Targeting post-spawn catfish
By Jerry Purviance
In Iowa, the catfish spawn occurs in June and is generally finished by the 4th of July. However, all catfish will not spawn at the same time. Some may go a bit early, and some of them may be late bloomers; it will depend on the temperature of the body of water being fished. Generally speaking, though, most will be done by the first week of July. I do believe there is a transition period of about 7-10 days between the time they have spawned and their post-spawn gorge in which catfish will be sluggish and inactive because of the vigorous spawning rituals. This inactivity gives them time to recuperate from the stress of the spawn and to migrate to the post-spawn feeding grounds.
Mid-July through August is one of the best times for catching numbers as well as big catfish. The post-spawn catfish have worked their way to the feeding areas to gorge on anything dead or alive to regain their body weight and energy levels. This activity will generally last for about 30 days before they start to scatter throughout the system, leaving their schools and roaming alone or in small pods in the depths, looking for other areas that will sustain them for the summer.
One of my favorite post-spawn areas to look for is the flats, places where the bottom contour has no special features, just a consistent depth and a flat bottom with little or no contour change. The flats can come in many shapes and sizes, including a shallow point that extends out into the main channel in a river or a lake. Although the flats are featureless with little or no structure, they attract catfish because of a flat’s ability to produce large amounts of algae and other crustaceans and invertebrates, attracting the shad or baitfish to the area to feed on the algae, which, in turn, creates a buffet for the catfish and other species as well.
Other areas I target in the post-spawn timeframe are the ditches, ledges, and depressions in the lake or river bottoms. Catfish will use these types of places as highways to feed and or navigate throughout a body of water after spawning and throughout the summer. The ditches are more prominent in lakes and reservoirs and the depressions and ledges are found more in rivers, but both types of water systems can possess either type of structure and will produce catfish. The ditches are easy to find in the lakes. Look to the banks; they are generally made up of an old feeder creek or run-off ditch that ran to the channel before the lake was built and filled with water. Just about any normal catfish bait is productive this time of year. Be it stink baits, nightcrawlers, or chicken livers, the options for baits, and how you rig them, are endless. In the next article we will dive into different catfish rigs. Until then, go get ’em.