Feeder Creek Catfishing
Bob McNally 04.05.16
Although catfish can be caught year-round, locating lots of cats is most predictable in spring during the spawn.
Like many freshwater species, catfish have an inborn desire to migrate into current for spawning. In spring, the fish often head “up river” to stream mouths, below dams, and even into canals. On big rivers, small feeder rivers and creeks draw spawning fish.
Depending on how warm the spring season, water temperature, etc., excellent spawning-run catfishing can be had April through June.
Early in the season fish “stage” on broad flats at creek mouths. Usually catfish schools prowl flats, feeding as they mill about waiting to enter creeks for spawning. As water temperatures warm, cats enter creeks and consummate their spawning urges. Following spawning, most cats retreat to deep water. In large rivers cats can move out to main river ledges and drop-offs, or they stack in holes in deeper creeks.
No fancy tactics are needed. Just set baits on bottom, and when cats start to show regularly, you’ll know the feeder creek spring run has started.
Fishing slows for cats on main-river flats by about June because fish have moved into deeper creeks, and that’s where anglers can really mop up.
Much of the best creek catfishing is found in deep holes near flats or close to long, tapering points of land. The outside bends of creeks are good bets for cats, and a fathometer is invaluable in locating hot spots. A “hole” that falls to 15- or 20-feet from an adjacent bottom 8- to 12-feet deep is ideal. Best bet is to anchor up-current of the hole, fishing bottom baits on the “lip” of the drop-off as well as in the hole itself.
For this fishing, stout bass-type tackle often is needed because big cats always are a possibility, and creek debris commonly stacks up around and in a hole.
Catfish, especially channel cats, prefer to spawn in holes in creek banks and around brush, log jams, and other cover. Many feeder creeks have ideal spawning areas close to shore near timber, stumps, and under-cut banks–ideal catfish havens suitable for land-based anglers.