Every year when the dog days of summer set in I start to see the same questions and comments from catfish anglers all over the country.
Many struggle with locating and catching catfish at all, many struggle catching the species of catfish they want to catch or consistently catching catfish. Then there’s the group that wants to catch big catfish and don’t seem to have any success at all and they’re frustrated.
Here in Texas the latter part of August is brutal. It’s like living on the sun and a long hot stretch of 100+ degree days, no rain and miserable heat makes it even worse to endure. Many other areas have the same challenges during this time and it leaves anglers scratching their heads on what to do how to catch catfish.
Those that have been following me for a while know that one of the things I do is tailor my target species to the time of year I am fishing. This is a productive approach to catfish fishing regardless of where you live.
You can go out and just “try to catch fish” or you can target the species of catfish that is going to be easiest to catch during that time and leverage the fishing in your favor. There are countless seasonal examples of this.
Early summer is a great example as this is when the blue catfish are spawning in many parts of the country. The blue catfish bite can be very tough during this time so you have two choices, keep targeting the blues and deal with the challenges, or target another species of catfish or fish until the blue catfish come off their beds.
If you’re dealing with extreme heat and it’s not tolerable to be outside during the day this adds frustration to the dog days of summer as well.
Looking Forward To Fall and Winter Catfish Action
Something that drives me during the end of the summer and keeps me going is the fact that cooling weather and better fishing is just around the corner. Being an avid outdoorsman there’s great things in store for the months ahead.
Dove season opens in a few weeks here. The dove opener is like a state holiday in Texas.
Cooling weather is coming and this drop in water temperature spurs some red hot catfish action. There’s a sign that fall is approaching which provides some amazing flathead and blue catfish action. The channel catfish bite is amazing also through the next several months.
The bite that occurs in mid to late fall for flathead catfish is nothing short of spectacular. The fish are bigger than they’ll be the entire year, they’re aggressive and feeding heavily. The mid to late fall bite is second to none when it comes to catching flatheads.
Blue catfish action gets better with ever single drop in the water temperature and the cold water period offers the best catfish action of the year for catching trophy class blue catfish in many parts of the country. Catching numbers of blues is also easy and the fishing is a blast. The fish are easy to pattern and locate as well.
The cooling temps are a perfect storm that kick off a 9-10 month period that’s far better than the summer in many areas of the country.
9 Late Summer Catfish Fishing Tips
Here’s the 9 tips to get you started on the path to success and start catching more and bigger catfish. Whether you fish for blues, channels or flatheads there are some good tips to up your game and start putting more fish on the end of your line.
Leverage The Heat For Channel Catfish
Catching channels in the late summer usually offers some excellent action. You can catch a lot of fish in a short time period and catching larger channel catfish is an option as well. The trick to consistency in the heat of the summer is to leverage the heat, the behavior of channel catfish in the heat of the summer.
These fish will flock to areas with high oxygen levels and also “safe harbor” from the heat. Pay close attention to when and where you catch fish and put the patterns together when you are fishing in the heat.
Finding cooler water, cover or even areas with higher oxygen concentration can make all of the difference when targeting summer channel catfish.
Punch The Channel Catfish
Fishing the summer heat provides many opportunities and learning to leverage opportunities in any weather pattern or season is one of the main keys to being a great anglers.
Scent travels farther in warm than it does colder water. The scent of any bait is “amplified” and has a further reach. When using something for catfish bait with a very strong scent you simply have that much more “power” in drawing in fish.
This makes the late summer a great time for catching channel catfish with prepared baits or what many anglers call “stink bait”. Prepared baits work very well for catching numbers of channel catfish in no time at all.
My preference is “punch” style baits like Team Catfish Sudden Impact Fiber Bait, Benny Robert’s Sure Shot or CJ’s Bait but there are many other good options as well.
Rigging up with a slip bobber rig or my preference, the Secret Catfish Rig and a #6 treble hook and finesse fishing summer channel catfish haunts provides some quick action to keep you busy in the heat of the summer.
Chum Them Up
With the scent carrying further in warmer water this makes chumming or baiting a hole for catfish very effective. It’s not a technique that usually brings in monster catfish, but for fast action in the hot summer it’s a great option.
