Mid-summer, whether there are cool air temperatures or hot ones, remains prime season for catfish angling.
Last weekend, yours truly waded the Vermilion River near Lowell looking for deep holes where smallmouth might lurk, and what I got – in addition to a soggy pair of shoes – were a few small but feisty channel cats. (I was hunting in a spot I'd never tried before.)
Though I usually fish for smallmouth using marabou jigs (I like black best), crayfish imitation jigs or jig-and-Gulp minnow combinations, I tried something different for the Vermilion, going back to the basic night crawler. There are so many nice catfish in the Vermilion that I didn't want to use baits that limit the likelihood of catching both walleye and smallmouth.
Anyway, in streams, the catfish tend to congregate below riffles or in eddies alongside riffles.
The most popular baits tend to be prepared stink baits, cut bait, chicken liver, crawlers and cheese baits, and a lot of anglers never fish for catfish any way other than still fishing on the bottom with sinkers.
In streams, however, I have had a lot of luck and covered a lot of territory using a bobber (by keeping moving, trying new places and not getting snagged). Growing on the Fabius River in northeast Missouri, my cousin went against traditional methods in August, using light tackle, a bobber and grasshoppers for bait. Of course, that country boy also fished the bottom sometimes and certainly knew how to run a trot line.
Grasshoppers, crickets and floating grasshopper or cricket imitations or flies are great baits from this time of year until the first frost for bass, bluegill, etc., too. Sometimes when the fish are near shore near grass and dining on crickets, that seems to be just about the only thing they want, in fact. … Just something to keep in mind in late summer if you’re out on a beautiful day and find yourself perplexed about what the fish are doing.
Back to the catfish. On the 21st, most all of the teams of the Illinois Valley Catfish Trail tournament on theIllinois River weighed in five-fish limits surpassing 20 pounds.
I asked cat-catcher Mike Crickman about where the big-river catfish go during hot summer months.
He replied: “Catfish do not migrate and school together during spawn like walleye and sauger do. Right now catfish have all spawned out and going a little deeper best spots being inside and outside river bends where the ledges and drop-offs are. By rule during cold fall and winter months catfish prefer very deep holes. During spawn they tend to hang around shallower water and after the spawn they go slightly deeper such as river bends as I stated.”
For tournament results and photos, check www.ivct.webs.com.
** A La Salle-Peru man with a knack for catching more fish than everybody else and for switching depths and tactics frequently, John Swietek, told me this week he and fishing partners had found a few spots on a popular lake in the region where they’ve been catching crappie like crazy. So, at least for him, crappie are not just a fall and spring quarry. Swietek told me not to tell where exactly he was catching them, but he was hooking them “near wood.”