Big River Flatheads on Man Made Structures

Discussion in 'Outdoor Articles' started by wolfman, Jul 24, 2006.

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  1. wolfman

    wolfman Well-Known Member

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    9,171
    State:
    Triadelphia, WV
    Name:
    Walter Flack
    Big River Flatheads on Man Made Structures

    Six years ago, my future brother in law (Troy) invited me to go catfishing on the Ohio River near Bellaire, Ohio. Shovelheads (better known as the flathead catfish) were on the menu for the evening.

    I was thinking on my way to the spot , that this was going to be the typical easy access to a bank spot that has been fished on a regular basis by the locals.

    He drove his way through the river town to a back street that led to a food distribution plant, then pulled the 4wd truck behind the plant and down a old rugged trail that ended at the river bank. At the spot where he parked his truck, there wasn’t any room to fish and being a bit confused I asked “is this it ?” . He just grinned and said “nope” and pointed further down the shore. Looking in that direction about 50 yards away was a old abandoned retired coal barge pushed up against the bank sideways.

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    So we gathered our gear and made our way to the barge. Once we climbed our way onto the rear deck of the barge, I was convinced that we were going to set up and start fishing. Being relieved, I set my gear down and looked around then heard Troy say “almost there”. Turning to see where he was going, he cautiously was walking the side of the barge about 2 foot wide, where the river was on one side and water filled the inside of the barge. “ You got to be kidding me” I said. He just grinned and said “nope, we need to fish the down current side of the barge”.

    Well I gathered my gear up and reluctantly followed behind watching every step I took and keeping my balance at the same time. Finally reaching the front deck of the barge, we was at our fishing spot. Now it just came to me that we would be making our way back in the dark after fishing and was not looking forward to it. I remember asking him “ how about we do an all nighter here and leave when it gets light enough to see?” He just grinned and said “nope, gotta work in the morning”. “Great” I said.

    We set up and casted out using live bluegills, suckers and creek chubs for bait. It take long when Troy reeled in a nice 12 pound flathead right off the front edge of the barge. He then explained that the flatheads like to tunnel up under the front of barges for cover and being extended out into the river it creates slack water ( a break in the current) which favors the characteristics of the flathead.

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    We ended up catching a total of 7 flatheads in that spot. Troy caught 4 with the biggest being 27 pounds and I caught 3 with my biggest being 24 pounds which is my personal best flathead to date. The two biggest flats hit on live suckers. The rest hit on the bluegills. We also missed on a few runs that could have been nice flatheads.

    I will never forget this experience and have been fishing retired barges and other man made structures since then with great success. The one thing that stuck in my mind was the term Slack Water and learned quickly that flatheads seek dark secluded places to make their home. I like to refer them as the cave dwellers below the river’s surface.

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    Above is a couple of pictures where flatheads have found a home in crevices and holes in old abandoned barges along the river banks.

    Other structures such as barge cells create slack water and I have found these to be productive areas for holding flatheads. The picture below shows a set of barge cells (tie ups), to the left of the barges. Fish the down current side of these cells that create a break in the current.

    Owning a boat increases the odds in your favor and easier access to these areas. However safety is a big concern in big rivers where there is barge traffic 24 hours around the clock. Pick a safe area to anchor up in.

    Other man made structures are blown up dams, bridge piers and old power plants that can be productive for flatheads but sometimes are hard to access from the bank. Below are a couple of old bridge piers on the Monongahela River. The Mon is famous for its big flatheads also.

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    I try to locate old abandoned barges on the banks during winter time when theres no leaves blocking the view from highways or streets throughout the river towns. I have even been known to carry a ladder in the bed of a pickup truck to get on the barges that are difficult to climb. Only a few barges that I have fished required a long extension for a landing net, but most of the time do not have that problem.

    That first experience with Troy fishing off that barge, I thought he was crazy. Now, you can call me crazy too. It must be that flathead fever. Give it a try sometime but be safe and wish you the best of luck in your quest for a big flathead.

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