Use some soured wheat, milo or range cubes and chum a few areas to fish and one of them will usually produce. Experiment with cover, structure and locations to learn what works best and then rinse and repeat.
Baiting a hole or repeatedly throwing chum in an area for an extended period of time is a good option during this time as well. Baiting a hole for channel catfish will produce excellent fishing as long as you keep baiting.
Fishing baited catfish holes during the end of the summer is a trick used by catfish guides throughout the south to help deal with the challenges of the summer.
Time The Flathead Catfish
The late summer bite for flathead catfish can be very good. Like all fishing for flathead catfish it can be slow at times as well with a lot of sitting and waiting. The rewards are great when you do hook one though and the fight more than pays off for the waiting.
Fishing live bait with a variety of catfish rigs at night offers a break from the heat and some excellent flathead catfish action.
Pay close attention to when you catch your flathead catfish and keep good records. Savvy flathead catfish anglers learn that there is usually a “peak” time each night that produces the best action.
Once they key in on that peak time they narrow their fishing down to that timeframe. Just keep in mind that the fish will change and can even change from one area of a lake or river to another.
Get The Blues – Blue Catfish That Is
Blue catfish action can be excellent in some areas of the country in the summer months. The heat and warmer water temperatures have much less impact on blue catfish in rivers than they do in lakes and reservoirs.
In lakes and reservoirs the blue catfish will often move often and fast chasing schools of thread fin and gizzard shad. These shad schools are often moving quickly and water bodies that have striped bass, hybrid striped bass and white bass populations can make this even more of a challenge.
Anglers that target blue catfish often end up scratching their heads during the dog days of summer but the blue catfish can be caught with some patience involved. Keep in mind with rising water temperatures, dropping water levels and fish that are often scattered you might have to really spend some time to locate good numbers of blues and when you do, they might move quickly.
Targeting scattered fish can be a challenge, it’s not impossible to do but it certainly can be frustrating.
A common approach to targeting fish that are scattered or moving quickly is to drift fish.
If you can locate active feeding fish that are in an area with good concentration that staying in that area and fishing them will pay off in excellent numbers of blue cats. Using sonar from a boat is the quickest route to locating and catching blue catfish any time of the year, even in the summer. If you are fishing from the shore or a boat without sonar then apply the basic fundamentals of locating and catching blue catfish and you will catch fish.
Drift Fish For Scattered Fish
When targeting blue and channel catfish drift fishing can be an effective way of catching fish in the summer months. Whether you’re targeting blues or channels, finding scattered fish or concentrations of fish drift fishing can be a great approach. Drift fishing is also a great way for you to locate and catch blues and channels if you are just getting started or are having trouble finding and catching fish.
Drifting allows you to cover a lot of water and can increase your potential of locating and catching fish. When you key in on a specific area or depth that is producing then you can continue to focus on that depth and area while drifting or use your sonar to narrow down the target area and anchor up.
Drifting for channel catfish at night can be very productive in the summer. This was our “go to” method of catching channel catfish in the summer when I was a kid and we did very well. Like anything else the more you practice, the more time you spend on the water and the more you learn the more fish you will catch.
Drift fishing for channel catfish also has tendency to produce larger channel catfish than fishing prepared bait or fishing over baited holes. Set up with your preferred catfish rig like a slip sinker rig or santee rig with a 5/0 circle hook and some cut bait or preferred channel catfish bait and start fishing.
When drifting for blues use a 5/0 or 7/0 circle hook and a slip sinker rig or santee rig. Bait up with fresh caught shad or your preferred cut bait and it’s pretty hard to not catch fish.
Remember when targeting blue catfish that fresh caught bait is going to catch more fish than frozen.
Night Patterns and Success
Night fishing for catfish in the late summer is a great option. Targeting catfish at night not only allows you to target fish on the move and feeding in different areas but allows you to beat the heat and stay comfortable.
Flathead fishing is usually great at night in the summer. The fish will be larger but you’ll generally catch fewer fish.
Blue catfish offer the opportunity to catch big fish and numbers of fish as well and usually faster action.
Channel catfish fishing at night can produce larger channel catfish and numbers of fish as well.
