Winter Blue Cats
Winter Catfishing is one of the most exciting times of the year to catch the bigger blue cats in your river system. These fish are aggressive feeders even when the water temperature is in the mid to upper 30’s. Hold on for a few moments and lets get started on where, how to find them and baits. We’ll cover tackle, after figuring out where to locate these winter cats.
River systems without dikes will hold cats in the outside bends, inside bends, drop-offs, and deep ledges with structure. Smaller holes or depressions in the in the bottom of the river can be excellent places for cats to congregate or for a couple of big fish to hold.
First let’s look at outside and inside bends, you’ll want to drift these areas or anchor. When drifting you want to control your drift with the trolling motor and hold at the edge of the deepest part of the bend looking for rock or wood structure on your depth finder. Eagle Classic, Optima or Lowrance X91 work well for me locating this type of structure. Generally you will catch the larger fish around these types of structures.
Anchoring technique is another favorite method of wintertime catfishing especially when the water temperature is below the 55-degree mark. There are many ways to start out fishing these outside and inside bends one of my favorite ways is to fish 3 to 4 poles using Driftmaster Rod Holders 25 to 30 degree angle to avoid loosing equipment. Let’s say the deepest part of the bend is 50’ and we anchor in the mid depth at 25’. We would then cast out a pole directly behind the boat, one to the left and one to the right. You have just covered three different depths with this method. You should have one pole in the 10’, 25’ and 50’ range. Time depending on the hole we would want to sit for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 45, if this had been a productive spot in the past. Continue to move down the bend to where you last cast to and re-anchor the boat at the mid-depth range 3 to 4 times. You’ll locate the best spots to fish using this technique and be sure to use landmarks on the bank or GPS to go back to these hotspots that you have located.
Deep ledges and deep holes in the bottom of the river will hold winter cats. Deep ledges can be found below bends and will often have eddie water and wood structure piled up in them. On the other hand deep holes or depressions scattered up and down the river are excellent places for cats to congregate. You can drift or anchor using the method described in the previous paragraph. The smaller the hole or depression the fewer the fish and bigger fish will often relate to the smaller holes. Remember a hole doesn’t have to be length of a football field, it can be a drop in the bottom of the river with only 5 to 6’ wide at the deepest point. You can usually fish 4 rods in this situation, position 2 at the top of the hole where the drop-off starts and two in the bottom of the hole and give the fish 30 to 45 minutes to hit then go to the next hole.
Baits will include your usual smorgasbord for catfish. Shad, skipjack, fresh chicken, turkey, and rooster livers. The rule of thumb here is if you want to catch eating size fish use the smaller size of baits and you will catch an occasional big fish to boot. I’m a firm believer if you want to catch big fish use the big bait. How big, as big as your tackle can handle. Live or cut bait will work for these big blue cats.
Tackle for these wintertime cats will vary depending on the method you use and size of fish you are after. For drift fishing medium action rods are used in low to moderate current, another reason for using them in these conditions is the fish aren’t as apt to let go of the bait if your were using a stiffer rod. I prefer a long handle that I can tuck up under my forearm for support. Heavy action rods are preferred when you know bigger fish are in the area or you are fishing heavy current.
For anchor type fishing you can use the e-glass type rods such as the Cabela’s King Kat combo’s work well for light to moderate current conditions. Quantum Big Cat rods #3 or # 4 for heavy current conditions. Load these rods up with Quantum Iron series or 7000 ABU reels and they will take care of the job of handling big fish in heavy current.
Line and Hooks are critical parts of being successful. I prefer braid super lines for my main line and tie off from a 2 or three way swivel to my hook or lead leader with mono so I can break away when hung up in structure. Braid lines that have proven effective are Cabela’s SI Braid, Spiderwire and Whiplash. Generally the braid is higher but in return you will 2 to3 times more fishing out of a spool of braid than monofiliment. Kale hooks are an all time favorite, with many good brands to choose from. Super sharp hooks are a great addition to your tackle box, Daiichi and Cabela’s Pierce brand have some great hooks for catfishing. Daiichi octopus wide is available up to 8/0 in bleeding bait series and black carbon. Bleeding bait series circle wide is available up to 5/0 size. Improved circle hooks are available up to 11/0. Cabela’s Pierce brand favorites are UEC 384 turned up eye circle, LB199 octopus live bait, WGK 750 kale and REC 381 circle hook.
Last but not least have an oversized dip net on hand, Cablea’s Pro Series big fish or salmon series nets will land that once in a lifetime cat. Frabill makes large nets with handles that extend up to 96”. Whatever brand you choose don’t go catfishing without one of these super size nets and get your heart broke because you couldn’t get the fish’s head in that smaller dip net. We should do our best to preserve these big fish by releasing them after a few photos, they will not grow if you don’t.
Remember… “You can’t catch ‘em at the house”.
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34 CR 109
Corinth, MS 38834