Winter Catfishing Tactics
So how do you fish for cats in the winter? Well it may sound tough, and it is if it's near zero and that wind is coming straight up the river, you may have to hunt for them more than you do in the summer but once you find them in the winter you will have a blast!
Look for them in deep holes, the deeper the better and if it's a hole that has trees or anything that will break the current this is even better. During the winter they slow down but they don't quit eating. I have caught Flatheads not big Flatheads but ones that run 10# or less during the winter months but I don't think I could go without food for three or four months so they probably just don't go as far for there next meal.
Blue cats and Channel cats are your main targets for the winter and if you get lucky you can pick up a Striper or a Saugeye.
If you can find a deep hole with current you could be on fish for several hours, they don't bite all at once but they can keep you busy for quite some time. Current will keep you busy on Channels and Blues. The picture above is one of my favorite areas to fish during the winter, I don't know what they are called but I call them cylinders, you can see them in the picture, they do a couple of things they cut the current in the winter and they attract both baitfish and catfish. I have seen barges tied to these things and they are up and down the river, behind them the area is usually very deep water.
Another area I like to fish is down around Aurora, Indiana. the river makes a hard left turn here and the water is very deep, around 70 feet, there is a lot of structure in this area and the cats stack up like flies on a rib roast.
Look for baitfish, they are usually bunched up in the winter, and they look like clouds on your fish finder, if you have zoom capabilities, zoom in on the school you may see arches in the middle of the pack, or just below the bait fish, keep your bait in the zone and you will have fish on. I don't fish with much live bait during the winter, mainly fresh dead bait, Shad or Skipjack.
One of the things I have noted over the years of winter fishing is if I am fishing with fresh cutbait, and am tight lining on the bottom a Channel will sit there and pound a bait and just make your rod thump in the holder, but will never take the bait till he is good and ready, this can be very nerve racking as they are sitting there thumping away and the winter time is the only time that I have seen this condition, a Blue doesn't play around he just picks it up and moves off with it.
Winter fishing is a lot of fun, but it can be dangerous, dress warm and wear your clothes in layers, purchase a good pair of gloves that are waterproof, remember the air temperature is cold and you can freeze your face from motoring to spots so take your time, and never, never take off your PFD, wear that thing the whole time you are on the water, it will help keep you warm, but most of all if you slip and fall overboard you can stay afloat. That ice cold water makes your muscles do some crazy things when you get wet so keep it on!!!!