Here it is November and well past what most people believe is catfishing time which is usually relegated to the balmy months of summer. With a nice day forecast I got with a friend of mine, Kris, for a trip down to the river below Nickajack dam in southeast Tennessee to show him some new water. This spot is one of my favorites but this was the first time I had fished it this late in the year. Not knowing the fall pattern of the cats I was hoping to find them in the usual spots, hiding in the rock piles waiting on a meal to drift by.
We loaded up Kris’ boat and headed for the ramp in South Pittsburgh. Some of my best spots are within a couple of hundred yards of the ramp and these produce good cats all summer. Once we were in we made a short run upstream to begin a drift through the rock piles. The river was in the best shape I had seen it all year, good water color, plenty of current and temperatures still near 60 degrees. After two or three drifts I had managed to lose a couple of good fish but other than that there was no bite happening. Time for a move.
We ran upstream to another spot where some big blue cats are taken but like downstream after four passes we hadn’t even had a good bite. We watched a couple of other boats and they were having the same luck we were, none. I told Kris that we could try below the dam which was a short run upstream but that I had never fished that area and we would just have to see what happened. Off we go again to try our third spot of the morning.
Once we got to the dam and decided what the plan was we eased the boat into position,, dropped our baits and started the drift. In seconds we had hits. In a few minutes we were putting fish in the boat. Things changed for the better with every drift we made. The blues and channels were feeding and we were loading up the live well with some decent fish.
Just as we figured out what was going on the folks at the dam decided to add a bit of excitement to the day. Nickajack has a lock and of course the area we were drifting was near the water discharge, when the horn blew we both jumped and quickly got the boat moved. This was no big deal we waited out the boiling water then went back to chasing fish but when the horn on the dam itself sounded we didn’t know what to expect. By the time we reeled in they cracked one of the flood gates releasing water that was blowing 20 feet into the air. This caused waves to hit the dam and wing wall creating even higher waves that started rolling into the boat. Good times.
We managed to get far enough away from the rough water to sit it out. When the horn sounded and the gate closed it took maybe 20 minutes for the water to calm back down but it had changed the bite. The fish were still hitting but nothing like they had been. We put more in the live well and soon looked down to see the last of our four pounds of bait was gone.
With that we called it a day with a total of 26 blues and channels. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t put Kris on some big fish although he hooked one that simply swam off, he never slowed it down. I had lost two that would have been double digit fish but we had fish up to six pounds so still a good day.
Folks, catfishing, especially blue cats, doesn’t end when the fall temperatures cool the water. You can still go out and fill a live well and enjoy a lot of waters with no other fishermen in sight. Blue cats love cold water, big blues are caught year round here with water down into the thirties. Go out and give these great fish a try after most folks have given up until the next spring.
Be safe, wear you PFD and take a kid fishing.