Flathead catfish movement

Discussion in 'Flathead Catfish' started by kkyyoottee, Aug 22, 2007.

  1. kkyyoottee

    kkyyoottee New Member

    Messages:
    754
    State:
    Iowa
    We are having a heated debate in our household on flathead movement so Id like some input from some of you !!! I say a flathead stays in his hole if there is plenty of food. My counter part and her father say they move out of hole get a bite to eat and go back. What do you guys/gals think?

    Thanks Will
     
  2. spoonfish

    spoonfish New Member

    Messages:
    3,780
    State:
    Warsaw, Mo.
    Some studys have been done here in Mo. with tagged flatheads on the Missouri river. They have one thats went 450 miles. Others have stayed in the same area. Seems they will travel a lot more than we use to think.
     

  3. kkyyoottee

    kkyyoottee New Member

    Messages:
    754
    State:
    Iowa
    But is that movement triggered by food , weather, or etc? Thanks for your help!!
     
  4. spoonfish

    spoonfish New Member

    Messages:
    3,780
    State:
    Warsaw, Mo.
    I talked to our resourse scientist Kevin Sullivan a couple of days ago and it was something I had brought up. He said he didnt have the study results with him at the time so I'm not sure what the findings are on why and when they travel. Will see if I can get them next time I talk with him.
    He did say some have not returned and knows of one that is still clear up in the omaha area.
     
  5. CatFishingFinatic

    CatFishingFinatic New Member

    Messages:
    198
    State:
    Iowa
    Being the counter partner on this conversation, I am going to put in my theory, and experience with flathead cats. You find your best flats in a hole of water no doubt. As for them traveling, I don't think they travel very far if they are in a hole that suits their needs. Thus, deep enough, cool enough, and plenty of food. If the food will drift into their mouth they will stay right there and let it drift. However, if the food is drifting by they will come out of that hole grab that little norsel and go back. They don't travel the banks at night looking for food like your channel cats, and they don't feed in the shallows. When the weather gets hot they will hold up in the holes and only move if they have to. In the fall when the weather gets cool, just before winter, the get a little more active. But still prefer the deeper holes. Flat heads are lazy even the little ones. I have never caught a flathead feeding in the shallow waters, not even a small one, always in a hole of water, either under trees/log jams or under bridges.

    There are several reasons a flathead will move. The number 1 reason is rising water (flooding) When the rivers come up and the current moves fast if they are not in a hole that protects them from this current they will ride the current down till they find a place to house them. They will move if the water temp. gets to warm, or if there is not enough food to keep them fat and lazy. I don't believe they move just to see other parts of the country. Just my theory. I may be wrong.
     
  6. JAinSC

    JAinSC Active Member

    Messages:
    1,514
    State:
    South Carolina
    I have read a couple of studies about flathead movements and such and have put them together for my own belief - they move only as much as they need to to get what they need. That might sound like a big "Duh," but it's important with different rivers, seasons, etc. If they are lucky enough to have a good hole in a good river that has spwaning habitat, good food, enough comfortable depth for the winter, and everything else, then tehy will just stay there. They will come out of their snag and wander around a bit to find grub and then go back. Most flatheads are not so lucky, though, and spend the winters in wintering holes, travel upriver to spawning habitat in the spring, and spend the warm weather in areas with good cover and food. IN SC our winters are not very cold - the river usually get to only about the hight 40's to 50 degrees in the winter - but I have still noticed seasonal movement where the flatheads move downriver to deep water in the fall.

    Short term - like over the course of a day? I believe they all move some to find some food, unless conditions are so miserable that they simply hole up and wait for things to improve. Whether a flathead travels 50 yards in the course of a night or 5 miles is, again, simply based on how much food is available and how foar they have to go to fill their belly, AND the individual fish. Some people are home bodies and like to sit in front of the TV. Some like to go out dancing every night. I bleieve fish are the same way, some just "like" to wander more. Probably, though, the wanderers get weeded out more often, and the bigger older fish are more likely to be home bodies.

    Studies show they will travel shallower more at night, but still prefer deeper water wtih cover.
     
