Come July, many outdoorsmen are focused on spending time with their families through camping, grilling out, and enjoying the weather. I am certainly no exception. However, the post celebratory Independence Day family bonding shouldn’t stop there. At this time, catfish enthusiasts are switching gears from the hot flathead spawning bite.
Flatheads often hold tight to cover during this time and find nearby rocks to spawn. When the water temperature reaches 64 degrees, they begin their spawn, which lasts about three weeks. During this time, setting bank lines is the most popular form of targeting monster flatheads. Those who dare target these river monsters with a rod and reel must be ready for a fight of their life.
Post-spawn flatheads will venture off their rocky spawning areas back to their thick cover, which most call home. Downed trees, current seems, deep holes, and dams are great places to start your search. As with any time of the year, live bait is a must for catching trophy flatheads. I prefer 5-9 inch bullheads when available. Bullheads skin is tough, and they tend to stay alive much longer then a bluegill. Please check your states regulations before choosing your bait. I prefer using an 8-9 foot heavy catfish rod paired with 80-pound super-line braid. The best rods I have found are Rippin Lips Fishing products. They make a wide variety of heavy-duty rods for all my needs and have excellent customer service. Spending a little more on a quality product like this is a necessity when targeting these massive creatures. The last thing you want is a snapped rod and lost fish when you hook into a 70 pounder.
Once my equipment is ready for use, I rig up a simple 3-5oz slip sinker system with a swivel and 2-3 foot leader. Try targeting flatheads at night, my favorite times are from dark to midnight and 3am to sunrise. Of course, they bite all night if you are able to stay on the water! Patience is key here; don’t expect hot and heavy action. Once you lace into one of these, you’ll be hooked for life.
For faster paced action, try chasing channel cats. They always provide a tasty meal and don’t require live bait. The mid-summer bite is better then most people think! I target current eddies, deeper holes, and dams for channels this time of year. Cut shad is my personal favorite bait. Stink-bait will also work, although I have noticed a significant decrease in my average sized fish with stink-bait compared to whole or cut shad. Stink-bait will also require frequent re-baiting.
Next time you plan a fishing or camping trip don’t forget about the overlooked catfish! They are often easy to catch and can provide ample amounts of fast paced action for the whole family.
My good friend and fishing buddy Tanner Steckly, along with his brother, Kevin, caught this absolute giant- once in a lifetime flathead. Himself and his brother set the hook on this beast two years ago, on July 31st at 10:45pm on the Iowa river in Iowa city. The fish bottomed out his 60-pound scale, but was estimated to weigh between 68-74 pounds. Personally, I can’t fathom what my reaction would be if I were to experience catching this class size of a flathead. For now, I will only dream of such an experience and continue put time in on the water.
Good luck to everyone on the water and stay safe!
Team Yukon Outdoors