The Finicky Flathead Catfish

Discussion in 'Flathead Catfish' started by catfishrollo, Dec 7, 2007.

  1. catfishrollo

    catfishrollo New Member

    Messages:
    6,894
    State:
    Ohio
    Flatheads exist in most of our regions across the U.S. As seasons change so does the fishing action. In places i read about fishing being great almost year round. In other places, the bite may only be good to great for a few months at a time. I have not had the opportunity to target flatheads in a variety of states in the different seasons. So let me simply add that my opinions are based on nearly 20 yrs. fishing simply in the Ohio climates on the small rivers. As, spring and summer bring warm water temps. the flathead action turns good. But, as the late summer days quickly turn into fall to winter time days, the flatheads quickly change their styles. Of course the weather changing and dropping temperatures are to fault for this. I'm not gonna talk much on location and seasonal movements due that i have in other posts, and threads lately. But, as the water temperatures plummet so does the metabolism of the flatheads and they become finicky feeders.. Yes, there is the big fall feed that lasts weeks sometimes, but i'm talking about the post fall action, early winter season. I'm a firm believer these fish can be caught throughout the winter, and have been targeting them with more of an open mind as of late. As, the fall bite goes from small livebaits on our cat rods, and cutbaits for them in their wintering holes, the bite even slows more. You more less have to drop baits on their nose to get them to feed..livebaits, they will still grab, but seem to just want to mouth it and are undecided on even eating at this point. They still move throughout the hole, due to barometric pressure changes i guess. However, don't move far within the hole, and certainly aren't moving in search of prey. I am learning that by moving slowly and vertical jigging with lighter line, smaller tackle, and even smaller baits, mainly cuts you can feel these finicky winter fish pick the baits up. A 1/2 ounce egg sinker on the mainline, bead, then 1 ounce jig-head on fireline, with small pieces of cut shad side has been working for me. Now, when i say "vertical jigging" im not meaning fishing the cut like a smallmouth or pike jig.. im meaning more less letting the bait fall, letting it lay for a minute or so, then simply with a lifting and dragging motion moving the bait back towards the boat a couple feet at a time, then letting it lay for a minute or two again. Each cast moving your cast a few yards from the last. Let me tell you, this has to be methodical.. I usually will just start in one area then fan cast the baits. Once you get a hit, usually just feeling the fish loading the tip some and swimming slowly away with it i bust him. Very, important you have an idea where that fish was also. You have to get your bait back to the same vicinity. These flats when they stack up, are usually within feet of each other. Now, if unsuccessful i will relocate the boat within the hole, and start the process again. I will say for the most part, the average size i have been catching have been fairly small and the numbers have diminished from the fall bite. But, this technique is fairly new to me, and im still learning about their finicky wintertime behaviors. Hopefully in time, i will be able to target these fish year round catching the same nice fish summerttime brings.. Goodluck, rollo
     
  2. john catfish young

    john catfish young New Member

    Messages:
    3,070
    State:
    Kentucky
    Sounds like a really good technique to me. Looking forward to hear more results. Keep us posted. Thanks
     

  3. prostreetS10

    prostreetS10 New Member

    Messages:
    898
    State:
    ohio
    sounds like a good idea that would work. sort of like drifting your bait slowly through a hole until you get on to some fish. thanks for sharing i will have to put it to use and see if i can catch some winter flats. i belive it should be possible to still catch them year round.:wink: just take alot more time
     
  4. tomflatcat

    tomflatcat New Member

    Messages:
    384
    State:
    Hampstead, NC
    Very helpful information. Thanks for posting that.
     
  5. catfishrollo

    catfishrollo New Member

    Messages:
    6,894
    State:
    Ohio
    i miswrote the size of the jighead, it is a 1/4 ounce venom tube jighead, i like this jig better than the round head jigs made by other companys.. the hook seems to be a stronger metal, and doesn't bend out as easy.. even though the fight is slowed, due to cold water, i like the thought of having a fairly durable hook on the end.. in case a better fish hits... and the fireline i forgot to add i think is 14lb. test...anyways, thanks for the posts....goodluck brothers....rollo
     
  6. catfishrollo

    catfishrollo New Member

    Messages:
    6,894
    State:
    Ohio
    i posted this thread to help those in wonder with what i know.. but, i also posted for my own process in learning more. i know there are more knowledgable catmen out there that have been doing this alot longer than i have.. i posted this in this section to hopefully get some more responses and different views on how im targeting them.. just because i started an informative thread, doesn't mean i just want smiles in return...tell me what you think guys? how do you fish in cold water, what baits are good? and is your river setup like mine is? rollo
     
  7. Catcaller

    Catcaller New Member

    Messages:
    1,511
    State:
    SoutheastKansas
    Jason...I have caught flathead in early spring on jig heads that I cast for whitebass/wiper....but thats after the water temps start nudging 50 degrees.

