Daytime Bluecats

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I thought I'd do another little bit on bluecat fishing in daylight hours ... this can be very tricky to do in some situations. The hardest being calm, clear, hot mid summer days in a clear water environment. I mean the hardest if you're not sure where to look. Situations like this usually make it very easy to find fish because we know that fish don't like direct sunlight. The are very reclusive in situations like this so fishing structure is the most important thing to focus on in a situation like this. Mid to late summer is my line of thinking on this piece when the oxygen level is depleted very badly below 10 ft deep where there's not current at all. This will help you find the fish because they can't be any deeper than 8 to 10 ft so they must look for shelter in the shallows.

Wind creates waves which refract the light more-so than a calm flat water surface does, this effects fish more than a person can realize. I'd imagine it'd effect all other fish as well but I haven't much experience there. The important things to realize is that the calmer and clearer the water is, the tighter fish will hold to structure and I mean they'll be up under rocks, logs, or anything they can find to make them feel more secure. Large bluecat don't get large by being bold and unafraid of anything in their environment so this lets us know we have to fish as close to structure as we possibly can.

When looking for a place to fish in a new area under these conditions I'll look for an area that's shaded most of the day. Hopefully I'll find a shaded area on the back side of a bluff with some kind of broken rock structure or piled up driftwood, logjam or something the fish can get under. Flooded timber is also a good choice of fishing areas in this situation. Not always will you find areas such as this so if you don't there's always someplace that'll be shaded like the back side of boulders. If there is absolutely no structure or shaded areas in clear still water environment that you're fishing then you should focus on fishing the banks at about 6 to 7 ft deep around the small tributary/tributaries and cover some water. Usually small lakes that have little to no structure will have small tributaries feeding it and these tributaries are a lot of times shaded by trees so start there and work your way around the mouth of the tributaries.

Larger environments such as dammed up rivers aren't so technically envolved during this time of year. Usually the fish will be congregated around  any open water source such as water trickling down from tainter gates on a dam or some small feeder creek. Fishing a float and bait shallow around these type places will produce a good amount of fish during the day ... my favorite fishing technique this time of year is a grasshopper under a float thrown right under where a tainter gate is leaking... this creates highly aerated water and the fish are very drawn to it. The fish will hit instantly if I make a good throw and hit directly under the open water source. If I miss a little I'll have to wait until it drifts close to the area, that is, if it'll drift towards the dam at all.

Shallow river fishing is also good this time of year around restrictions in the river. Restrictions that make it hard for the fish to go further upstream like massive log jams with shallow water on the upstream side of the jam. In this situation you'll want to fish directly behind the log jam or if you can place your bait under the backside of it it's even better. Wade fishing is really cool like this. I'd take an old stiff rod and with my bait on a hook with no sinker I'd probe around under the backside of the logjam. I did this in Deep Fork River near where I grew up and was very successful ... the Nerodia water snakes made it a little un-nerving when they'd drop off into the water but they usually won't mess with ya. I tried this in Cimarron also but it was a lot harder there because when a log jam is created in the cimarron all the sand washes out from behind the log jam and it's hard to wade it so the best way to fish that is to walk on the log jam dropping your bait down into the holes. When doing this you need to make sure you have very strong line and rod so you can just horse them out. It's impossible to fish structure like this with anything less than 40 lb test or so... I'd recommend 40 lb test Ande for doing this. Yellow grasshoppers is also my bait of choice for this type fishing because the fish won't hesitate to grab them. If there's any current you'll need to use a sinker but don't use any more of a sinker than you have to.

