A Fish For All Seasons

Discussion in 'Outdoor Adventures' started by Whistler, Aug 31, 2005.

  1. Whistler

    Whistler Well-Known Member

    Original post made by Jackie Johnson(Abilene) on June 20, 2005

    Cat fishing is like...hmmm, come to think of it...there ain’t nothing quite like it. And you can do it any time of year, day or night. Course there’re times that don’t quite fit in my comfort zone, and those are the times I prefer to stay home. I figure those days when the lake water froze in my line guides are behind me.

    Fishing for cats is easy, anyone can do it. Catching cats is easy too; the hard part is finding the rascals. They like to move around. One day they’re here, next day they’re there...or somewhere else. To be fish catchers, we got to be fish finders. We need to know where to look and what to look for.

    Structure is what we’re looking for. Fish relate to changes in the bottom contour, and underwater objects. We can’t see underwater, but we can see structure that rises above the surface. Things like trees, bushes, rocks, retaining walls, riprap, and docks. Cut banks, boils or currents can also be indicators. Fish like to lie in places where the current can do the work for them, bringing goodies right to their door. Creeks and rivers on the rise offer exceptional fishing, carrying a trove of treasure to the hunters that gather to take advantage of these conditions. Any drainage pouring into the lake are cat attractors. And when catfish put the feed bag on, they don’t fool around.

    These are the times they hit and run, loading the rod and causing our hearts to bumpity-bump and our butts to jump up and scramble, stumbling for our bent rod, sometimes knocking down anyone, or anything unfortunate enough to be between us and our long awaited strike. Like the time I stumbled over my wife and knocked her, and her lawn chair into “Stink Creek.” Boy was she mad... like for a week. That’s how long it took for the smell to wear off.

    When cats are prowling, they search for places that attract food fish, that in turn, are attracted to structure. Minnows and baitfish spend a lot of time hiding, so they like to stay around places that offer shelter from the storm of bigger fish looking for an easy meal.

    If you’ve ever hunted varmints, you know how sly an old bobcat can be. He don’t much cotton to crossing open places. He prefers to travel down overgrown fence lines and shelterbelts, or along trails in brushy pastures. Or down bar ditches. And they don’t lay around out in the open either. They hole up, or get up under a rock or a bush or up in a tree. But when light conditions are low, it’s a different story. They hunt open fields and meadows. Mice and rabbits are attracted to fields of grain, like minnows and baitfish are attracted to flats and coves, because of the food source. And the predators will follow.

    The smaller cats will consume almost anything they can get in their mouths, (kind of like small infants.) Once a fish reaches a size where it’s metabolism has slowed enough for it not to have to eat every minute of the day, (like teenagers), it becomes more selective. Other fish offer more protein than most things. That’s why we can usually catch a few small cats anytime or anywhere on almost anything. They remind me of a bunch of chickens, wandering around, scratching the ground for whatever they can turn up.

    The larger the cat, the more it will prefer larger portions of food and deeper water, venturing into shallows to feed on shad, crappie, and perch. They like to stage in channels and holes, like dogs lying under the porch. If a cat can’t get in something like a hole, or under something like a rock or tree, or whatever, it will crowd right up against things like rocks, drop-offs, bridge pilings, trees, refrigerators, tires, or whatever. Like a bush-wacker, lying in wait for an unwary victim. And they prefer the shady side, or the shadows, lurking like a lunker, waiting for an opportunity.

    Larger blues and channel cats will patrol deeper water channels. They will suspend, and follows schools of shad, a never-ending source of protein, but will also relate to bends, drop-offs, and channels.

    On the other fin...or hand, flatheads mostly prefer a solitary life style. The loner likes to be left alone. A yellow likes to hole up like one of the “hole-in-wall” gang, and it don’t like to be disturbed. It will strike at intruders with a vengeance. They like to hide in places where there is a good supply of baitfish.

    The larger a flat grows, the less energy it likes to exert, (like me). A fish that expends more energy than it consumes, will be skinny and muscular, (unlike me). They don’t get fat and lazy by running around all over the place. Believe it or not, smaller fish will hide in a large fishes open mouth, so will minnows. Now that’s what I call “easy pickings.”

    Where isn’t the only thing we need to know to find fish, when plays an important part also. They won’t be in feeding areas when they’re not feeding, but they won’t be far away, night or day. They like to lie in holes during the day, like we like to lay on the couch after a meal, not far from a food source.

    Look for a channel or drop-off, or rocks close to shallow water. An example would be a bend in a river or channel. The outside of the bend will be washed out deeper, and perhaps have a downed tree or two, left over from a flooding. It will also have a steeper bank. This makes a good place for a cat to catch a few Z’s. The inside of the bend will be a gradual slope to the shallows, and will usually have a sand or gravel bar, or sandy bottom, usually with brush, or bushes, and maybe even willows. Good hunting grounds, providing cover for tender morsels.

    Bluegills will feed at night, but usually in and around cover. When not feeding, a ‘gill will get up in the middle of an under water bush or even a crack in a split rock. And flatheads will hunt for them in these places. I’ve seen tails of large cats, swirl the water, and even stick up out of it at night, right next to a drop-off of four foot, while it stood on it’s head, gobbling a bluegill, while my baits were out in the channel.

    As a general rule, I prefer to think that cats are light sensitive, so I look for them in low light situations. The predator cats are equipped to find prey in even the darkest of night, when most baitfish can’t see a thing. A flathead can slip up on a target with more finesse than a cat stalking a mouse. Once within range, a flaring of the gills and the unfortunate is sucked in with a vacuum that has more power than a herd of Hoovers. Sometimes they spit it out just as quick, repeating the process, sometimes crunching the victim in its jaws. Sometimes scaling the fish at the same time. They can be difficult to hook at these times, but it can be done. The main thing is get out there and have fun. Experiment with different methods and strategies.

    Everyone has a notion of when to try and set the hook, and mine is anytime I think a fish has my bait in its mouth. Sometimes this is a steady, gentle tug, and sometimes it’s small, quick jerks with a slight bend in my rod tip. I just got tired of waiting for the run that never comes, and have hooked many cats this way. I have missed cats on a loaded rod and also led them right up to the bank, before they opened their mouth and let the bait and hook fall out. They can be tricky, but so can we.