  7. ateamfisherman

    ateamfisherman New Member

    Messages:
    297
    State:
    Texas
    i do not think the flat heads hold up in the holes except in the nesting season. i think they might get under something to hide for protection. i think they just be where they are at the time. when nesting time comes is when they go tothe holes. they are just like a empty bird nest until next year.when nesting time comes the female finds the place to nest and lay the eggs and the male takes over. until they leave the nest they are protected by the state until they are 18in.long then they are legalto take.that is just what i think. sam davis
     
  8. Jroc777

    Jroc777 Member

    Messages:
    191
    State:
    Evansville, IN
    I agree with most of the information on this thread except the shallow water bite. I have caught many flatheads either close to the bank or on sandbars coming from deeper water. This includes my PB 46lb. flathead that was caught in about 2-3 ft. of water on a sandbar near a deeper hole. I do believe they hole up even days at a time but if conditions are right they will wander around looking for a meal.
     
  9. kkyyoottee

    kkyyoottee New Member

    Messages:
    754
    State:
    Iowa
    But what motivates the movement. I am still in shock over the 450 miles!!
     
  10. Goldenshinner

    Goldenshinner New Member

    my thoughts on holeing and distance moving are: after significant time concentrating on holes, deep holes definitely hold fish some times of the year. up here in minnesota that usualy is related to cold water and cold water only. in streaches with a lack of cover they will relate to the hole durring the heat of day. i like the comment on them being lazy and just wanting to get under something not necessarily holing. if you look at the river bottom after it dries up and look were you got your daytime fish allot of times its just at the base of a sunken log or rock, so that would in my imagination imply that they were indeed just siting close to that structure. That infact on many examples, quite the oposite, they were not in a hole but in a slight upwelling of the bottom conture, in an area that they by natural body design, are perfectly fitting. my personal comunications with local DNR Electro-fishing survey crews sugest similar thoughts. in addition they will raise fish that are hovering on structureless edges(perhaps not compleatly structurless, just nothing obvious, curent edges alone may be enough) and drop offs. As to moving on occasion i have snagged and broke off fish fishing a particular structure, often i will recatch that same fish several hours latter in roughly the same area. this sugests to me that atleast for a period of time they were actively using an area(yes at that point in time i was spot on spot correct! for spot to fish). most diehards will also agree that at day break there is a sudden flurie of movement and activity as the fish(flaties) suddenly do the last move of the night as the move up and down looking for shelter. I think this is somewhat key to the belief and understanding of how and why the fish move or wander. river fish generaly will move upstream or have a forward movement over time. if the flattie durring its last movement of the night wanders upstream to find some shelter, the next night it might be starting its search from that point upstream. over the corse of a week that fish might slowly wander several miles upstream. But to this same thought it would seem reasonable that massive pods of flatheads would slowly pile up behind dams, and that is not the case here localy. some will show up, but not like other fish such as carp, which are often seen in piles behind dams. Localy studdies sugest some relation to the population and the amount of cover(timber) in a particular streach of river. but again while there is a releation to the amount of timber a particular mile has, it is not a perfect relation, and i would believe this is also seasonaly related. for example often these fish will go very shallow. many member find it hard to believe, but i have seen it soo many times i am a compleate converted believer. i have seen herds of feeding flaties moving up shallow featureless creeks to feed. it is probably one of the most impressive flathead related experiences i have ever experienced.Some of those fish will stay in those creeks. while they can be realy tough to locate in a shallow river, they more often stick out like a swollen toe. localy our competitions are poluted by people harvesting shallow water cats to enter into the competitions. It is very easy you just walk the shore, see the fish you want, then pounce on it with a net. I suspect that this years current slowness in my streach of the river is related to over harvesting in the shallow creeks.(and to some extent just a massive increase in fishing pressure within the city limmit) this i believe to be true, as i have fished other streaches very far from my home range(150miles out, same river) and had very good results fishing identical patterns. Finaly, on this same subject. i would mention that i know of people that will recatch the same uniquely scared fish(my favorite story the fish has very large lamprey scars in several spots!, fish is only caught using a 2lb pike!) over and over and over again in the same spot threw out the year. i have personaly had this experience. to me it is usualy in a poor fishing area that has a low population(but perhaps heavier fish). in better areas, even with very high amounts of catch and release it just dosent seem like you recatch the same fish again(or at least very often). what do all these somewhat conflicting observations point to. perhaps a somewhat dynamic combination of moving and staying in which some fish atleast may move very long distances, while others may stay put. at least to me, understanding these movements are key to successfuly targeting the species throughout the year. I would also mention as a last thought localy these fish become inactive and hibernate in large pods that have also been abused(overfished, and rough handeling-snagging) and are in need of Seasonal Protection(closure of fishing season and new DNR regulation ). our populaiton( minnesota ) and sport is just on the edge of the extreame damands by the public.
     
