Drift fishing extremely deep water lakes (Help, please)

Discussion in 'All Catfishing' started by Sentry Dog Man, Jun 14, 2006.

  1. Sentry Dog Man

    Sentry Dog Man New Member

    Messages:
    438
    State:
    TN
    I think I have read everything on this site about drift fishing and find it quite intriguing, to say the least. Thus, since I just recently acquired a boat, I am going to pursue this method (drifting) very seriously. However, I am somewhat at a loss in how to drift my particular lake. I have not found anything in what I have read that pertains to extremely deep water lakes. And, an extremely deep water lake is what I will mostly be fishing. I am talking depths of well over 200 feet.

    Now, I have read about drifting the main river channels, creek channels, humps, ledges etc etc. But, as you can see (in most instances) that is mostly out of the question for me in what I have discovered thus far, on the portion of the lake that I will be fishing the most. Since, the main river channel is over 200 feet deep. Please understand that I am talking about a mountainous, gorge type of lake where the water can go from 1 foot at the banks edge to 40 feet or more in just a few feet (10 to 30) from the banks edge.

    My first thoughts are to try and drift as closely to the bank as I can. And, to try drifting across the mouths of what coves I can find. So, am I on the right track here or not??

    Suggestions please, from those who drift fish and especially those who have some experience in drifting very deep lakes.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Mr.T

    Mr.T Active Member

    Messages:
    2,554
    State:
    MO
    I think you'll find in a lake that most fish (catfish) will stay very near the thermocline in the summer, and there'll be very few fish below it - so there's no reason to look in the deepest part of the lake because there'll be nothing there to speak of.

    So the thing to do is figure out where the thermocline forms in your lake - it'll be visible on sonar as a horizontal area of "interference" or "garbage", typically down at 20 to 30 ft or so. It's the area where there's an abrupt change in water temperature, and the different water density is reflected as interference on the sonar. Below the thermocline, there's far less oxygen in the water so the fish tend to stay out of it - some certainly do go below the thermocline, but the more active fish should be at or above it.

    Get a good quality topographic map of the lake and you can probably eliminate huge portions of it as being too deep, and focus on the more likely shallower places instead - ideally, you'd like to find an area where the bottom is at or just above the thermocline so you can drift your bait on the bottom through that area; I don't think most folks have much luck catching catfish that are suspended in the middle of the water column, so you should focus on the bottom dwellers.
     

  3. metalman

    metalman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,456
    State:
    IN
    Name:
    Winston
    Mike,
    you obviously have a challenge on your hands but everything is do-able with some thought.
    Have you yet marked any fish or got any info of what depths they are at. I would think they are going to be pretty close to the shore, suspended at a particular depth on the drop offs you mention and in the feeder creek coves. Or, if there are any humps out in the main part of the lake, you should look there.
    You are going to need to do some controlled depth set up, either conventional down riggers or what I call an upside down down rigger where you suspend the bait below a balloon at the depth you want. You will need to closely watch the graph to ensure you stay on the depth contour you decide on and you will probably not be able to depend on the wind for your drift, instead you will need to use the trolling motor. This is a perfect situation for one of those set ups where the sonar and trolling motor work as one unit to keep you on the depth of choice but you can do it manually by keeping one eye on the graph and one hand (foot) on the troller.
    This project sounds like a lot of work so any info you can get about the location of the fish will help eliminate mile of fishless trolling.
    Hope this helps...W
     
  4. catfishrus

    catfishrus New Member

    Messages:
    1,569
    State:
    north carolina
    i think you are on the right track fishing the edges when drifting on the bottom. but if you have blue cat in the water you are fishing and have a thermocline i would try drifting with slip corks set at the thermocline line. also use some down lines at thermocline. here lately ive been catching blues with slip corks but im not catching anything on the down lines but they are set at the same depth. also if you are fishing a lake that is that deep the i would say the water pretty clear and the slip cork maybe your ticket for thermocline action. i catch alot of fish at 30ft in 60-90 ft of water on my home lakes. try to find area that have or hold bait in the lake and the fish will be in that area, even open water.
     
  5. Redd

    Redd New Member

    Messages:
    790
    State:
    Southeast Kansas
    I agree with the rest, the thermocline will play a major roll. I'd find out what that depth is, and pitch my bait out horizontally the same distance and stop it. It'll fall directly beneath your boat, and should be right on the thermocline. I've never tried this before, but maybe you can use a slip cork when you're drifting. You'd probably have to have it in front of the boat if it starts to drift faster than you're goin' yourself. But I don't know...just an idea. I don't even know if it's a good one or not.:big_smile: Anyways, good luck and tight lines to ya!

