By Josh Boyd
Every year, hot summer days signal the arrival of even hotter catfishing action. For many, heading to the nearest fishing hole in a bid to land the main course for a summer fish fry is an annual tradition. In any event, a good day of catfishing is hard to beat, and there are few better times of the year to experience such favorable fishing action than right now.
However, what far fewer anglers realize is that there is much more to catfishing than simply sitting on the bank in the mid-afternoon sunshine. On the contrary, there are several different methods to note for catching catfish during a midsummer’s heatwave.
By familiarizing yourself with these various methods, you will be better equipped to find success on the water and put more catfish on the stringer.
Night fishing is an excellent way of catching catfish during the dog days of summer. During the swelter of the midday sun, it is common for catfish to hold at greater depths where the water is substantially cooler. However, as darkness falls, temperatures drop. This coaxes many catfish up to the shallows where they seek out an easy meal on the backshift.
A rod and reel or two, strung with a 20-pound or greater line is considered standard when night fishing for catfish. An angler’s selection of bait often comes down to personal preference. However, nightcrawlers and chicken livers are among some of the most highly favored options. Many who are specifically targeting flatheads prefer live bait such as small bluegill.
It is also important to bring along a few necessities relating to comfort when night fishing. A comfortable chair is a must, as long periods of inactivity can take place in between bites. A quality headlamp or lantern is also helpful, as feeling your way blindly in the midnight darkness is of little fun. Additionally, a can of quality bug spray can literally save your outing, as bugs will almost certainly swarm your light source in a matter of minutes.
When night fishing, you must always have a way to quickly tell when you are getting a bite. Specialized glow-lights and bells are made specifically for this purpose. When using a glow-light affixed to your rod tip, any motion will be easily discernible. Likewise, a bell will give off an audible alarm when a rod tip bobs up and down.
Virtually any area that features a shallow flat within close proximity to a river or creek channel is a prime nighttime catfishing location. By casting close to the drop-off point for these channels, cats that venture to the shallows for a meal are presented with a tempting offering at the end of your line.
Drift fishing is another effective way of boating catfish during the summer of the year. This technique involves slowly moving your boat while your baited hook is dropped below. The idea of this tactic is to put your bait in front of the greatest number of catfish possible, to draw a strike. In theory, you are taking your bait to the catfish, as opposed to waiting for them to find it on their own.
Several different drift fishing techniques exist, with some being more popular regionally than others. Some anglers prefer vertical drifting with their rods in rod holders, and their bait positioned just above the bottom below. Others, however, choose to drag their bait along the bottom behind the boat, while fishing a long, yet sensitive pole, feeling their way while trolling along.
No matter the chosen method, rigging typically includes the use of a weight tied in below a swivel, that is intended to drag the bottom. A secondary leader is then tied into the swivel, allowing the bait to trail the remainder of the rig, floating just above the bottom when drifted.
Alternatively, some methods of drifting call for an angler’s weight to be suspended slightly above the bottom. This is done most prominently when basing your efforts off of working knowledge of the thermocline depth. Doing so focuses the presentation of your bait at depths where catfish are suspending.
Targeting Specific Fishing
Many anglers think of catfishing as a “sit and wait” sort of proposition. While this method of fishing can certainly be effective when in the right spot, catfishermen can find much luck during the summer by covering ground based upon a knowledge of the body of water that is being fished.
Much like bass fishermen, those with a hankering for a fresh catfish dinner can drum up their own luck by targeting one specific area after the next, that presents ideal conditions for summer cats. Many of these areas can be located by understanding how the thermocline affects a given body of water. By knowing at what depth the thermocline is situated, a fisherman can target brush piles along drop-offs that are located just a few feet shallower than this point.
By knowing where the thermocline lies, you can cut out significant areas that are unlikely to hold fish and make better use of your time. If one location does not produce within a certain period, you can simply move to the next predetermined location.
Alternatively, an angler that is familiar with a particular body of water can target areas that are likely to present water with a higher oxygen saturation rate. Such locations include areas directly downstream of a dam, segments of water influx like a creek or river drainages, and even cooler areas, such as those that are heavily shaded.
Multiple Schools of Thought
Catfishing action can be at a near peak during the hot summer months, and numerous anglers flock to their local fishing holes to catch a number of these delicious whisker fish. However, many rely upon the same tactics year after year, even if their efforts go unrewarded.
This summer, try switching up your approach to catfishing, by giving any or all of the abovementioned tactics a try. With an ample dose of perseverance, and a little luck, you will be well on your way to a date with the deep fryer in the days to come.