Shovelhead fever catch it!

Discussion in 'Flathead Catfish' started by flathunter, Jun 14, 2006.

  1. flathunter

    flathunter New Member

    Messages:
    5,723
    State:
    Ohio
    Last summer, two people drowned in Deer Creek Reservoir. They were the victims of separate, unrelated swimming accidents.

    Soon, a rumor began to circulate. Could it have been one of those giant catfish? A rogue shovelhead grabbing swimmers by the foot and drowning them?

    This rumor was so widespread, and believed, a local newspaper ran a story in which officials denied the tale.

    Shovelhead (or flathead catfish) have been a part of southern Ohio lore for many years. Sometimes the truth about these gigantic predators can be nearly as unsettling as the fiction.

    When Milton Trautman, professor emeritus of zoology at Ohio State, was researching his book, "The Fishes of Ohio, he took a nighttime boat trip up the lower Scioto River, near Portsmouth.

    Trautman wrote: "When using jack light, I have seen large flatheads with their mouths widely open lying on the bottom. . .Ohio river fishermen have told me that they have seen frightened fishes dart into the open mouths of flatheads, to be swallowed immediately. The large number of such hiding species as rock bass, spotted black bass, and small catfishes found in the stomachs of large flatheads lends credence to these statements."

    Trautman described the catfish industry that used to thrive on the Ohio River before the turn of the century. These oldtime commercial fishermen would tie enormous fish hooks and gallon jugs to either end of a 10-ft. leader and bait the hooks with baseball-size hunks of beef, small chickens and live kittens.

    The jugs were released in the rapid chutes that used to be common before so many dams tamed the river. The fishermen followed behind in boats, and when a jug bobbed under the water, they would wait until it resurfaced and haul in the catch.

    Considering the size and eating habits of a large adult shovelhead, using chickens for bait made sense. Quite a few 20-40 pounders are taken every year. The Ohio record is over 70 pounds, and there are reports of shovelhead in the Mississippi River that would exceed 100 pounds.

    Shovelheads are nearly always feeding. They don't bite, chew, and then swallow their food--they inhale it. The big jaws swing open (one third of a shovelhead's total body weight can be in its head), gills start pumping, and a strong gush of water flows in through the mouth along with their prey.

    George Billy probably knows as much about shovelhead in Ohio as anyone does. He is a 33-year veteran of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and spent 27 of those years in fish management--mostly in southeastern Ohio.

    "From our records, we indicate an abundance of large flatheads," Billy said. "We conduct yearly studies to determine the relative numbers, weight and length of the flatheads.

    "There are good populations in the Muskingum and its tributaries, in the Scioto from Ross County on down, and all along the Ohio River. Any large stream that empties into the Ohio, probably has flatheads in the mouth of the stream," he said.

    "They take more to the lower gradient streams. Flatheads will swim up onto shallow riffles to feed, but you will usually find them in the calmer pools. Anywhere immediately below a dam on the Muskingum could be good water for flatheads," Billy said.

    "Good underwater structure is important--rock cliffs and dropoffs. The flathead wants his own niche. Clendening and Piedmont lakes have produced some of the largest flatheads in the state in recent years," Billy said. "They aren't at all deep lakes, but they have good underwater structures."

    Because of their size and strength, few large shovelhead are taken on conventional tackle. Most are taken on trotlines.

    "If we were going catfishing tonight," Billy explained, "we would leave now, while there's still daylight, and get our trotline set. You don't go out in the middle of the night, set a trotline and return in the morning to pick fish off of it. A trotline is something you do all night long," he said.

    "Every hour or so you run the line. One guy rows the boat and the other checks the baited leads. You have to be alert and lift each line carefully," Billy said. "Sometimes a big one will stay down--you wouldn't believe how strong they can be. Sometimes they float right up to the boat. If you ever see a 40-pounder come up out of the river at night, you'll think it weighs a hundred pounds."

    Although trotlines are the most effective way to fish for a big shovelhead, many people still prefer the challenge of rod and reel.

    If you're trying shovelhead fishing for the first time, be forewarned: Forget about medium weight tackle if you expect to catch a monster. If you do hook a big one on this tackle, it will strip the line and maybe break the pole, too.

    A large baitcasting reel loaded with 200yards of 30-pound test line and mounted on a heavy-duty rod will even the odds a little. Serious shovelhead fishermen always have at least one outfit that looks like it's set up for ocean fishing.

    Because shovelhead tend to migrate upstream, any body of water that eventually drains into the Ohio River may have shovelheads in it. However, dams, pollutants, and other factors act to limit the range of these big catfish. So don't assume anything.

    Here is a list of Ohio waters that are known for their good shovelhead fishing: (Every shovelhead fisherman has his favorite spot, and most of them aren't on this list, so ask around.) The Muskingum River; Stillwater Creek and its two impoundments, Piedmont and Clendening lakes; Wolf Creek, Wills Creek and Raccoon Creek, all in southeastern Ohio; in south-central Ohio, the Scioto River, Scioto Brush Creek, Paint Creek, Deer Creek and Big Darby; Ohio Brush Creek.
     
  2. capt theory

    capt theory New Member

    Messages:
    180
    State:
    oklahoma
    that was an insanely informative post there man. me personaly, i believe there are large enough flats out there to mess with man. wether out of hunger or territorial behavior. if your a big flat and something was causing a commotion and annoying you, youd nail whatever it was be it fish animal or man. especially if its spawning time. if your in territory that harbors every kind of nourishment, structure, and space, its a matter of time. good post.
     