    -Red
     
  6. jim

    jim New Member

    Messages:
    2,579
    State:
    Jacksonville NC
    First off let me say I have given rep points to Marty,Winston,Michael and Red for providing you with clear, concise, advise in answer to your question.I dont think I have ever read a previous thread that had that many excellent responses in a row.Hats off to you all for helping a fellow fisherman.Makes me proud to be a part of it all.What lakes are you fishing in Tenn I am assuming it would be the eastern lakes like Norris,Center Hill etc.Pick a creek arm and orient to the structure in it.Most of those lakes have humps etc that come up from deeper water and the blues will orient on the baitfish schools much like the stripers.I have caught nice catfish in Percy Priest,Dale Hollow and Center Hill when I was stationed in KY.Good luck:smile2:
     
  7. FishMan

    FishMan New Member

    Messages:
    2,293
    State:
    Tennessee
    I am not a good fisherperson but it sounds like you have less ares to cover as I don't think you will catch them real deep. Use planner boards and cover from shore to about 60 feet. in one pass.
     
  8. catseeman

    catseeman New Member

    Messages:
    1,189
    State:
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    I totally agree. These answers were great to read and learn from Thank you all even thou i didnt ask, You people are fantastic. I too am proud to be a member of the BOC.
     
  9. Sentry Dog Man

    Sentry Dog Man New Member

    Messages:
    438
    State:
    TN
    So far I have not identifed the thermocline. But, then again, I am still trying to learn my depth finder.

    Had the boat out the other day, just crusing and trying to find out a few things. Water temp was between 72 and 74 degrees from one place to the next. Never noticed any major interference indicating the presence of the thermocline.

    Thanks for the input.
     
  10. catfishrus

    catfishrus New Member

    Messages:
    1,569
    State:
    north carolina
    hey give it a little more time and let the water temps come up. maybe by july you should be able to see it easy. our water temps are around 80 here and we dont yet but its coming.
     
  11. Sentry Dog Man

    Sentry Dog Man New Member

    Messages:
    438
    State:
    TN
    Winston, thanks for the input.

    Yes, I did mark one fish right off the side of a cove point, in between 23 to 26 feet of water, at around 20 feet from the bank. Showed as a very large arch, right next to something that was sticking up from the bottom (I'm still trying to learn the depth finder, so cant say what was sticking up from the bottom.) I ran across that spot two different times within a 30 minute period and it was still there. But, I did not try to fish for it since I was just out trying to learn the depth finder etc and get a feel for setting up the finder to produce arches, and moving at the right speed so the arch would show.

    As for humps in the main part of the lake, in the area I am fishing, well they are just to deep. We are talking the tip tops of mountain peaks that may still be at 100 feet or more. But, I have to do a lot more searching. I am just going to concentrate on a small area near where I launch and which is close to the dam, instead of running all over the lake.

    By the way, I talked to a couple of guys last night who told me that one portion of the lake was 500 feet deep or more, according to their depth finder. I will have to check that out sometime, since I find it a bit hard to believe. But, in these mountains around here, it just may be true. But, I think, typically the deepest water is usually near the dam. But, I could certainly be wrong.
     
  12. Sentry Dog Man

    Sentry Dog Man New Member

    Messages:
    438
    State:
    TN
    Michael,

    Thanks for the input.

    I don't know if this lake holds blue cats or not. Since, I have never talked to anyone who has said they have caught a blue. I do know that it has channels and flatheads.

    I am going to try some drifting in the morning (Sunday) with some creek chubs, crawdads and night crawlers.

    Apparently (from what I have recently learned) one of the main forage fish in the lake is the alewife. I do not know much about them. But, I guess I am going to have to learn. Supposedly there are some gizzard shad in the lake as well. And, gizzard shad worked great for me while I was living in SC. But, it may be different here.
     
  13. Sentry Dog Man

    Sentry Dog Man New Member

    Messages:
    438
    State:
    TN
    Jim,

    I am in the upper northeast corner of the state. And, am primarily fishing Watauga lake. Which, I think is the highest lake in the TVA system.

    I will be fishing Boone lake some and possibly South Holston lake. But, Watauga is closest to me. So, I will be fishing it the most. But, it is a cold water lake and probably not the best for catfishing. However, if one was to keep fish to eat, Watauga is the lake to fish.
     
  14. flathead willie

    flathead willie Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,241
    State:
    Virginia
    I have the same problem here at Smith Mountain Lake. The water drops off real fast and can go deeper than 300 feet. I don't have electronics so i fish back in the coves where I know it isn't too deep. Right now they seem to be biting within 4 feet of the shore line and around docks. I also know from SCUBA diving that there isn't much in the way of fish below 50-60 feet execpt the ones that aren't feeding. 1 to 25 feet seems to be the best.
     