  11. jagdoctor1

    jagdoctor1 New Member

    Messages:
    708
    State:
    CA/AZ
    That's alot of info for one thread. It's a great thread though. I'll give my input on what I have learned of the Colorado river here in Blythe. There aren't really any logjams and most tulies that are in water during the day are no longer in the water at night when the water drops. So that leaves deep spots of which there are few but they do exist. In comparison I find fishing the deep holes to be the same as fishing the banks by the rocks in any given area. I can definately say for a fact that these fish are traveling along the rocks on the banks to hunt bluegill and other fish.
     
  12. David Knotts

    David Knotts New Member

    Messages:
    2,569
    State:
    Bossier City, La
    My best 3 ops came out of 4-5 feet of water, with no deep water close by. I think they travel, just kinda take their time at it.
    Could be the reason that one leaves its hole, is that a bigger one just moved in.
     
  13. CatFishingFinatic

    CatFishingFinatic New Member

    Messages:
    198
    State:
    Iowa
    This is my point, they hold up in the deeper water waiting for and expecting their dinner to roll into their mouths. If something comes near by, they go out and grab it and go back in. But I don't believe they cruise the shallows like a channel cat or blue cat looking for food.
     
  14. tspergin

    tspergin New Member

    Messages:
    867
    State:
    newark ohio
    flatheads most definatly cruise shallow water close to the banks at night ,that is why limbliners are are so successful with lines right along the banks in as little as 1 to 2 ft of water
     
  15. CatFishingFinatic

    CatFishingFinatic New Member

    Messages:
    198
    State:
    Iowa
    I have fished many rivers in Iowa, The skunk, the Iowa, upper and lower, the English, and the Cedar Rivers, I have seen and caught flatheads off sandbars, but here generally where you find a flathead, no matter how big or small it is, they came from deep water. Fishing off the sandbar into a drop off down the river. Catfish feed up river, they are also known to bedup so to speak in the deeper water across from the shallow waters. I have pole fished these rivers as well as bank poles, and throw lines. In the shallow waters, 1-3 feet of water where the catfish run as feeding grounds, it is common to catch a small mouth channel cat, or a blue channel. Never have we caught a flathead running in these shallow waters. But in Iowa rivers, shallows is under 2ft of water. A hole with 4 plus feet of water is a deep hole and deep enough to house a nice size flathead. In some rivers that would be considered shallow water. Here in Iowa, that is a hole. So I guess the big question is, to you, in your state or body of water you are fishing in. What do you classify as shallow water? On the rivers we fish in, shallow water can be any where from ankle deep to knee deep. A hole of water can be any where from knee deep and up.
     
  16. Goldenshinner

    Goldenshinner New Member

    ABSOLUTELY. yes!!! they push each other around. agreee!!! if i was a smaller fish and a biger one started feeling me out with its wiskers as possible food source i would scaat!!!
     
  17. David Knotts

    David Knotts New Member

    Messages:
    2,569
    State:
    Bossier City, La
    There is this one creek that I fish alot, my uncles have run set hooks, and lines in it for years. They allways do better catchin ops, in the shallow stretches, I'm talkin 2-3 feet of water.

    I've never tried for catfish in this creek, I'm allways bass fishin it, man you can catch as many bass as you want. I'm gonna start fishin for cats there soon.
     
  18. JAinSC

    JAinSC Active Member

    Messages:
    1,514
    State:
    South Carolina
    I could be wrong, but I think the long distance movements noted for some flatheads have been in midwestern rivers where the fish pretty much had to drop all the way down out of a tributary to a big river (like the Misouri or Miss) to get to a good overwintering spot. Here in the southeast (SC, GA, NC, FL) most of the fish are basically trapped in the river they live in: if they go down river they hit the ocean. Therefore, movements of more than 20 ro 50 miles are pretty much impossible, and I think most probably only move 10 or 20 miles up and down river each year, but that's a total guess.

