Fishing for Catfish in Flooded Rivers
Flooded rivers and lakes can really put a kink in your cat fishing. You have a favorite cat fishing hole and you finally feel like you are dialed-in and then it rains and the water levels rise and nothing works anymore. What do you do when your favorite fishing hole floods?
Never worry, flooded water can mean fabulous fishing. Fish don’t stop eating when the water levels rise, they just change where they eat. If you can figure out how things have changed you can use these changes to your advantage.
Fishing For Catfish in Flooded Rivers:
When rivers flood, several of the river’s key characteristics are altered: The current increases, the visibility plummets, the temperature changes (usually falls) and the water levels change.
These changes can affect catfish directly or they can affect the catfish indirectly by affecting their food sources’ routines.
Flooding Affects the Current
Flooding affect the current of the river and current plays a major role in determining where catfish tend to congregate. Catfish love to hang out in slow current. Especially slow current that is in close proximity to fast current. Seems between fast and slow current, log jams, holes in the bottom, the shelter behind boulders, under cut banks are all good places to look for catfish.
When rivers flood the current changes and places that use to be sheltered become a torrent. If you fished a main channel during normal water levels, you’ll find that those catfish have moved to places that are more sheltered from the current when the flooding hits.
After flood waters retreat it can take a day or two for catfish to return. So it important to look for places that are not just sheltered at the time your are there but where sheltered during the peak of the flood as well. What looks fine the two days after a storm may have been a nightmare twelve hours ago and the catfish have not yet moved back in.
Flood sometimes permanently alter the features of a river and wipe out locations that use to be perfect for catfish. Any time there is a major floor reevaluate the river bottom, check to see whether that sunken log or subtle hole is still there.
Flooding Affects the Visibility
Visibility is another major issue. Poor visibility favors catfish. Baitfish typically rely on sight more than catfish do. In the murky water, a catfish has an advantage over its prey.
So when rivers flood and visibility plummets sight-base bait fish tend to be driven to areas where visibility is marginally better. After the flood waters crest, small streams and large sheltered lagoons tend to clear up first. In these areas, hungry bait fish will congregate and hungry catfish will follow.
Additionally, during floods bait fish tend to hunker down and not moved around as much. This means that catfish cannot rely on ambush as much so they tend to go prowling. The safety of murky water and the need to go find their food means that catfish tend to prowl like they traditionally do during the night time in the summer. Consequently, I find that night time tactics work better for catfish during the day time after a flood.
Flooding Affects the Water Temperature
Water temperature is also greatly affected by flooding. A big cold rain storm can dramatically reduce the water temperature. This reduction in water temperature can make mid-day cat fishing productivity increase in the middle of the summer when the water temperature is normally too high or it can shut down early spring or late fall fishing when the water temperature is already low.
In the winter time, a big rain storm from the south can actually have a dramatic warming effects and create some great fishing action. Keep a thermometer handy and look for places that are as close to the optimal temperature as possible after flood.
Flooding Affect the Water Levels
Of course, water levels change during a flood. This has the most effect on fisherman who target catfish in the margins. Fishing for catfish under overhanging trees, undercut banks or along reed beds can be tremendously success. However, changes in water levels can kick the legs out from under these hot spots.
These cat fishing spots along the shore are catfish hot spots because they are close to where food sources congregate. Small bait fish and amphibians live in the dense shelter of the shore so that is where the catfish go.
When water levels rise dramatically, some of these locations are no longer are safe for bait fish and frogs. The high water allows predators and current into their shelter so the catfishes’ food retreats further inland.
When the rivers flood look for where the blue gill school have moved to and the catfish will be along the edges of that new margin. Don’t be afraid to fish among flooded trees and bushes.