Reply to a few questions a fellow sportsman had for me:

There's a page already on the tips section about cutting shad heads so that should explain that. When I use shad fillets I normally use the shad gut on the hook first followed by the fillet ... seems to help get bites. don't use skipjack much because we don't have that many where I fish ... keystone is just too muddy most of the time to support skipjack. I use fillets more in the winter when the fish seem to drop the shad heads. Those bites your'e getting that are just pecking at your bait are fiddlers(small fish) big cats usually don't mess around too much. That's also a good indicator on if there's any big cats in the area cause if there were the fiddlers wouldn't be there. If there's no shad at the dam I'll get shad elsewhere... I usually spend a lot of time and effort locating good sources of shad and have the bait tank in the pickup just for that. I keep my bait alive because after it's been dead an hour or so I can't catch any fish on it. Not like I do on live shad and have done many tests on this. That's why I go to such lengths to keep them alive. I normally can catch a fish every fifteen minutes if I'm doing my best to keep the bait fresh and covering a lot of water ... I never let a bait sit for more than 20 minutes because if there was a cat there, around a fresh shad head that I've just thrown out it's almost surely gonna hit it. that is of course unless there's been a cold front come through or they've changed the water discharge pretty abruptly. when you get those little peckerheads messin with ya quite a bit then you know there's no decent fish in the area you're casted to so reel in and throw to a different area ... the fish may also be suspended so you might want to work on a slipcork rig or they may be on top by a water trickle off the dam ... grasshoppers are excellent bait in that situation ... don't know if you have those yellow grasshoppers in your area or not but anything similar will work ... also miniture shad fillets will get pounded by summertime suspended cats if you can get your float and hook close enough to where they're suspending ... a good way to find this out is to get an advantage point somewhere on top of the dam and use some binoculars to see if there's any congregating at the water trickling down from the dam. I don't ever do that but it is an option you may want to do cause I know they're there when the water is hot and they've not got any other open water source .... makes um feel good being in that highly oxygenated water and there's a competition goin on for food when they're all there together ... just like little kids fighting over candy, is the best way I can describe it. I think I'll cut and paste this reply in one of my pages since I've put quite a lot of info here. The thing you should do since you are driving so far is work on a way to keep the shad alive and spend a day or two locating bait sources. you can also ask the local fishermen there where you might be able to acquire bait. Usually, if they're true sportsmen, they won't mind helping a fellow sportsman out. Good Fishin!

That's about all I had on my mind today ... good fishing!

Added March 21, 2006

Best way to find catfish is to find where they're feeding ... nature tells you a lot of things like birds and other fish flopping around ... bait fish will also give you a clue as well as wind and current direction.

here's a little catfishing 101 as I've found it to be the best is to get on the side that the wind is blowing towards. this always seems to be the way the bait fish are headed if the impoundment is an east and west river/lake area and the wind is out of the south then the north side always seems to have most of the activity. I'm not talking about a small river on this deal but more of a lake type situation like where a river runs into the lake ... the north side seems to have the most activity when the wind is out of the south. watch the birds ... if you see gulls feeding in an area that usually means there's fish feeding and causing the shad to swim up to the surface more so than they would normally and when fish are after them they swim side ways and exposing themselves more than if they were unmolested by the fish. when the birds see the shad swimming sideways they can see them in the water a lot easier than if they're just swimming normally so this means there's a lot of fish feeding around where the birds are ... catfish are usually on the downwind side of the birds too or they seem to be more on the north side of the birds when the wind is out of the south. when fish are feeding like that they're not usually in heavy current but just off to one side of it ... they tend to like staying in eddies more so than right out in the direct current so look for anything that disrupts the current so they can sit in comfort in these areas ... watch for the swirls the catfish make when they're feeding and if you see one swirl cast right on top of that swirl ... I've done that a lot of times and before I can set the rod in the rod holder the fish has picked the bait up and ran with it.

when bluecat fishing use fresh cut bait from live shad or if you can find a smallmouth buffalo they love those too ... skipjack is good bait but they're impossible to keep alive so if you catch skipjack put them in a baggy and on ice and they'll last a little longer like that. stay away from prepared baits or store bought baits because they don't work very good ... you'll hear a lot of people saying use hotdogs and soap or spray your bait with wd40 but don't listen to that ... the best bait you can find is already in the water you're going to fish because that's what the fish make a living off of ... they readily feed off natural baits ... they'll eat anything organic eventually but I don't like waiting on eventually so for rod and reel fishing you use your head and stay away from these wive's tale baits and you'll do fine ... read the surroundings and listen to what they're telling you ... don't just go to a spot that's easy access and sit there for a few days thinking the fish are there because most of the time they're not there ... they're where nature tells them to be at any given time due to instincts and conditions. learn to read those conditions and you'll be on your way to becoming a catfisherman.

