Spring is just around the corner and so is good fishing. There is a growing number of catfish anglers around the country and many enjoy chasing big flatheads when the water starts to warm up. These tips will help you this spring put more and bigger flatheads in the boat but remember keep the small ones to eat and release those big mommas so they can continue the cycle.
SMALL WATERS FIRST: You can extend your flathead catfish fun if you focus on small bodies of water first. The smaller lakes and streams will warm up a lot faster than larger bodies of water. Keep track of water temps on your area waters and when the surface temps reach the 50's the catfish begins to feed-up for the upcoming spawn. These small waters is your best bet early and they can warm up weeks before larger waters. Extend your season with this tip and remember as the small water flatheads begin to spawn and refuse to bite those big waters are just getting warm enough for more action.
AMBUSH POINTS: Flathead catfish are known to be buried in thick cover but during early spring they love to sit in ambush points to gorge on baitfish and worms and any other food that washes by. Look for flathead catfish to position themselves in current breaks behind boulders or around channel swings in the creek, river or stream. A real good spot to find early spring flatheads is at the mouth of incoming creeks. Flathead catfish will hang in the slack water next to this moving water waiting to engulf any type of food that washes by.
SMALLER BAITS: During the early spring flathead catfish have much slower metabolism. Flathead catfish, like other fish, know from instincts how much energy it will use to first catch the prey and then to also digest that prey. You can increase your bites during the early spring by downsizing your bait. Cut-bait will also work on early spring flathead catfish. It seems that the best way to present cut-bait to flathead catfish is throwing into moving water allowing the bait to wash into slack water where the flathead lies in wait to ambush its prey. Flathead catfish, that are in these ambush spots, will engulf the cut-bait without knowing it is dead so take advantage of this during your early spring trips.
UP THE CREEKS: Flathead catfish, more than any of the other catfish species, seek calm water. If you hunt flathead catfish on big rivers they will migrate up smaller tributaries to get out of the turbulent flow from the snow melt and early spring rains. These tributaries may be flowing strong but they will have less turbulent water and more ambush points to hide behind. There have been many big flathead catfish caught in very small tributaries during early spring. They are there you just have to be patient and believe they are there. It is a lot of fun pulling a 30 pounder out of a small creek.
STEEP BANKS: During your hunt for early spring flatheads look for steep banks. Flatheads will move up to feed-up in preparation for the spawn and they will do this near spawning areas. Flathead catfish spawn in holes that they can protect. Steep banks that have large boulders, root wads and even mud that the flathead can dig into is where many of the flatheads in lakes will spawn. Flatheads will spawn in brush in shallow water but the steep banks with a lot of available cover will attract a larger number of flathead catfish. Fish these banks or nearby flats where dead shad, from the winter kill, wash in during early spring. This is another reason cut-bait will work on flatheads in the spring as they are focused on these dead shad this time of year.
These are just a few tips on catching more flathead catfish during the early spring season. I hope this helps you think outside the box when it comes to hunting flathead catfish. These tips are just a starting point for you to help you think about the possibilities you might not have thought of before. I love to hunt flathead catfish and it took these tips from much better anglers than me to help me extend my season. Good luck this spring and get out there a little sooner this year and let me know how you did.
Yellowbelly for Flathead Bait
Questions from Rambling Angler Outdoors Readers
FISHING QUESTION: Are bullheads good bait for spawning flatheads?
ANSWER: Yellowbellys or Bullheads as we call them are great for spawning flatheads or anytime for that matter. The bullheads stay alive much longer and will seek the same areas to hide as their flathead cousins which is right where you want them to go. Be careful though or they could lodge themselves in those hiding spots so keep them moving. Yellowbellys/bullheads are not mentioned as often as other baits I think because they are not as readily available to most flathead anglers but if you can get bullheads then I would say use them all season long for some great flathead action.
FISHING QUESTION: Bobber or bottom for flathead catfish?
ANSWER: This is a great question and one I get a lot. I use a bobber nearly 100% of the time when fishing for flatheads. For one thing I like to watch my bait working so I know it isn’t hung up. I also use the bobber to keep the bait above the gnarly habitat that flatheads love. As far as a lighted bobber I have mixed feelings about those. Some anglers feel that catfish are actually attracted to the light but in my experience the light works great for attracting channels or at least they don’t mind the light but flatheads seem to not be attracted and maybe scared away by it. Just my opinion and when I am fishing at night I am usually fishing in 2 to 3 foot of water where flatheads like to prowl for food. I suppose if you are fishing deeper with a slip bobber the light would be less of a deterrent but I have actually watched big flatheads swimming a couple feet below my bait and would not come up to get it so I blame the light but I'm not positive. I don’t use a light for flatheads and if you keep a bow in your line and all the line above the water you can see (if you use a blacklight) the line jerking from the bait moving or if you have a good sensitive catfish rod then you can actually feel the bait moving. This allows you to maintain a working bait so it can attract those giant flatheads. Hope this helps.
FISHING QUESTION: Water temperature that flatheads spawn?
Answer: I have heard, read and witnessed flatheads spawning at various temps. I have a friend that noodles for huge flatheads and this is how I know that flatheads will spawn from 65 to 80 degrees while 70 degrees seems to be the target temp I would start your search when the water is approaching 65 degrees. It’s sort of like the rut when deer hunting. They say the rut will be the first week in November and usually it is but there is some rutting activities before and after this time frame and you can bet I am in the woods for it. Another good reason to find those early spawners is because you can mark that spot and I can assure you there will be a flathead there the next season. My friend keeps a few of the flatheads he noodles and he can go back within a few days and there is usually another flathead in that hole, even if there are eggs in the hole another flathead will lay her eggs in there with them. Flatheads like to spawn in certain size and types of holes and in an area where they can protect their eggs and if that hole is right then there will be flatheads that use it every year.