Catman Lange's June, 2003 Lake Monroe Flathead Catch:
47.5 lbs., 44 inches


As the weather cools and the amount of daylight shortens, catfish, especially the big ones, become more active eaters, and our larger reservoirs and rivers are loaded with trophy-sized specimens that will make your reelís drag scream and stretch that 50-lb. test line.

Steve Lang, a devoted Lake Monroe catfisherman, landed a 32-pound flathead at Monroe last week. The 42-inch monster was the top fish in a catch that included another flathead of about 15 pounds and "a couple of decent blues and channels around 10 pounds."

"Yes, that flathead was a dandy, indeed. It seemed like it took about 20 minutes to get him in. It always seems a lot longer when it is happening, so it is hard to say for sure. He did get hung up for awhile, and I thought I was snagged on a log. I let out some slack and waited. About 5 minutes later the pole doubled over and the fight was back on. Used medium sized spinning reels lined with 50-lb. spiderwire, egg sinkers and 24 inch leaders with circle hooks. Bait was big bluegills," Lang told me.

Circle hooks are all the rage lately, mainly because they tend not to gut-hook fish. Because of their shape, they can be pulled through a fishís gullet without doing damage and end up hooking the fish in the lip. These hooks do work and should probably be used in live bait fishing for all species, just to avoid killing the small ones you donít want or canít keep because of size limits.

I have heard reports of more big flatheads being caught at both Monroe and Cataract, and fishing activity on the White Riverís west fork near Martinsville has been heavy for a month. They are also biting near Worthington and Freedom in Owen and Greene counties, and catfishing has been decent on the East Fork of White River, especially around Williams where lots of anglers congregate because of the river access there.

There is a certain art to catching big catfish, and the main points of this art include three variables Ė time of day, where to fish and what bait to use.

*Time of day: While I used to think that night was the best time to fish for catfish, the fact is that most of the big cats caught and reported in recent years have been caught during daylight, especially in the morning before noon and around sundown. Some anglers say you can catch big catfish anytime, but it is true that the big ones are more often found in shallower water when the sunís angle is low.

*Where to fish: In lakes, catfish may stack up in deep holes at any time of the day, but they prowl shallow flats and points where the food is located early in the morning and at dusk. They remain in shallow water during the night, but they are more scattered as the evening progresses. The time to hunt them is when they are moving to and from these feeding areas. This does not mean you canít catch big cats during the middle of the day, especially as fall nears, but fishing deeper water isnít always the best place to do it. Move up and down likely catfish habitat until you find the right depth.

Rivers offer a slightly different challenge. You are fishing moving water, but the catfish still feed where they find food. These places are most often eddies around the main current, especially eddies with deeper water near or below a shoal. The spot just below Williams dam is an excellent example of a spot with major eddies near fast moving water.

*Bait: You can buy all kinds of catfish bait, from blood-based to cheese-based products, but the best catfish bait I know of is a bluegill. Thatís what Steve Lang uses, big bluegills fished on the bottom. Another very successful catfisherman I met years ago saves the rib meat from his bluegill fillets and uses those rib portions, fished on the bottom. Another expert showed me an odd method used in Oklahoma. The bait is made from chicken droppings aged in water. It is a liquid, awful-smelling brew. He soaked small sponges in this stuff and put the sponge on the hook. He always claimed it was a sure-fire method of catching big cats.

One last note from Lang: "Unfortunately, I had laser eye surgery this week (successful, no big deal really), so I have to let that heal up right when they are really biting. Oh well. They'll be waiting for me."

Theyíll be waiting for you too, so if you like the challenge of hooking the biggest fish in our waters, bait up for Mr. Whiskers soon.

© 2002. 2003 through 2009. Copyright Donald Lee Jordan

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