    Researchers tracking flathead daily movements have found that they have a "home range" of a stretch of river - some home ranges might cover only less than 1/2 mile of river and some cover a few miles, based on the quality of habitat in the river and the size of the fish- basically, they are moving only as far as they have to get what they need. Within that home range they found that the fish will have 1 to a few daytime layup spots (usually woody snags=bedrooms, basically) and after roaming their range for the night they flatheads would almost always return to one of the same snags each morning.

    They do seem to cruise shallow at night sometimes while feeding, but I guess just how shallow is shallow makes a difference. The holes in the section of the Edisto I fish are mostly 8 to 12 feet (some 20+ downriver a bit) and on the lower Santee, 30 foot holes are not uncommon. The shallow bars are generally a few feet deep, depending on water level and tide.
     
  19. loanwizard

    loanwizard Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,297
    State:
    Coshocton,
    Evryone has their theories.... here is mine. 1st, the flathead acts differently, but predictably in lakes compared to rivers.

    Anyone who says flatheads don't come shallow is wrong. Anyone who says they don't relate to deep water, if it is available, is wrong.

    Congratulations we are all right!

    My experiences show that in a lake they relate to the old creek bed in a lake, or channel. That channel can be 6 inches to a foot different than the rest of a basically featureless bottom, but they seem to know where Great great great granddaddy cat travelled.... maybe instinctual?

    Sometime I think we are adamant about deep or shallow because.... well just like a fish, we are creatures of habit. If we always fish shallow, what are the odds of us being successful deep?

    I have had it pounded in my head to fish the heads of holes, underwater structure in fast water, current breaks, eddies, etc.

    Do I do it or do I go to the "tried and true" same three spots I always fish? I guess I am a creature of habit.

    How many of you believe that some nights they just aren't biting? Yet we say that catfish are (can't think of the stupid word) anyhow, if it gets close, they are gonna nab it. How many of you move?

    When I was a youngster my grandpa and my parents always say, set still boy, you can't catch fish if your bait isn't there in the water..... Maybe I learned too well, or maybe I am just too lazy to reel in grab the anchor, find another spot, reset, lose valuable water time.... I guess I'd rather just think of moving to a different spot.....yet they are biting somewhere....

    As far as migrations and traveling fish patterns. I was born in Ohio, my parents chase a different vacation destination every year with days filled from wake up to reveille, I moved to Boston, Providence, Hartford, the Bronx, Brewster, etc... before settling down to my current place 80 miles from my birth. My sister lives 45 minutes from her birthplace. I have family from NJ, Fl, CA, all with roots in Ohio or Missouri.

    Fish have personality. Some are aggressive, others are shy. Some are homebodies, others adventurous and curious.... I am looking for that 60lb curious one. First off, if Momma has 200,000 fry, Daddy guards them so well that 500 of them survive...(pretty good dad huh?) that leaves 500 snags for them to claim under the freshwater fish homestead act. Who has the best one? Old Great Uncle Bob, that miserable surly old flattie from waterworld war three, that remembers the drought of 83 and the flood of 96.... Get close to him and his area (he has 5 snag, the greedy ol thing) and it's down to 499 looking for log cabins under the beach. Some find lodging close to home, others are never satisfied and keep moving.....

    Bottom line... I'm gonna figure them out!
     
  20. JAinSC

    JAinSC Active Member

    Messages:
    1,514
    State:
    South Carolina
    Wait! I thought you said we were all wrong! Which is it?

    I believe the word you were looking for might have been "opportunistic." (And I agree up to a point, although I also think that at times they are just plain OFF.)

    I also totally agree that moving will generally result in catching more flatheads. I have proven it to myself too many times. Still, though, there comes a point after midnight when I just am getting tired and don't feel like moving again... Just keep in mind, it doesn't necessarily have to be a big move. I believe that after the dusk flurry of activity most of the flatheads are sitting in likely spots waiting for food to come to them. If they sense a meal in their nightborhood, they'll go get it. But they can only sense a bait for just so far - maybe 20 feet? More? Less? Who knows?If you move up or down the bank by just 50 or 100 feet, you are showing those baits to a new area and a new group opf fish.