Thinking of going fishing at Pickwick on Christmas day.
So it has been a few years since I have done any fishing much, last week went out to the "barge lights" down the river from Saltillo, TN with a friend and caught a few small blues and a channel. Well that has pretty much got me hooked on fishing again, and to be honest I was sorta shocked to find out they actually are biting in the middle of December. And since I have nothing to do on Christmas day because it is just me and my dog this year I'm thinking about taking off and going fishing in the Pickwick dam tailwaters since the weather is calling for clear skies and sunshine.
Anyhoos I thought I would share some of the tactics I have used in the past to catch skipjack and cats below the dam. The first and foremost rule is simple... if the turbines are not generating power, turn around and go home. If the turbines are running, there are a couple decent places to fish, depending on which ones are on. For an overhead view of the base of the dam I snagged these off google maps and did a bit of editing. The first is the entire dam area. There are two places where I have caught fish, in the boils and down the river a ways towards the boat ramp. Down by the ramp it is mostly shallow water with a gravel bottom and not a lot of hangs. I have had a bit of luck there in the spring but the best fishing is to be had in the boils.
When it comes to catching cats in the boils there are two tricks I have learned. The first is on the catwalk. In the spring time "fiddler" sized channels congregate right next to the catwalk (the little box on the right) straight down about 15-20ft deep there or so. Don't throw out just drop it over the side. Put a small sinker and #1 hook on a rig baited with some some redworm in late february early march and just wear them out. The next area is actually in the boils. There is a small window right next to the discharge of the #2 turbine (if #1 is running your out of luck). Put a 2 ounce or so sinker on your rig an cast exactly into the spot shown on the picture. If you hit it right the current will carry it on back around to a small slack area and hopefully you won't get hung up on the rocks. This is where the bigger blue cats pile up. Now then the thing is with these cats they hit very fast and light. You need a small hook and a tiny bit of cut bait, literally a 1/0 J-hook and a hunk of bait (I prefer skipjack) no bigger than the size of your thumbnail or so. It sounds crazy but absolutely works. As soon as you feel one peck on it set the hook.
For catching skipjack you can pretty much get them anywhere past the boils where the sidewalk runs parallel to the water. The trick is in selecting the correct bait and presenting it properly. I learned a long time ago that the presentation is actually more important than the bait itelf. My preferred bait is the squirmin shad from bass pro or the generic version found in walmart. Grubs will work too, but for some reason I have found that skipjack will absolutely maul these things better than anything else. My preferred size is a 2" with as heavy a jig head in it as will fit. Actually they don't make them, but if they did a 2.5" would be perfect. My favorite color is the black/pear and chartreuse/silver flake. Usually they will hit the black/pearl better than anything else.
Most of the skipjack are in deeper water sort of close to shore. And since there is a lot of current you need to get the rubber minners as deep as possible before they go into the strike zone. My favorite reel for fishing these skips is a cheapy zebco 202 with some 6-8lb test and I rig two of the minnows in tandem approx 18-24" apart. Start by casting them up the river into the current and let them sink. Then when you reel them in hold your rod tip down near the water so they will run as deep as possible and use a short 1-2' "jerk" followed by a quick reeling of the slack again... jerk, reel, jerk, reel, 10-15 foot off the bank you can actually see sometimes 10+ of them try and nail the heck out of it. The jerking seems to excite their bite instincts by what I can only imagine being a fleeing minnow... its sorta like how a a cheetah stalks its prey... as soon as it starts running they take off after it. And of course when you pause that gives them time to nail it, and then you jerk again you set the hook. Works wonders.
That is all I got for now. Hope this helps out anyone else wanting to give it a try below the dam. Will have to come back later and tell everyone whether or not I got skunked.