Dog Days of Summer Catfish

We often hear about the dog days of summer—when river flows are low and its hot out, really hot. Some catfish anglers choose to stay home during this time. Others just shift how they do things. One thing is for sure: with a little knowledge and the aggressiveness to move and work hard, it can be a great time to catch nice catfish when others are not.

 

How it used to be

 

Think back to before everyone had boats, when not much was yet known about catfish. Many catfish anglers would fish at night. This was partly because the heat during the daytime hours was unbearable, but it was common knowledge that catfish bit the best at night.

 

Yes, the heat will get to you. Yes, catfish feed at night. The thing is, catfish will come shallow at night to feed on the creepy crawlies that are also in the shallows. In decades past, that is where the anglers happened to be: on the shore fishing. It just fit.

 

How it is now

 

Over the past decade, a lot has changed in the catfish world. More anglers have boats and advanced electronics have come into play. Thanks to these electronics, we know where the catfish are during the day. So, we can put bait on them to bring them out during the day.

 

One conversation I have with people all the time is, what time of day? Potential clients call and ask about fishing at night. They go on to tell me the fishing is better at night. I respond with, “yes, they feed at night, but I go into their house during the day.” I can honestly tell you that I have not night fished in many years. I have still boated more catfish than most.

 

Catching cats in the dog days

 

I personally enjoy fishing the dog days of summer after the spawn is done. I find it to be a challenging time, yet very rewarding when you catch your foe.

 

If you are a shore angler, keep doing what you are doing. A few things to look for that will increase your catch are to set up on or just downstream of an outside bend. If it has a small flat leading the bank, it’s even better. Set your lines earlier in the hole, but don’t overlook the shallow right next to the bank in the very shallow water after dark. It seems that you can never fish too shallow at night during this time.

 

For boat anglers, everything is flow related as to where you will fish. If you have normal conditions, the best place to look is in the holes—any hole from large to small.

 

Work the clock during this fishing period. Make sure you don’t sit on a spot too long, but don’t under-sit a spot either. Use the 20-minute rule of thumb when sitting on spots. If the fish are active, you will know right away. If you are not getting bites in the first few moments, sit a few more minutes just to be sure.

 

This time of year is also when catfish do not migrate as much as they would in the pre spawn, so spot rotation is a huge deal. If you are fishing more than a day or two in a row, make sure you are rotating spots. Once you catch fish in a spot, give it a day or two off for new fish to move in or for the fish you caught recuperate for another battle. Most people do not have to worry so much about spot rotation the way I do as a guide. I have learned the hard way that its best to let spots lay for three to five days between fishing them to ensure there are always fish to be caught. Yes, there may be fish there. But, running the same “milk route” every day will fish spots out—making me inefficient and wasting my guests time.

 

Weather can also play into how the fish react during this time of year. If there is a big front that moves through, usually in the form of a storm where the barometer drops out, the fish will tend to go out of the current and almost dormant. When this happens, get out of the current, look very shallow and tight into structure such as snags. It is my theory that, when there is a big front like this, the fish prepare themselves and just go wait out the negative. This is a topic by itself that we will cover in the future.

 

In the meantime, fish shallow, tight to structure and out of the current. You may want to sit a bit longer than normal to try to spur out negative fish. Over a day or two, things will normalize and the fish will begin to aggressively feed again.

 

Efficiency

 

If you want to put numbers in the boat, it is imperative to be efficient. Every year has different conditions playing together. Once you establish how long to sit and set up your pattern, you can be very efficient.

 

The funny thing about catfish is they tend to bite at the same time. If you are in the right spot, you can almost set your clock to them. With that, it is time to move, move and move. You have limited time to fish, so make the most of it. Establish a rotation schedule such as moving after 15 minutes or two fish are caught. Just keep pushing that schedule and you can put some big numbers in the boat.

 

Yes, pulling anchor can get old. That’s what buddies are for. Another option is to utilize your Minn Kota trolling motor with spot lock. Instead of heaving the anchor, just set the spot lock. If you are fishing holes that are close together, just drive with the trolling motor. These are all ideas to be more efficient.

 

Enjoy the dog days

 

As you can see, with just a little knowledge and added effort, you can fish the dog days of summer and be very effective. You need to be patient, try a few different patterns and let ‘er buck. You will catch fish and see successes. Don’t just stick to the old sit-and-wait. Step it up, be efficient and cover a lot of water. It’s new school from the old bank.