As the waters of the Great Ohio river start to heat up so does the action for the Flathead. These fish go on a feeding spree somewhere near the end of March or the start of April. The water warming up is what gives them the go signal. They are feeding up for the upcoming spawn. The warm rains of April can really turn them on, one of the signs that my Grandfather used was, when he saw the night crawlers start to come out during the rains of April then the Flatheads start to prowl.
It is true that the Flathead is nocturnal but when you are hungry you will eat no matter what time of day it is. Look for the deep holes, areas where the current is blocked off or where it is forced to change directions, areas where a Flathead can sit and wait to ambush it's next meal.
Water temperature is a very big factor of the movement of the Flathead, sixty five degrees is prime time, lets go for the real meal kind of deal to a Flathead and they get more active as the water temperature rises. As the water temperature continues to rise the Flathead then starts to feed mainly at night. At around the eighty degree temperatures then it starts to get a little uncomfortable for them and then they will stop feeding for a short period, but as soon as the water temperature changes then they are back on the move.
They are very light sensitive after dark they don't like to see a bright light so keep the lights to a minimum.
Several years I have tried different light sources flashlights tied onto the net, holding it in your mouth all kinds of different things, well I finally came on to a light that answers all the problems. It is called the Versabrite LightIt is small very light weight, it has a clip to fasten to the bill of your hat, or you can fasten it to your jacket or bibs, it will not fall off, you can work on reels or riggings in the boat, it is great when you land a Flathead because where you look is where the beam is pointed, it is powered with two AA batteries that will last all night, the light has a Xenon lamp that throws 6000 candlepower of light, to turn the light on you twist the light head to the left, the head tilts 180 degrees so you can adjust it all around, they run about $16.00 each and can be purchased at the W.W.Grainger Industrial outlet store.
The Flatheads main diet is fish, and live fish and if it is struggling hard it is an easy target for bucket mouth, cutbait works well all year long, put both of them out. Shad, Bluegills, Suckers, Chubs, small carp, night crawlers are all menu items to the Flathead.
I lean towards Shad due to the fact that when they are impaled on a hook and are anchored to the bottom they look as if they are feeding because there tail is up in the current and there head is down along the bottom, Flatheads work near the bottom but they pickup the vibrations of a struggling fish as they are cruising around. At night set your baits both in shallow and deep water, if you can get them near a channel area that is even better, Flatheads use channels as highways when they are traveling up and down the river.
My second choice are the Bluegills, they are very active maybe too active and sometimes I have to take actions to slow there aggressiveness down, you can cut off the tail section or trim it back, I will hook them through the mouth but I make sure that the hook is pointing out the top, you can hook them in the back, or you can hook them in the tail section. Larry has used the dark gills the last couple of years with great success, around the three or four inch range, you may have to add some more lead to the line to keep them anchored down.
One of the things you need to consider when you are fishing for Flatheads are that Bluegills like to hang near structure, trees, old stumps, docks anything that can divert the flow of the river, so when I'm fishing an area of the river that is loaded with stumps I get the bait as close to the structure as I can so that it looks natural. The biggest drawback is you are going to lose fish if you can't get them away from the structure, but it is a risk that is well worth taking. Big Flatheads populate structure laid areas, they like wood because that wood holds there next meal.
As I developed this web page I got a lot of e-mail from fishermen who were asking where the "hotspots" were located in there rivers, you can use the methods that I have outlined on my website to catch catfish, these are my ways to do it, things that have worked well over the years for me, things that were handed down over the years from a man that new every inch of a river, an old river rat that knew the quarry he was after, use these methods and develop your own methods, there is know better teacher than being on the river and educating yourself.
My son is a great cat fisherman, not from learning the ways that I do
things but he has taken the knowledge that I have given him and has developed his own way
to catch cats, and some of the ways we do things are totally different and I learn as much
from him as he does from me. I have learned things from my wife Lynn when we fish
together, she has taught me to be patient, and wait, I get real excited when the clickers
go off on the reels, she has taught me to wait till I know that cat has that bait in his
mouth. If you have ever had a reel screaming and you pick it up to set that hook and all
you get is air when you swing just wait a couple of more seconds, 90 percent of the time
if you wait you will have a solid hook set when you swing that pole.