    Winter is not productive on my home river due to low water levels.

    However...I do fish the local strip pits when the river is a non-option.

    I use a jighead tipped with a shiner or whatever is avilable in the colder winter months at the bait shop to fish for walleye and channel cats....vertical jigging edges of deep holes, dropoffs, ledges, humps, rockpiles, deep weed beds, and wood cover such as brushpiles, submerged logs/trees. And it does produce good fish when you manage to locate the concentrated schools of fish in the cold water.

    Once again...when targeting deep structure...the old rule of identifying and attacking structure within structure is key...it ALWAYS is...regardless of the season.

    Downsized presentations in colder weather is something I've been aware of for many years...a very important piece of the puzzle when attempting to establish a cold weather pattern.

    Patience is key...more time is essential due to the cold blooded nature of the beast that you seek. Metabolisms are way down...and tactics will need to be re-adjusted from your typical warm weather arsenal.

    Shorter strike zones and slower action are the forte of the day...and literally define the endeavor that you undertake in 32-40 degree water.

    Most times in a lake the catfish will congregate in the deepest hole that is relevant to nearby cover. Find this staging area...and you've likely located the motherlode of catfish and other species as well.

    Just because they're deep and sluggish...does not mean that they won't bite...it's just like Jason says...sometimes you literally have to place the bait on their nose.

    Pay close attention to temporary warming trends as well...even a couple of above average days will prompt a feeding frenzy.

    If the hooks you're getting on your jigs heads aren't strong enough for you...try pouring your own. Do-it molds sells a specific jighead mold that accepts the much superior and stronger Gamakatsu hooks in sizes not available in the sizes you seek on the shelves of sporting goods stores.

    It's not given that you have to use a much larger hook than you'd like to be using...just because if you don't you're sacrificing hook strength. It's incredible how much stronger the Gamakatsu's are in comparison to the eagle Claw or mustad hooks on the standard store bought JH.

    Besides...pouring your own is satisfying when you later convert those hours of prep into fish on the stringer, and is one more thing that you can do to pass the time during the winter when you're not mowing your driveway and otherwise climbing the walls...Lol. (And it gives you the chance to stick it to the man a little bit price wise on the tackle you make yourself...and also gives you tackle you might not otherwise so easily have access to)
     
  8. catfishrollo

    catfishrollo New Member

    Messages:
    6,894
    State:
    Ohio
    Thanks, Brian,,, i think all rivers are catchable,,, but you have to lknow your area!!! rollo
     
  9. jagdoctor1

    jagdoctor1 New Member

    Messages:
    708
    State:
    CA/AZ
    First let me say I would love to get out on the boat and try your presentation. I would like to add this. I have never focused on Flathead like I did this year. It was a succesfull and educating year for me. I'm in the lower colorado river area and this last month I did a fair bit of fishing. I personally found the flathead very active in the backwaters during day or night. At the same time, they were not exactly excited to eat. I was getting very powerfull hits and they were running off like crazy but I pulled alot of bluegill/talapia/goldfish out of flathead mouths. One thing to note is that it's warmer here than most places so it's logical my flathead bite would last longer however the increased number of fish running off without swallowing my baits is definately an important fact to notice. Another part to take note of is that the river is about 7 feet low atm and on jan 1st they will virtually empty it out. they do this every year and it lasts a few weeks while they do repairs and etc. I am hoping to do some targeting of the holes that still hold water but don't expect too much success as I've tried this with other species and found they are pretty much too freeked out to bite. We have a challenge with this emptying of the river every year and I plan to learn as much as possible about it this year. I can definately map out the river and backwaters while the water is out though.
     
  10. tofish

    tofish New Member

    Messages:
    3,923
    State:
    arizona
    jagdoctor1, you are in same boat as i am. i'm in yuma and trying to figure this darn river thing out. compared to summer time, it's not flowing now at all. i was out a few days ago, and water looked as calm as a lake surface. i too have had a few good runs, but couldn't hook them. just mouthed the baits. i know where some good holes are, and have tried a few of them, but no joy. i fish mainly daytime now, as cold nites don't agree with this old body. maybe we can hook up together some time and compare notes? i'm willing to learn, and maybe share anything i might know you don't.
    gary
     
  11. catfishjohn

    catfishjohn New Member

    Messages:
    10,217
    State:
    Greenup Co. KY
    Great write up! I plan on doing more catfishing this winter than before. If I happen to stumble upon any helpful info i'll pass it on.
    Best of luck to you this winter!!!
     