  15. Coyote1

    Coyote1 New Member

    Messages:
    640
    State:
    Missouri
    Dear Mike;
    I've been reading all the posts you have been getting from the other members. I must say, I am GLAD I joined the BOC. Your getting information that can't be found in books!! I have to agree that you do have your work cut out for yourself!
    I have one suggestion that I've not seen anyone mention and maybe I'm showing a small lack of intelligence but here goes anyway.
    If you have a GPS take it with you along with a camera, notebook/sketch pad, and a couple of pencils with erasers. And, if you can get a map of that lake be sure to take it with you!
    When you find locations on the lake, with your electronics, that meet the criteria that the other gentlemen have given you, take a GPS reading, make a note in your notebook, or mark it on your lake map.
    Also, if you don't have a lake map, make a note and/or photograph, of what the shoreline looks like so you will have some landmarks to go by when you return to that area. [please remember I have no idea how large this lake is]
    You can also mark a trail or path along a shoreline where the "bottom" fits the depth your looking for no matter if it's 50 yards long or five miles along the shore line you have it marked on your map or in your notebook.
    This will save you a lot of time running over the same areas that you have already been too, that is unless you are returning to these areas to fish or make further studies for your notes.
    If your fishing that day, you might also want to consider making a notation of the time of day, time of year, weather conditions, water conditions, et al. This way, after you have fished this lake for some time you will be able to see, and predict, certain trends that you know will be favorable to catching fish.
    Write down anything that you notice while out. At the time it may not seem important, but then again, later on, it might be a piece of information that will make or break the day of fishing.
    If you have waterproofed your lake map, then use numbers in your notebook to record information that matches the numbers you make on the map using perhaps a china marker, color crayon, ect.
    If your map is not waterproofed, and you wish to waterproof it, there are a number of good products that can be purchased for this purpose. After all, lake and river maps are always near water!
    Most map suppliers have these products as do Art Supply Businesses such as "Dick Blicks" [they are on the web too] or, if your a poor person like me, you might want to try this:
    Get yourself some "Thompson's Water Seal" and a medium sized foam brush. The kind that looks like a chunk of foam on a stick.
    Spread the "TWS" on both sides of your map but do not "Flood" the map! Just make sure you have a full coverage with no gaps. Hang this up outside on a clothline or similar setup until the map is well dried. I mention "Thompson's Water Seal" because it is the only product I have "played" with and I have no knowledge of other products or if they are suitable for this purpose.
    If you get a chance, when you catch those "BIGUNN'S", post a photo for all of us to see! :smile2: I know I would like to see your success.
    Here is hoping this helps you in some way and your time is not wasted reading it.
    Thank You for your time.
    Cordially,
    Coyote1
    [[[[[End of Message ]]]]]
     
  16. knapperheadmatt

    knapperheadmatt New Member

    Messages:
    129
    State:
    texas
    here at lake travis the thermocline sets up about 30-40 feet. its usually bout 5-10 feet thick and very much colder than te water above and below. when scuba diving i find that most fish are at or above the thermocline.its cool to get just above it become neutrally boyant and swim along . you can stick your arm or leg down into it and it feels like reching into a cooler. also when if fishing the water below the thermocline keep in mind that it can be some of the clearest water in the lake.
    matt
     
  17. roundhill

    roundhill New Member

    Messages:
    810
    State:
    kings mtn
    mike i drift fontania lake in the smokeys i use astandard carolina rig with one diference when i mark fish or bate at whatever depth i count out line then put on a big flote then i drift this behind the boat up to 100yds i use four rods like this sometime im fishing 80ft in 400ft of water outher times maybe 10ft deep in 80ft of water works good most of the time
     
  18. Sentry Dog Man

    Sentry Dog Man New Member

    Messages:
    438
    State:
    TN


    Ed,

    Certainly a lot of good info/tips you have thrown my way.

    Don't have a GPS. But, as for maps, I think I am going to be able to find some maps of my primary lake that were made before the lake was flooded/impounded. I think that I can get them with just the pool outline shown. However, I have not yet made the call. But, from what I have read, the Tennesse Valley Authority has them available.

    Thanks for all the info/tips.

    Mike
     
  19. Sentry Dog Man

    Sentry Dog Man New Member

    Messages:
    438
    State:
    TN
    Ron,

    Good tips. Thank you very much.

    I had not thought of drifting with a big float way behind the boat. But, when you stop to think about it, it makes very good sense when fishing very deep water where the fish could be suspended and you did not want to just lower your line "X" amount of distance, directly off the side or back of you boat.

    Years ago (back in the 70's) a fellow I knew used to go to Fonatana lake all the time to smallmouth fish. Some dock owner used to always call him when the water was on the rise or had reached a certain high level. And, "boom" he would be off to Fonatana. He only liked to fish it when it was on the rise or had gotten above normal pool elevation. He said he always tore the smallmouth up on spinnerbaits when the water was in that condition.

    Great looking cat in your avatar. What did it measure and weigh?

    Thanks again,

    Mike
     
  20. roundhill

    roundhill New Member

    Messages:
    810
    State:
    kings mtn
    mike the fish was 58lb cought at santee drifting i drift 85% of the time makes no diference whear im fishing fontaina is a great lake for smallmouth and waleye and big cats but you do hav to fish a lot deeper on acount of the clear water even when they are shallow the bottom is full of rocks so you have to stay above them or stay hungup the flote rigs work a whole lot like jugs you just keep the drift under control with the wind or the trolling motor.