Fishing CJ Brown 2011 Spring Tactics
Iím writing this article to help people to fish CJ for Catfish mainly Channel cats and the Blue catfish, there are also Flatheads in this lake but I donít target them because of the blood sucking mosquitoes that inhabit this lake during the evening hours, I have used these tactics for many years they are tried and proven and the patterns seem to never change at least for me because I have done this year after year.
I launch my boat from the main ramp almost always during daylight hours, during that time I fill my front 32 gallon bait tank with water, once full then I concentrate on getting bait which is fresh Shad, the main boat ramp is a mega place to catch Shad, the iron walls that protect the boat ramp are the feeding grounds for the Shad they work in and out of the corrugated steel walls feeding on algae that grows on the walls.
I concentrate mainly on the inside walls, at the end of the docks the water is 13 foot deep, I take and throw my cast net right against the wall towards the North and allow it to sink to a count of about five, when the corps built this ramp they have boulders that are placed all around the edges about two feet out and two feet up they are cast net eaters if you allow the net to sink to the bottom as the water warms up then you donít even have to let the net sink even that far. You can even work your way around to the wall that is on the main lake just make sure you throw your net against the wall and when you throw as soon as the net disappears pull back on the net, the boulders are bigger on the outside wall and there are also trees and some structure that has been placed around twenty feet out from the main wall. Normally it only takes a few throws to gather enough bait for an outing. I like a minimum of three dozen Shad to start off with; I know that sounds like a lot but during the Spring I have had to make several trips back to the main ramp for more bait. These fish pound bait in the spring there are plenty of dead and dying Shad on this lake and these Cats just plane gorge like pigs on these Shad.
The areas I Fish
I work mainly the North end and I target the Goose Island area, Goose Island is the first big island that you come to on the North end of the lake, to the left and out front of the island is a combination of a mud bottom along with gravel shoals, the cats work back and forth across the mud flats but they seem to concentrate on those gravel areas for feeding.
To the East of Goose Island is a ton of stumps and underwater cover that holds the larger cats during this time of the year. It is a major snag fest so be prepared to lose hardware in this area. I find that working this area with Shad under a bobber is much more productive and less likely to loose stuff.
To the West of Goose and towards where Buck Creek flows into the lake is mainly all gravel, there is a very large gravel hump in this area it rises to about 5 feet in height and is about 15 feet across when the lake is at full pool the water is around 5 foot deep so that hump sits just under the surface of the water, in this picture you can see where someone has placed a fence post to mark it and have a bobber right on that hump there used to be a tree that was on it but has deteriorated over the years, to the right of this hump is where Buck Creek flows into the lake, it is a trenched out area that flows towards the South, the trenched area is lined with heavy rip rap rock on the Northeast side of the creek, it also has a line of huge tree stumps on both sides of the creek these have been there for a long time and are magnets for Catfish. The rocks and stumps sit just below the surface of the water so boat with care in this area.
To the left of Goose Island and along the West shoreline is the old railroad this lies in about 6 foot of water at full pool and the road rises to three foot so boat with care in this area, the roadway runs towards the South about a quarter of a mile or more and is about twelve foot in width and has a mud bottom on the outside of the gravel road, there are also several cement blocks placed on top of this roadway I assume to attract the Bass in this lake but the Cats will use them to ambush prey. I like to anchor my boat right on top of the railroad and work the baits right down the center and on both sides of the road, I work all the stated areas from the time the ice comes off the lake till about the end of May.
My Favorite rigs
There are two kinds of ways I target fish in this area, fishing on the bottom and fishing under a float and the latter is my favorite and the most deadly. I keep things very simple using the Carolina style slip rig with about a 6 oz. egg sinker fifty pound leader snelled to a 6/0 or 8/0 circle hook for both on the bottom and under the bobber. Seven foot rods with 6500 or 7000 Abu Garcia reels that have 20# to 40# test line, I normally fish the Ohio river so that is what I like to use on the river. These cats are not line shy so heavy lines do not deter them. When fishing under a bobber I set the bait so it is halfway in the water column so if the water is four foot deep I have the bait at two foot, this allows you to pull the Cats that are feeding on the bottom and the ones that are cruising around. My Doc Bobbers and the heavy egg sinkers that I developed a few years ago allows me to anchor the boat away from my target areas and cast to the areas mentioned above, you are fishing very clear and shallow water these fish spook easy with a boat sitting in their territory.
If fishing on the bottom Iíll cast out the rig then kind of drag the rig back towards the boat till I feel the gravel bottom, or the trees if to the right of Goose Island the mud is super soft in this area so the bait will sink down and be harder for them to find, so make sure you get the bait on the gravel.
Shad the Candy of Cats
At the beginning of this article I stated that I cast net Shad for bait, they are put in my live well but I use them only as cut bait. The oils and blood juices flow very aggressively off a fresh killed Shad again I keep it simple my favorite cut is the head, I just cut the Shad just behind the gill plate and put the circle hook in the eye and out the top of the head just in front of the mouth, Iíll then use the center portion of the Shad with the tail cut off and normally I just get two pieces of bait off a four to six inch Shad.
If I can only castnet the small Shad those that are two to four inches in length then I will Butterfly them, this method is deadly on CJ Brown Cats, you take a small Shad and run the knife from the base of the tail up towards the gill plate then flip that piece that is filleted and still attached to the Shad and fold it over on top of the head of the Shad and then run the circle hook thru the filleted piece then in the head and out I cut the tail off, I like this under a bobber. They will drill these baits because of all the blood and juices leaching out of the Shad.
Best times to fish
The worst times seem to be the best, high winds 15-20 mph that are coming from the South pushing roller waves that are one to two foot in height really push the bait fish both live and dead towards the South end of the lake, winds from the East or West will push the bait towards the bank and the banks are solid gravel and small boulders around six inches round that run into the lake around fifteen feet off the shoreline, combine pouring down rain with high winds and this really gets those Cats chomping on baits, winds out of the North just seems to turn them off plus the North wind will push bait out of the shallows to the deeper water.
Baits suspended under a bobber during high winds allow you to search out areas allowing the bobber to be pushed around and overtop of trees, from mud flats to gravel shoals, once you determine their location then you just keep the bait in and around the area.
Bobber fishing is very exciting way to catch CJ Cats, most times they will just rip the bobber under the water, the smaller Cats will hit the bait then move off with the bobber, the larger Cats will drop the bobber down then will run it just under the surface of the water like in the movie ďJawsĒ because you are using circle hooks there is no need to swing on these Cats, generally after they pull the bobber under the surface of the water the circle hook will rotate and get them in the corner of the mouth.
Make sure that you have good rod holders on your boat because these cats can rip a rod down fast.
What size can you expect?
The average size of Catfish in CJ is about 2-3 pounds I have caught them as big as twenty two pounds, but during the spring you will be catching fish that are near that ten pound mark. It is not uncommon to have a 30-40 fish a day catch rate during this time of the year if the conditions are right and the Cats are hungry.
As I fish in 2011 I'll add more pictures and tips to this article so check back weekly for any updates.
Article posted 3-6-2011
Tim Lange 2011