catfish aren't always bottom feeders and in a lot of situations it's not correct any time as some areas have silt mud on bottom and wind kicks that silt up and creates a thick soup of mud on bottom so suspending the bait about that soup is the best way in a lot of situations ... sometimes float fishing is the best method and use of balloons works really well too like if you're on the south side and the wind is blowing out of the south then you can use balloons to deploy your baits across to the other side by letting your line go and let the balloon and wind pull your bait to the other side then when you get it to where you want it you engage the reel and wait ... you can also drift balloons into actively feeding birds without disrupting the bird activity.

Added March 29, 2006 response to "chicken nuggets for catfish bait"

one of these days them catfish is gonna be able to pull up to a drive-up winder and holler through a macree phone and hear someone say "you want fries with that?"

I'll share a little deal I seen out on the lake this year ... now I got a theory and it's just a theory but I think it's desperation that makes people come up with these outlandish catfish recipes ... I'm not sure why they do that for bass fishin but they don't ... they just do it for catfishing ... for some reason folks think catfish are always in the spot they're in and all they need to do is figure out what kinda outlandish stuff they'll bite on ... now the chicken nugget deal in this situation is probably due to the cook or whomever throwing their garbage off the end of that boat dock for years and creating a conditioned type fishing area to attract and hold fish in a specific area ... you can do this in any area if you chum it with anything organic long enough. but, taking a chicken nugget to a natural fishing environment isn't all that good of a bait. fish in a natural fishing environment under natural conditions eat what is natural forage fish like shad or skipjack or smallmouth buffalo fish. people just assume the fish are always there ... they just need to figure out what they're biting on but that makes as much sense as a bass fisherman going out to a location on the bank and throwing every lure in his tackle box in one specific spot and not catching anything and disregarding fish location completely and then going back home and saying to the wife "the fish just wasn't biting today" you see bass fishermen covering a lot of structure with different lures and more focused on fish location than anything due to the environment they're fishing ... fishing deeper when the water is cold and shallower when it's hot ... catfish are the same ... they move into areas that they can feel secure or where there's a lot of food fish or whatever attracts them to certain areas .. I go out and I read the environment when I go to locate fish and I use kind of a triangulation deal to locate the fish going by bird activity, current, wind direction, forage fish, and surface fish activity and I'm about 75 to 80% accurate on where I stop to fish ... when I take all these things into account like I watch for birds first to see if I see any dive bombing an area ... if you see a lot of birds hovering and hitting the water in an area that usually means there's fish feeding in the area and then I get on the downwind side of the birds and if there's current I try to get off on the eddie side of current where there's something obstructing the flow of water or there's a backwash taking place. in the backwash areas I'll watch for fish activity on the surface if there's no birds and a lot of times you see carp congregated in an area like this and usually if there's carp drawn to an area then catfish are also drawn to the area ... the only fish activity I don't want to see is gar. carp will be in the slower water and the catfish will be just outside where the carp are most abundant ... sometimes I'll slow troll through an area actually looking for catfish to take off away from the boat to see where they're holding ... I offer a 50 lb guarantee on my guide service where if the clients don't catch 50 lbs of fish on rod n reel in 6 hours then they don't have to pay for the trip and even their $50 booking fee is refunded. now I couldn't make such a guarantee if I were using chicken nuggets for bait out there in a natural fishing environment or any other bait than natural bait and if the fish are there it takes less than 15 minutes to know cause they don't mess around when there's a fresh piece of cut shad in the water near them.