The same general principles apply when night fishing and fishing in the day as far as techniques, catfish rigs, baits and catching fish. The big difference is that when the sun sets bait fish will often move into areas where you won’t find them during the day and there are good numbers of fish in these areas.
Pay close attention as the sun begins to set and watch for activity in the water. Look for active bait fish and fish feeding on them and you’ll quickly be able to narrow down a target area to start fishing.
Drifting for blues or channels at night is a great way to fish, is very relaxing and produces fish. Adding a lantern or light in your boat provides light to see. You can also use small chemical glow sticks and attach them to your rod tips to monitor for activity in the dark.
Chumming shallow areas with soured wheat at night is a great way to fire up some fast channel catfish action.
Using the Secret Catfish Rig with punch bait and a #6 treble hook in areas you chum is best. Follow the instructions on using the Secret Catfish Rig at night for easy visibility. This is a great technique when fishing from the shore at night as well.
Having a Thermacell also does wonders to keep the bugs away when night fishing.
No Jug Fishing and No Trotlines
If you live in a hot climate and water temperatures are warm and enjoy jug fishing or trotlines, put them away until water temperatures start to drop.
When water temperatures get really warm the water loses oxygen. Using jug lines or trotlines in these situations causes the fish to die quickly on the lines in a low oxygen environment.
It’s best to go ahead and put the set lines away until the water temperatures drop. If you insist on fishing with these methods in the heat of the summer with warm water temperatures then you need to follow a few simple rules.
First, make sure that you keep your baits well above the thermocline. Fish that are hooked near or slightly above the thermocline will die very quickly. Staying out of this area is best.
Second, if you do set jug lines or trotlines run them often. Make sure you check them at least every two hours, especially during the day. You need to actively work them to keep fish from being killed on the lines from lack of oxygen.
Learn, Know and Find The Thermocline
I’ve talked about thermoclines extensively in the past. The “thermocline 101″ version is that when water temperatures rise a layer of water forms at the bottom of lakes and reservoirs that has little to no oxygen. Lakes and reservoirs will separate in three layers based on water temperature and the bottom layer is what I like to all the “dead zone”.
The “dead zone” is an area that fish cannot remain in for extended periods of time because of lack of oxygen. They can and will move in and out of this area but they can’t stay there.
It’s possible to catch fish in these areas but generally not going to be the most productive technique to use or area to fish.
Rule number one of fishing is to trust your sonar (when fishing from a boat). If you see fish in the “dead zone” then by all means, try to fish it. If you are fishing from a boat with no sonar, don’t know how to read sonar, or fishing from the shore than just stay in depths that are above the thermocline, you’ll catch more fish.
Use a topographic map that shows depths and contours like the Navionics Hotmaps for iPhone to easily find these areas and rule out areas to fish.
Lakes and reservoirs will have a thermocline when water temperatures heat up. Rivers or areas with moving water will not.
Finding the thermocline is done with sonar, adjust your settings correctly and you will see a distinct line on the screen around 21-23 feet of water. It may be slightly deeper but looking in 21-23 feet is a good general rule of thumb for finding the depth of the thermocline.
To get more in depth information check out the other resources on thermoclines and how they impact fishing.
There’s Hope For Better Catfishing
Catching catfish in the heat of the summer can be uncomfortable because of the warm days and hot summer sun. If you don’t use the correct techniques and target the best locations you’ll end up frustrated and not catching fish.
Making a few minor tweaks to your normal approach to catfish fishing and following these 9 simple tips will make not only help you catch more fish but all help you be a better angler as well.
In a matter of weeks water temperatures will be begin to drop, and fishing will change for the better. These changes require a change in tactics and target locations like any other time of the year. You have to adjust what you do to the fish patterns and preference for each season, weather pattern or specific set of conditions.
In many areas of the country fall and winter offer some of the best catfish action of the year.
Get On The Fast Track To Success
To get more in depth information on locating and catching catfish in the summer check out the Summer Channel Catfish Techniques book. This is an in depth step by step guide on locating and catching channel catfish in the summer months.
Using these techniques with the Secret Catfish Rig is an easy way to catch catfish in the heat of the summer.