  3. Shawn

    Shawn New Member

    Messages:
    408
    State:
    Illinois
    thanks for that cool post... I gotta get out fishing again!


    Shawn
     
  4. Ol Man

    Ol Man New Member

    Messages:
    3,170
    State:
    Illinois
    Very interesting post, flathunter... I'm curious as to the live kittens for bait. Did the flats grab 'em right away? If not, how does one get them to hold their breath that long...:lol:
    _______________
    Be careful! Is it classified?
     
  5. BigCatSteve

    BigCatSteve New Member

    Messages:
    638
    State:
    Huber Heights,Ohio
    very interesting post very informative,thanks
     
  6. barbel

    barbel New Member

    Messages:
    486
    State:
    Somewhere
    Thank you for the information there. I picked up some things that I hadn't picked up even for a year browsing the board. Keep the articles coming :smile:
     
  7. brad kilpatrick

    brad kilpatrick New Member

    Messages:
    2,666
    State:
    Kansas City
    Here kitty, kitty, kitty..............LOL
     
  8. catseeman

    catseeman New Member

    Messages:
    1,189
    State:
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Thanks for the info. i like that
     
  9. KYTRAPPER

    KYTRAPPER New Member

    Messages:
    307
    State:
    Floyd county,KY
    Good read..... I have heard old timers talk about useing small dead chickens for bait.
     
  10. capt theory

    capt theory New Member

    Messages:
    180
    State:
    oklahoma
    yeah i neglected to mention that in my post. ill throw someone in the water if i see them hurting/killing cats. to say the least.
     
  11. teaysvalleyguy

    teaysvalleyguy New Member

    Messages:
    9,751
    State:
    GC, OHIO
    Nice Thread Jack, good information. See ya Saturday.
     
  12. dcaruthers

    dcaruthers New Member

    Messages:
    756
    State:
    Alabama
    I like the idea of using kittens...just don't tell my daughters.
     
  13. H2O Mellon

    H2O Mellon New Member

    Messages:
    3,012
    State:
    Ohio
    Kittens, Chickens, Bass, etc....

    If there is a 50# Flat in a hole I'll hook a Gama hook in it! :big_smile:
     
  14. H2O Mellon

    H2O Mellon New Member

    Messages:
    3,012
    State:
    Ohio
    Okay, Okay, Okay, I would not use a Live Kitten. (I'd kill it 1st!) :big_smile: :lol:
     
  15. CaTcHmEaBiGcAt

    CaTcHmEaBiGcAt New Member

    Messages:
    2
    State:
    Ohio
    I believe in the man sized or bigger cats. My friend's father who has now passed was once a diver for the police department in Zanesville. They had to dive in the Muskingum River in South Zanesville and he said that he saw catfish the size of men or bigger ones and from that point on he never got in that river again. The people they searched for he thinks were eaten by those fish.
     
  16. KansasKatter

    KansasKatter New Member

    Messages:
    807
    State:
    Wichita Kansas
    There are and have been stories like this going around about every lake that has flats in it everywhere. I believe them, and have even seen some pictures some local divers took from one of the area lakes.

    Would they mess with a person? Who knows? They are a predator, and if you happened to be on a nest, or near a nest, you never know I guess. I have been attacked by a gar wading in the river. Had his mouth all the way around my leg about half way up my calf. He was about 5' long and took a considerable amount of hide off my leg, looked like a pile of hamburger when he was done.
     
  17. Salmonid

    Salmonid New Member

    Messages:
    1,833
    State:
    SW Ohio
    Jack, great information, I have an 2 nd edition of Trautmans Book and have had it since high school,( it was my graduation present from my mom if you can believe that) its a great read and its available at Barnes and Noble, just have to order it in I think, I think its like 39 bucks but a great book any serious Ohio fishermen.
    "Title: "the Fishes of Ohio" by Milton Trautman


    Thanks again,
    Salmonid
     
  18. loanwizard

    loanwizard Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,297
    State:
    Coshocton,

    Ahh, my conservative friend with liberal tendencies.... I hear PETA is taking Applications... It is good to see you have a heart. Would you consider a full growed cat good bait, seein as it has had the chance to mature and is no longer a defenseless little kitten? :big_smile:
     
  19. FishMan

    FishMan New Member

    Messages:
    2,293
    State:
    Tennessee
    There is something wrong with your mind
     
  20. KansasKatter

    KansasKatter New Member

    Messages:
    807
    State:
    Wichita Kansas
    When I was very young, one of my favorit things to do was cut the bellies open of the big catfish my dad would catch. My dad was (still is) one of the best catfishermen I have ever known, and used to catch some MONSTERS. Once he was cleaning a large flathead (probably 60#) or so. The stomach was the size of a frikken volleyball! I took his pocket knife, and poked at it for a while, then it split open because it was so tight! There was a baby coyote in there, and a baby duck too! The river was up and running a little bit, and the feeder creeks were up and running hard. Dad thinks the coyote probably got washed out of the den by one of the feeder creeks, or simply fell into one of them while trying to get a drink. It looked like it was maybe 4 or 5 weeks old.

    Funny thing is, Dad's bait was a carp about 10 or 12" long. This cats stomach was sooooo full, the skin was tight enough to tear as I poked it with the knife. Where was he going to put that carp????

    I have also seen a family of ducks with ducklings behind them, heard a large boil, and there was one fewer duckling, and the rest were swimming like crazy!