This chicken nugget deal reminds me of this fishing trip I took this year where I was scouting around looking for fish the day before I had to take out some clients ... I was out there looking around the cimarron side of keystone and trolling through an area and I hear a horn honking ... I look over to where I'm hearing this and there's three guys in a boat over there and they're goin ... honk honk honk honk so I figure they're in distress so I quit what I'm doing and go over to where they are to see if I can offer assistance ... I holler ... are ya'll alright ... they say yeah why? ... I said cause I heard you honking a horn ... thought maybe you needed help ... one said no ... we're calling catfish ... then they honked the horn again and hollered "here kitty kitty" then I say okay and they thank me for stopping by and then I move off up river and I'm fishing and those guys would move and they'd go ... honk honk honk every place they stopped and then I realize what made them think that'd work ... farmers that have farm ponds and feed fish will honk a horn or the fish will be attracted to the sound of a four wheeler or any number of unique noises a person can make to get the farm raised fish to come over to a certain spot so the farmer can broadcast feed to them ... these guys thought that since that worked on those farm ponds it might work out there on keystone ...well needless to say ... I didn't see them catching any fish but this is about the same type deal with the chicken nuggets ... just cause it works on the dock where the cook or help throws the scraps from their kitchen people just assume chicken nuggets will work anywhere else but you can trust me on this ... just about anywhere else those chicken nuggets won't work ... fish will eventually eat them since they're organic but fish in a natural environment won't be fooled so leave the chicken nuggets at mcdonalds and the horns in the vehicles and read the environment and use fresh cut shad and you'll catch a lot more catfish and don't just assume the fish are there all the time because they're not ... they'll be where nature tells them to be. the only way this will work in any certain environment is if you went and purchase maybe $1000 worth of chicken nuggets and through out about 5 lbs of chicken nuggets in one spot each day until you're on your last 5 lbs of chicken nuggets and the last day you use your last 5 lbs of chicken nuggets for bait and you'll catch fish.


Large cat baits I prefer is Cut smallmouth buffalo or bluegill heads. seems like the cut buffalo works a lot better than most things when you're targeting bigger bluecat ... it takes a little longer to get a bite than if you were using fresh cut shad but usually the fish are a lot bigger. Bluegill heads also produce large bluecat. I'm going out tomorrow and spending the day to catch bluegill for my next few trips. The thing about buffalo though is it's a treat for me to catch one as I don't catch them that often in keystone because usually I'll get a carp before I'll get a buffalo and carp doesn't seem to work nearly as well as the buffalo even though they're a similar species of fish. I think the bluecat's taste evolves as they get bigger and they'll feed more on large species than their food they eat in the range of 3 to 10 lbs ... 3 to 10 lbs their main food is usually shad where I fish but once they get over that 10 lb threshold they seem to prefer the buffalo as that becomes one of their prey species due to their size. bait size is also a factor when fishing during their aggressive feeding times of year from march to late may and october to late december. they seem to go after larger species during this time frame. Always use fresh bait too when fishing ... bait that's been dead more than 2 hours is not very good for rod n reel fishing. cut carp also works pretty well but my preference is the cut smallmouth buffalo .. second is bluegill and third is carp for bigguns. you also have to locate the bigger fish ... they're not usually runnin with smaller fish and are loners more so than the smaller ones as well. it takes a lot of time sometimes to locate big fish in heavily fished areas ... the big fish will dominate the very best locations in the lake you're fishing. in big waters that has few prime locations then you'll see lots of big fish in one area but that doesn't happen too often when the fish are under a lot of fishing pressure where they're being harvested. when they're on the move due to a fresh rain or something of that nature you'll find them running together a lot of times but when there's not anything like that they'll be in their prime structure areas like around stumps or something of this nature when the water is clear ... water clarity also plays a big part as to the fish's habits and locations ... in clear water they'll be holding tight to structure during the day and on bright moonlit nights .. that's one of the reasons why people don't do so well on full moon nights is because they're just fishing in any old spot just hoping that they'll come through like path type fishing areas like rivers. when it's a full moon with no cloud cover in clear water they'll be acting as though it's a daytime pattern and you'll have to fish the good structure and right on it too ... catfish don't seem to like direct sunlight at all ... wind also plays a roll in this as well in clear water ... on calm days they'll just be laying under stuff like docks of piers but if there's a little chop on the water on a clear day in clear water the light is refracted and they don't seem to like that so they'll get right in stuff like moss or whatever they can to get out of that refracted light .. in muddy water they don't pay any attention to whether it's night or day ... they'll actively feed during the day in muddy water ... I guess they're like little kids .. like if a little kid closes his eyes he'll say ... I can't see you so you can't see me ... I guess if the catfish can't see very far they feel nothing else can see them or something like that so knowing all this stuff will help you locate the fish a lot easier ... clear days with no wind the fish are under stuff and trying to stay out of the light .. on windy days/clear water/ bright sunlight / these are the days when you need to focus on putting the bait right on their nose or fish on the shaded side of cliffs or whatever is available for them to hide in ... usually when its like that it's just tough fishin ... in muddy water you look for baitfish and you usually find the catfish around them or in areas that hold a good amount of forage fish like bluegill or some other type of fish that they catfish like to feed on ... for large flathead 1 to 2 lb bluecat or channelcat are good baits as well as live bluegill.

