Speed Kills for Small Stream Channel Catfish


Nothing relaxes the mind more than getting away from it all at your favorite river.  Kick back, pop a top on your favorite beverage, and wait for a bite from a hard fighting, whiskery catfish.  However, when compared to living life in the fast lane like many of us do, lots of people find sitting for very long waiting on a fish to bite very boring.  For those with a short attention span, its okay to let your inner toddler out.  Mobility is often the key to loading the boat with summertime channel catfish.  The logic is simple: cover more water and you will catch more catfish.  


Few areas in a river offer extremely high concentrations of catfish once the spawn has finished.  Fish leave spawning areas and disperse to holes and snags found throughout the entire river you are fishing.  Sitting in one area and waiting hours for a bite offers few advantages for channel catfish.  Once you have caught a few fish and the bite slows down, it is time to move to greener pastures.  Don't spend a lot of time in one area if you aren't catching fish or you stop catching fish.  A good rule of thumb is that if you have went ten minutes without catching a fish, it is time to move.  If the fish are there and hungry, they will hit a bait often as soon as it drifts in front of them. 


During summer look for pockets of deeper water and focus on structure in them.  Deep is relative.  If the river you are fishing averages three feet, anything deeper than that could potentially hold fish.  In contrast, if the river averages 10 feet, a good hole might be as deep as 30 feet.  Structure is anything that blocks current.  This could be a logpile in the water, a pile of rocks sticking out from shore, or large boulder along the bottom.  Active cats hang out in the area where the slow and fast water meet, waiting patiently for a piece of food to drift by they dart out and eat.  

As summer slowly slips into fall, channel cats begin to show a stronger and stronger affinity to riffle areas above the holes you spent the summer months catching them in.  Riffles, or rapids, are areas of hard bottom on the stream bottom that the current cannot wash away easily.  Water is funneled through this area and current is increased, similar to putting your thumb over the end of a hose.  This increased current often carves out a hole downriver from it.  The tailout portion of a riffle where it meets the hole can be a great place to fish anytime, particularly in low light conditions.  However, fall seems especially good for these areas, even during the middle of the day. 


One of the best ways to cover lots of water and put your bait in front of lots of cats is to use a float, also called a bobber.  Using a float allows you to drift your bait at the same speed as the current, making for a very natural presentation.  On top of that, I find the sight of float dancing along in the current very enjoyable to watch.  Add in the anticipation of your bobber shooting under the water and you have my favorite method for catching channel catfish.

Effectively drifting a float calls for a longer fishing rod than most catfisherman use while fishing small waters.  Nothing under seven feet is recommended.  Bass flipping sticks will get the job done, but I have found a 10' casting rod rated for up to 20 pound line to be the most effective.  Paired with a reel spooled with low stretch braided superline, and you can effectively drift a bobber and set the hook at over 100 yards. 

Terminal tackle should stay simple.  #1 to 1/0 hooks and some split shot to weigh down your bobber is all you really need.  Floats can be anything that doesn't sink.  The classic red and white bobbers will work, but I have found that styrofoam slipfloats drift better, and allow faster depth adjustements.  This can be helpful when drifting your bait through a riffle and then immediately following that up with tossing your bait toward structure in the deepest part of the hole below it. 


Bait is not nearly as important as location.  If there are no fish where you are at, you will not catch anything no matter what is on your hook.  However, once you have found a good location to fish, bait is important.  There are two main categories of catfish bait: natural and prepared. 

Natural baits are anything that can normally be found in the waterway you are fishing.  This may include shad, bluegills and sunfish, creek chubs, minnows, shiners, worms, frogs, crayfish, and the list goes on and on.  I tend to prefer natural baits because the larger fish seem to prefer them.  It makes sense.  A large fish has been around the block a few times and is used to eating a certain thing.  Keep the bait fresh and you will catch fish.

Prepared baits are baits that can be purchased at a bait and tackle store, grocery store, or made at home.  These include dip baits, dough baits, chicken livers, shrimp, and so on.  These baits are usually convenient to find and do catch fish.  In a pinch I have no problem using these if I'm not able to get fresh natural baits.  Of all those mentioned, I like shrimp the best.


How you get on the water isn't as important as simply getting on the water.  Depending on what you have available, a boat is often the best tool for covering lots of water.  With that being said, boats are often dependent upon water level.  If your local river is running low, kayak fishing can be an effective method and probably my personal favorite.  If your river is extremely low, wading with a couple friends is about as fun as it gets.  

Whatever you decide on, during the summer it is important to cover more water to catch more channel catfish.  Catching lots of fish and sharing lots of laughs is what fishing is all about. 

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