"CATFISH PATTERNS CHANGING WITH COOL WEATHER"
by Luke Clayton
East Tawakoni- The way in which Mother Nature subtly changes patterns that affect the daily lives of fish and wildlife from one season to the next has always been awe inspiring for me. In truth, it’s all quiet logical; they’re only reacting to stimuli such as cooling water and air temperatures, decreasing amounts of sunlight and changing food sources in efforts to most effectively find food and insure the survival of their respective species.
If you’re a fisherman or hunter, learning to decipher these predictable changes through the seasons is key to being successful.
I just got off the water at Lake Tawakoni, situated about an hour east of Dallas, with my friend guide George Rule, and learned first hand how catfish react to cooling Fall temperatures.
“Luke, we’ve seen a shift in the pattern of catfish the past few days. Tawakoni is full of both blue and channel catfish and the channels are still stacking up around holes baited with soured grain, hitting punch bait fished near bottom. This is a pattern that began back in May and will continue until sometime in November when the water cools and the fish’s metabolism slows. We’ve entered an ‘inbetween’ pattern for blue cats. In a few weeks, when the water cools to around sixty degrees, the trophy blue catfish bite will begin. We’ll begin drift fishing with big pieces of cut bait for them and regularly put fish weighing between 25-60 pounds in the boat. We’ve just entered the early stages of this bite. The big boys haven’t started biting but we’re enjoy good action drift fishing for smaller blues.” said Rule before the trip.
Regular readers of this column might remember the mention of an older gentleman that I encountered at Tawakoni a couple weeks ago that had a cooler full of smaller blues, all landed while drift fished from his float tube. This was a good indicator that the early stages of the Fall blue catfish bite is underway.
“When drift fishing for these smaller blues, we use bass tackle instead of the heavy rod and reels we’ll put to use in a few weeks when the trophy blue season begins.” says Rule as we motored out from Anchor Inn Marina. “I have some smaller shad for bait while we’re drift fishing. Of course, there’s plenty of Magic Baits ‘Stick It’ punch bait to use on the channel catfish later. We’ll rig the shad on 4-ought circle hooks. When we target the big boys in a few weeks, we use 9 or 10-ought hooks and pieces of cut bait as big as your hand.
Wind speed is key to successful drift fishing and conditions were less than ideal. Even with the use of a drift sock to slow our drift, our baits were covering the lakes bottom at a clip the Rule deemed a bit too fast. Rule uses a ‘Santee Rig’ for drift fishing (note picture) which is a basic Carolina rig with a small float situated about six inches up from the bait and a ‘worm’ weight that consists of several double ought buckshots inside a nylon boot lace. “This type weight really helps avoiding hang ups and the small float keeps the bait/hook up off bottom. It’s a deadly rig for drift fishing.”
Photo by Luke Clayton
Guide George Rule shows the drift rig he uses for fall catfishing.
After making a long drift that covered some prime blue catfish waters, we managed to connect with a couple of smallish blues. Altering plans is what successful fishing is all about and Rule and I were thinking the same thing. “Ready for some fast paced catfishing?” he said as he pulled in the drift sock. “We’ll come back and drift for blues on a day when the wind isn’t quiet so strong. Let’s head to one of my holes baited with soured grain and hammer a cooler full of channel catfish. What do you think?” I simply love to catch fish and have been fishing long enough to know altering plans is what successful fishing is all about. If one pattern doesn’t produce, change to one that does!
Rule eased the big pontoon boat up to a big tree situated in water 21 feet deep. I tied the bow rope snug and we tossed out a coffee can full of soured maize. “We’ve been baiting this spot for several days,” says Rule. The catfish should already be here but this fresh grain will turn them on quickly.” Fishing a hole that has been baited is a sure fire method of getting into channel catfish action quickly but we could have also baited several spots with grain and returned to fish each with success. For those lucky enough to live on the water, keeping a few ‘baited holes’ makes locating and catching catfish much easier.
I love to use light spinning tackle for channel catfishing, it’s much easier to feel the often subtle bite when they are ‘mouthing’ the baits. We rigged the lighter tackle with #6 treble hooks and clamped a small split shot about six inches above and punched the hooks into the buckets of punch bait. In just over an hour, Rule and I landed limits of channel catfish weighing between 1.5 and 3 pounds. To my way of thinking, there is no better eating fish in fresh water.
Drift fishing for Tawakoni’s trophy blues is only weeks away but right now, I see absolutely nothing wrong with the fast paced action for channel catfish. I see a big fish fry in the very near future!