Where to find the hot water catfish!
By Chad D. Ferguson
This time of the year, many of the local lakes see dramatic changes in water temp. Now that we seem to be past our several weeks of unusually cool weather and the heavy rains have passed, the area lakes will move into their hot summertime patterns.
Many of the lakes and reservoirs see temperature rises as much as 20 degrees in just a few weeks, and our area lakes have reached very warm water temps as of this writing, and it will only go up until late September when the weather begins to cool.
With this hot weather the lakes stratifies. Basically what this means is that in deep water, there becomes a point where the deep water is much colder than the more shallow water above. What this does is creates a deep layer of water that is cold, and has a poor oxygen content and the temperature decreases rapidly as the water gets deeper. The warmer water above it will have higher oxygen content.
In deep water when the lake stratifies a thermocline is created. The thermocline is the point where the water has stratified, and will be an almost definite line where the water changes from the cold oxygen poor water, to the warmer oxygen rich water.
You are probably asking at this point "what does this have to do with me and catching catfish?". Well the point if all this scientific rambling is that fish require water with high levels of oxygen. If you are fishing the area lakes this summer in the deeper water (15 or more feet) you need to have good electronics or "depth finders" on board to be on the lookout for the thermocline. The thermocline will present on your electronics like a hazy line down towards the deeper water.
There is no magic depth to know where it presents in every lake because it is dependent on water temperature and depth, but several things hold true, it will be in the deeper water, and if you look for it you will see it. Your electronics will display the bottom and top of the water, and somewhere in between you will see a definite line, this is the thermocline.
With the stratified water and thermocline present, you will have to remember that the fish will not be feeding below the thermocline, because there is not enough oxygen present for them to survive. They may dive down into the deeper less oxygen rich water, but they will not stay there.
The best way to fish this deeper stratified water is to cruise the deeper water and look for schools of fish on your electronics. Once you locate these schools of fish, determine the depth of the thermocline and fish two to three feet above it, because this is typically where the fish will hold in these water conditions.
Many people have the misconception that once the weather gets hot, all the fish move out into deep water and this is most certainly not the case. I come across more people complaining about not catching fish in the heat of the summer and then find that they are fishing in twenty-five and thirty feet of water below the thermocline, where the fish just are not holding.
The catfish will in fact be in the deeper water during the heat of the day, because the shallow water will lose oxygen during the heat, but you can still fill your boat up with a hefty load of fish if you plan your fishing right.
I fish shallow water year round and it is rare that you will catch me in more than ten feet of water. The reason being is I fish at night after dark in the heat of the summer, and during the day in the colder weather, and both times the fish will be feeding in shallow water.
During this heat, the catfish will be best caught at night after dark in the shallow water. They will bite just about anything that moves or smells and if you do some chumming, you will help draw the catfish in a more concentrated area. Don't be afraid to move up in the shallow waters and fish right up towards the banks in just a few feet of water. The last several months have been producing nice catches of big fish for me in less then five feet of water.
If you choose to fish during the day and endure the August heat, you can still catch fish in the heat of the day as well. The biggest drawback to this daytime fishing is it is much less comfortable for the angler. To locate the catfish during the heat of the day, rely on shadows, and just a bit deeper water. I will be looking for water that is 10-15 feet deep and has good cover. Looking for boat docks, standing timber and other such cover during the day will help you find the catfish lurking in the shadows. Stand out in the sun for 10 minutes in the August heat, and you will have a pretty good idea why these cats are up in the shadows.
Fishing just above the thermocline will produce some nice fish if you work at it; the depth you fish is just a matter of preference. Getting ten serious anglers in a room to all agree on something can probably never be accomplished but understand the water and how the oxygen levels are affected by the heat will help you in making your determination in where you spend your day or night fishing.
For more information on Catfishing or to get local fishing reports, log on to www.whiskerkitty.com or call Chad Ferguson at 817-306-0325