Added Aug 3, 2006

the daytime fishing can be pretty good with a little info on it ... when fishing in the day time you have to be aware that catfish really don't like direct sunlight .. this makes it easier to find them sometimes as sometimes you'll find them bunched up ... I do the majority of my fishing during the day and actually do better than I do at night most of the time. when daytime fishing the water clarity has a lot to do with where you fish ... if the water is really muddy then the fish feel like they can move around ... they're like little kids that close their eyes to hide from you ... they think if they can't see you then you can't see them. when I was young and snorkling around in my grandpaw's pond it was really clear and I could see the fish ... we had a bunch of channelcat in the pond and you could see them directly under stuff like logs and we had a little diving platform type dock out there ... the following day the wind was kicked up a little causing some waves to refract the light around and the fish weren't under stuff any longer ... they were gone and the only place they could have been was in the moss. so this makes fishing for them pretty tough in clear water during the day. when you know they're going to be in really dark places then that's where you fish ... right beside big rocks on the upstream side of it so the current will carry the scent of your bait down under or around the rock/boulder or log ... they'll be right in the stuff and may be reluctant to come out to get a bait but if it's a fresh bait like a shad head they can't hardly resist that ... if the water is muddy you can look for the fish out on shallow flats. don't invest too much time in one spot ... that's one of the things I see most catfishermen do ... they'll sit on a spot for hours on end and sometimes days and if the fish are there they'll hit within 30 minutes ... don't sit there all day thinking the fish are there and you just gotta wait for them to bite because if they're there they'll bite pretty quick. watch for things like gulls dive bombing an area also in the cooler times of year ... that's a sure sign that fish are feeding in the area and get on the downwind side of the birds and work that area over real good ... watch for surface activity across shallow flats if you have any ... that'll give you an idea of what's around you ... if you see a lot of carp surfacing and jumping in an area then there may be something there that's attracting the catfish as well. fish along the outskirts of where you see the carp activity and be sure when you stop and fish an area to keep an eye out for any of this kind of stuff goin on.

fish tight to structure in clear water during the day and on the shaded side of large objects too. if you know the lake's bottom contour then you could possibly fish some humps or points that are deep in murky water ... current eddys off points are good during the day in murky to muddy water where there are some shad off the points on the slack water side of the current eddys ... this would be a hot spot sometimes. when I'm guiding I like to find really active fish and I don't mess around too much with "likely looking spots" and if I'm fishing an area I don't really like stopping unless there's something there telling me that there's fish in the area ... you can't see these things at night most of the time. that's why I like daytime fishing because I can see what's going on across the lake.

another thing is to learn a lake or river ... what I mean by that is learn how the fish react to weather changes on one particular environment by fishing it as much as possible and paying attention to everything. analyse everything. watch for everything ... even watch your wake as you slowly move through an area .. watch out to the side of your boat when you're slowly moving through an area ... if you see fish take off after the boat has moved past them then that's almost always catfish ... they won't move or get spooked until the boat goes by them. carp and everything else will be gone by the time the boat gets close to them but catfish don't. they'll wait until the exhaust of your motor gets even with them before they'll bolt and you can see the swirl they make in the water a lot of times if the water is like 5 ft deep or less. if you see two or three within 50 yds take off after the boat goes by then that's a good spot to fish because there's usually a bunch of fish there. there'll be something there that's drawing them to that area and if you can figure out what it is then you'll be that much further ahead ... pay attention to the depth and contour of the bottom in areas where you find the fish.