  12. catfishrollo

    catfishrollo New Member

    Messages:
    6,894
    State:
    Ohio
    you guys that fish cold water blues ever get into a mess of wintering flatheads? it suprises me that i don't see or hear about more flatheads being caught when fishing for blues..? i dunno..im just a flathead guy, and don't know much on blues and their tendencies and seasonal movements.. ??? rollo:big_smile:
     
  13. CatAngler

    CatAngler New Member

    Messages:
    312
    State:
    Omaha NE
    Great write up Jason! I have on very rare occasion when targeting winter blues, have come across smaller flatheads (river). And I believe it's exactly what you stated "you pretty much have to put the bait right in front of their mouths. Around here the flats seem to stop biting when the water temp drops below 55deg. And that's typically when I start targeting winter blues (phsyically & mentally!!:smile2:). I also try my hand at ice fishing about a half dozen times each year & about everyother season I manage score a small flat or channel. With that being said I believe your right on with being able to target flats year round. I've personally have never really tried to persue them once the water temps gets below 55deg, I'll have to give your method a try & see how it turns out.:cool2:


    J
     
  14. Blacky

    Blacky New Member

    Messages:
    10,351
    State:
    Philadelphia, P
    Great thread catfishrollo.

    What is you technique for bankfishing for wintertime finicky flatheads?
     
  15. prostreetS10

    prostreetS10 New Member

    Messages:
    898
    State:
    ohio
    In the past 10 times i have been out fishing for them cold water blues i have only seen 2 flatheads caught both coming out of the same holes as the blues and channels. 1 was about 3-5 lbs and one was a nice 10-15 lber
     
  16. s_man

    s_man New Member

    Messages:
    3,012
    State:
    south east ohio
    Chris, If you think they were flatheads, next time really let him load-up on your rod before you set the hook. I mean I want you to wait till you feel that first head shake, then nail him. Flatheads will cruise off with a bait held in their throat pads, and still have their mouth wide open. If you let them load up they will feel that bait slipping (trying to get away) and they will clamp their jaws closed to prevent it lol. If that doesn't work you may be getting hits from gar. They will run hard but you can't hook them cause of the bony, and slender mouth. I find gar in slacker water than flatheads prefer. Not saying you can't catch a flat in slack water, just that they prefer some current most of the time.
     
  17. catfishrollo

    catfishrollo New Member

    Messages:
    6,894
    State:
    Ohio
    blacky, i mainly fish from a boat, but have fished wintering holes from the bank. of course it would be much more difficult to fish vertically from the bank due to the structure, rock, etc. i still fish cuts, small baits, and would suggest moving up and down the bank along the hole, fishing all through it. as much as possible. these fish can be grouped up in just about any area in the hole , towards the head of the hole, or the tail-out end of it. by not moving to find these fish, you would be limiting your abilities. i would suggest timing yourself in an area, if you don't get any pick-ups move up the bank a few yrds and try again. goodluck, rollo
     
  18. jagdoctor1

    jagdoctor1 New Member

    Messages:
    708
    State:
    CA/AZ
    Well it's definatelly not Gar. We don't have those here. Your Idea is great but on those evening I had caught onto what they were doing and had loosened the drag and let them run all around the backwater before I even tried to set the hook. 2 minutes of something running around with your bait in it's mouth swimming like he has no care in the world is enough to drive a person mad. Yet when I set the hook all I got was a beat up baitfish! lol I've had this problem before with the local flathead just not so damn many times in a row. I just need to by a bigger bottle to put my patience in I suppose.
     
  19. s_man

    s_man New Member

    Messages:
    3,012
    State:
    south east ohio
    Chris thats the problem right there. DO not let them run anywhere. As soon as your clicker goes off or you see your rod take a bend,Pick up the rod, turn the handle and engage the reel and hold on till he LOADS the rod. When I say load, I mean you hold still till it seems like he will pull the rod from your hands. Somewhere between this feeling and him "actually" pulling your rod from your grasp, you will feel the sinker lift off the bottom, then a head shake. Thats when you know his mouth is closed and you can set the hook. You might want to up-size your hooks. I use 10/0 gamma Octopus hooks exclusively when Flathead fishing. Any 4lb flat can eat one plus the bait. So don't worry about hook size.
     
  20. catfishrollo

    catfishrollo New Member

    Messages:
    6,894
    State:
    Ohio
    patience is a word that someone going after flatheads has to learn. when i first started fishing flatheads i thought i had the patience for it! and i did to an extent. then i had to learn added patience..lol.. everyone fishes their own style, what skip said is right, what other cat guys will tell you is right, but you have to develop an understanding of these fish and how they act. then develop the best method that works for you. i can tell you this, me and skip fish together and our understandings are similar in thought when talking about flatheads and there whereabouts.. that comes from experience. but his style of how he sets and hooks, compared to mine differ in its own ways. i like to run clicker and let the fish run the bait for a distance. i determine distance on alot of things, size of bait, area im fishing, how aggressive the run is etc. then i react to each run accordingly.. some of this i can't explain it is a matter of feel from doing. so i guess what im saying is there really isn't a wrong way to catch them whether tightlining works for you or freespool, but you have to learn how the flathead acts, and develop a system that works consistently for you... hope i didn't confuse you...goodluck...rollo