in lakes typically briefly transfer shallower as water temperatures cool. As soon as water temps in lakes fall beneath about 50°F, catfish are sometimes interested in hotter water in shallow bays and arms on sunny afternoons.

illustration of where to find catfish on medium to large rivers

“As soon as the water cools, I fish lots in shallow water,” says Texas catfish information Chad Ferguson. “They’re fairly predictable in late October by means of November. I search for flooded timber or clumps of willows in 4 to six toes of water, generally even in cattails. I fish with punchbait on a #6 treble hook beneath a foam float, with a pair break up shot above the hook to carry the bait down. I begin out fishing on the sting of the flooded timber or willows, then progressively work my approach into the quilt if that’s the place the fish are. That point of yr, after the quiet down, they’re in search of hotter water within the shallows, and being catfish, they like to be round construction as a lot as doable.”

A couple of methods enhance Ferguson’s catch charges within the fall. He doesn’t really pre-chum areas for catfish prematurely of a fishing journey, however likes to toss out a couple of scoops of vary cubes or bitter wheat when he first pulls into an space to get the eye of catfish already within the space. He makes use of solely punchbait as a result of it’s efficient for the 2- to 5-pound channel cats his shoppers search, and it eliminates the necessity to spend time gathering baitfish earlier than every journey.

angler hooked up to a catfish in wooded water on a boat
When water cools in fall, information Chad Ferguson typically targets channel cats in shallow brush.

“Nearly any punchbait catches catfish if the catfish are there,” he says. “I take advantage of Benny Robert’s lots, CJ’s is sweet, Positive Shot catches fish, and Mr. Whiskers is sweet. If I run out, I run to the closest deal with store and purchase no matter’s on their shelf. For me, the model of punchbait isn’t as necessary as fishing the place I do know the catfish are.”

Discovering catfish isn’t arduous for Ferguson, particularly within the fall when channel cats are sometimes concentrated close to woody construction on sunny afternoons in shallow areas. Final yr he took a digicam crew to movie a TV present on a lake he hadn’t fished in over 25 years. He spent an hour cruising the lake, utilizing each sonar and eyeballs to determine depths and construction. As soon as he recognized the prime locations to fish and began fishing, it solely took 11 minutes of fishing to get the video they wanted for the present.

“Then we turned off the cameras, stayed one other hour and caught 65 extra good channel cats only for the enjoyable of it,” he says. “The toughest half about catching catfish is discovering the primary one. When you get that first one within the boat it’s only a matter of fine-tuning precisely the place they’re in an space, after which preserving bait in entrance of them.”

Ferguson makes use of the identical deal with for channel catfish in spring, summer time, and fall: Whisker Seeker Sort out’s Chad Ferguson Signature Collection 7-foot 6-inch medium-heavy baitcasting rods geared up with Abu Garcia 6500C baitcasting reels. He prefers 35-pound-test Whisker Seeker Excessive Visibility braided line tied on to #4 or #6 treble hooks.

“If you’re fishing shallow, in 4 to six toes of water, that’s the only, finest strategy to current baits,” he says. “It retains the bait off the underside and the punchbaits are milking taste and chumming because the floats drift with the wind—it’s simply an effective way to fish. If it’s cloudy, or the shallow water is cool sufficient so the cats aren’t in there, I transfer out to deeper water, possibly 16 to 24 toes deep. The catfish transfer forwards and backwards between deep and shallow that point of yr. Within the lakes down right here, they don’t transfer a protracted methods, they only transfer until they discover the forage fish or water temperature they like.”

Reservoirs in northern states might mix two populations of channel catfish in late October by means of November. Catfish that spend their summer time within the comparatively shallow waters of small tributary rivers and huge creeks migrate downstream to the deeper water of reservoirs for the winter. These catfish have a tendency to pay attention within the first areas of deep water they encounter on the higher finish of reservoirs, although they could observe surges of water that come into the reservoir and mix with “resident” catfish that spend their total yr in a particular space of the reservoir. The notion that channel catfish in a lake or reservoir transfer to the deepest out there gap is defective. Sheer depth isn’t as necessary for wintering catfish as steady oxygen content material and easy accessibility to meals throughout midwinter feeding forays. Anglers looking midwestern lakes for late-season channel cats ought to customise Ferguson’s Texas reservoir methods to match their native circumstances: Goal shallow flats with cowl on sunny afternoons, then observe the fish as they transfer towards close by drop-offs into middepth water on cloudy, cool days.

graphic describing difference between channel catfish and flathead catfish movements

Emery, the Illinois catfisherman, says his catfishing season doesn’t finish till ice retains him off the water.

“I’ve caught channel cats on Christmas Day,” he says. “In November, even into December, if you happen to get a pair sunny days that increase the water temperature a level or two, channel catfish will feed. They drift up out of these deeper holes and feed on shallow mudflats within the space. It’s a good suggestion to downsize baits as a result of they’re not in search of an enormous meal, however it’s shocking how good catfishing might be that point of yr if you recognize the place to look.” 

*Dan Anderson, Bouton, Iowa, has written for In-Fisherman publications on catfish matters for greater than a decade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *