Fall opens a window of opportunity for catfish anglers, as cooling temperatures and increased feeding activity significantly improve their odds of landing a monster.
For many gamefish species, fall is a time for heavy feeding as the fish prepare for winter, and catfish are no exception. This increase in feeding activity makes big catfish more susceptible to anglers than they are during the summer months.
There are not any special tricks to catching big catfish in the fall. The most important factor is getting out on the water and putting the time in to try to catch a monster catfish. Many of the same tactics that work during the summer, will work in the fall too, but there are a few things to keep in mind for fall catfish angling.
It is important to note that as fall progresses, some of the food sources catfish have become dependent on during the summer will begin to disappear. Of course this will vary, depending on your latitude. Generally, more food sources will be available in southern locations. In northern locations, catfish may be limited to just baitfish as their only remaining food source.
Some of the best tactics for fall are to fish the shallow flats, deep weed edges, around structure or in rocky areas, like rip-rap. Go to places baitfish or crayfish might be attracted to. There is a good bet catfish will be there too, feeding on their prey.
After the first freeze, catfish will move to deeper water, in search of warmer conditions, so anglers should concentrate on deeper, soft-bottom holes, near a weedline. Also try the channels, with moving water. Often times, many catfish will congregate in a given area.
It is important to note, especially in northern latitudes, that as the water gets colder, catfish will slow down, as their metabolism slows. This means anglers should slow down too, working their baits slowly and thoroughly through a prospective area.
Some of the top baits for fall catfish include minnows, cut minnows, liver, stink baits, night crawlers and dough balls. Drifting the baits near the bottom is especially effective. Other good tactics include fishing with a float or a jig tipped with cut bait. Work different depths until you find the catfish.
Like it is during other times of the year, smell is an important factor in fall catfish angling. Cut minnows are a good choice, because they offer more scent and represent a major fall food source. For big catfish, try using larger baits such as suckers or chubs. Big fish like large a large meal.
Fall can be one of the most productive times of the year for catfish, especially the big ones. The window for fall angling can be a small one, especially in the northern latitudes, so get out there and take advantage of this opportunity, while it is available.