if you have a fresh flood that causes some good run-off then search for freshly flooded vegetation ... the fish will eventually be up in there feeding on worms and vegetation within 3 to 7 days of the flood ... when you get a flood like this of 1 or 2 inches the rivers will be a good place to fish until the river crests ... when the river crests it's a natural instinct the fish have to pull back to their normal hang-outs like deeper holes or back to the main part of the lake across flooded vegetation but that's always 3 to 7 days after the flood when you'll be able to catch a lot of fish in the flooded vegies. maybe the fish will hold in these flooded areas for up to 3 or 4 weeks also.

don't mess with a bunch of baits either or get drawn into the prepared bait thing or commercial type baits ... the best baits you can use reside in the waters you're fishing ... nightcrawlers are the exception to store bought baits in my oppinion ... they have their place in my fishing arsenal but only on those flooded plaines or precrest river fishing ... nightcrawlers or better yet ... earthworms that you can dig around home work really well when fishing precrest flooding rivers or flooded plains with vegetation on them like weeds and stuff ... on keystone we get a lot of areas that get exposed to the air when the water is getting low and it gets overgrown with cuckleburr weeds ... catfish love feeding on that stuff after it's been underwater for a while ... dandelion weeds are another kind of weed that grows on keystone islands after the water goes down a little bit and the bluecat and channelcat actually gorge themselves on that stuff. if you find these areas with shad up in the vegetation that's another draw for the fish ... find an area that's been flooded like this with vegetaion, shad, current eddy and slackwater right over the flooded vegetation with a good current just outside this area then you will think you've died and gone to catfish heaven.

spend the time and effort it takes to catch your bait from the reservoir you're fishing whether it's shad, skipjack, bluegill or cut carp or smallmouth buffalo and keep it alive if you can ... skipjack you can't keep alive but you can put it in a baggy on ice and that'll work pretty good but be very particular about your bait and stay away from multiple magic potion seeking as there is nothing that catches fish like fresh cut shad or any of the bait I've mentioned ... absolutely nothing ... spend your efforts on learning the fish's habits instead of seeking some hocus pocus remedy because that slows down the learning process ... don't fish an area thinking the fish are there and you just need to figure out what they're biting on because that's never the case ... if the fish are there they'll eat fresh cut shad ... they're always feeding on fresh cut shad because that's catfish candy. when I locate the fish on keystone and throw a shad head out about 1/4 of the time I'll not even have time to set the rod in the holder ... they bite that quick when they're there. if you're in an area for 30 to 45 minutes and haven't caught any fish on fresh cut shad then you can pretty much be assured that there are no fish in the area ... like if you broadcast 6 poles and it takes say 15 minutes to get the rigs checked for hook sharpness and your line is free of nicks and abrasions and then you get all 6 poles out with fresh cut shad heads and wait 15 to 30 minutes and haven't gotten bit then reel them in and move. if you're fishing shallow flats anchor fishing and broadcast your poles try to cast them as far as possible away from the boat ... you'll cover more water like that and sometimes you'll get fish on one or two poles and none of the others get hit then when the bite slows you can move in the direction you were getting the hits and bust them up but good. cast as far away from the boat that you can and use a rig like this one.

this is the bottom float rig where you use a crappie float attached to the line just above the hook that's tied on with a dropper loop and sinker 1.5 or 2 ft below the hook ... when fishing really soft muddy bottoms or vegetation you need your bait to be way up off bottom and use a 3 to 4 oz sinker at least so you can get some distance on your cast. using a carolina rig in soft muddy bottom areas or vegetation or rocky areas will allow the bait to fall down into the debris or rocks or settle into the mud and the fish can't get to your bait.

"tiny" Tim Smith