(Doug Schermer illustration)

The brown leather-based journal was wedged on a shelf of a metal bookcase within the basement at ­In‑Fisherman headquarters. It was inconspicuous among the many massive assortment of archived books, stories, and different paperwork accrued from over 35 years and put aside for secure retaining.

No telling how lengthy it had been there. It’s nicely worn and the binding is splitting on the ends. No proof of who the writer is, or to whom particularly it belongs to right here. Contained in the entrance cowl is a small piece of private stationary with the monogram ‘B.H.C.’ The quick be aware reads:

“My husband beloved to fish for catfish. He’d take the outdated boat all the way down to the South Fork so typically after he retired. He seemed ahead to receiving your journal within the mail, and particularly loved the articles about catfishing. Maybe your group would recognize this most, so it appeared becoming to ship it to you.”

The journal’s pages comprise about three and a half years of handwritten entries, a self-reporting of 1 man’s experiences from time spent on a small river, South Fork. Noteworthy is his knack for studying the river and the way he adapts to the altering situations. Right here we share chosen entries from one fall season. We even have added some supporting notes alongside the way in which about what we’ve discovered about precept patterns for catfish in small rivers within the fall.

Sept. 9

I etched one other waterline on the trestle footing at Parker’s Crossing. The extent is typical for this time of 12 months. The marks from the final two years are underwater, most likely about 8 inches to a foot. Clear working all the way in which from Parker’s to Sandy Flat beneath Fence Pool. Pulled the boat by Sandy, with straightforward going upriver no less than one other mile to the highest finish. Eleven channel catfish to 4 kilos.

Sept. 12

Went upriver once more at this time. Sunny and delicate. Caught 7 good catfish, largest about 6 kilos. The higher part is holding fairly a multitude of fish this 12 months, not just like the final couple, and a few larger ones, too. Every good gap remains to be producing 3 to five fish. Water holding at about 4 ft in a number of the deep spots the place the catches are finest.

Pencil illustration of a catfish underwater near an old root ball
(Doug Schermer illustration)

Sept. 15

This morning I motored into the second huge flip up from Fence Pool and the river seemed completely different, making me second guess for a second the place I used to be. I spotted that Huge Cottonwood had lastly fallen, blown over within the sturdy winds of the storm final evening. It’s exceptional that the large deadhead stood this lengthy, leaning over, a lot of the roots uncovered from the river working beneath it.

The rootball is wider than my fishing rod is lengthy, have to be 8 ft from finish to finish. It has pulled up a great portion of the financial institution soil, and the trunk’s resting within the water on the fringe of the river. A number of of the thick, remaining limbs are blocking passage and have to be reduce, simply sufficient to get by. What a advantageous spot it will make for catfishing subsequent 12 months, even higher later, as soon as the water digs out a great gap beneath it. Wouldn’t be shocked if there’s a fish or two right here already, taking refuge within the huge tree. Deliver the noticed.

Sept. 16

Cooler climate has moved in and it rained a great portion of the day. The leaves on the walnut timber in Hanson’s discipline are totally yellowed, and there’s some coloration on the ash alongside the river.

Caught one catfish at Huge Cottonwood earlier than I reduce the tops. Reduce the limbs to measurement and stacked the wooden up on the excessive financial institution. It should make good gas for lunch fires. Caught three extra cats upriver—stored one 2-pounder for supper. Checked the abdomen: fish scales, three minnows (one seemed recent), thick inexperienced liquid (appears to be like to be digested vegetation or algae).

Editor’s Word: One of many earliest detailed accounts of channel catfish diets is reported in a research performed by biologists Reeve Bailey and Harry Harrison, September 1940 to October 1941 on the Des Moines River in Iowa. Over 900 catfish had been collected. The attain investigated was a basic for a midwestern river of the time:

“The shores are shaded by luxuriant undergrowth and willow, smooth maple, American elm, boxelder, ash, and basswood… Water erosion alongside the banks periodically fells timber, which accumulate floating brush and logs. The intensive lots of particles thus produced furnish shelter for fish and harbor a wealthy insect fauna… This part of the stream is a succession of lengthy swimming pools—about 8 ft deep—separated by rubble riffles and vast and shallow bars of shifting sand. The channel is floored with coarse gravel and a few boulders.”

These early observations level to the significance of woody particles, like Huge Cottonwood, in shaping wholesome river habitat and supporting a various organic neighborhood. Channel catfish stomachs contained a wide selection of meals, together with over 50 households of terrestrial and aquatic bugs, no less than 12 completely different fish species (principally shiner species), vegetation, and different miscellaneous objects, similar to birds and mammals, as evident by the hair present in a intestine. Seeds of the American elm had been eaten closely from Could into June.

In September 1941, when water ranges had been low and the water was clear, “authorized” measurement (12 inches and longer) catfish ate extra fish in comparison with the earlier summer season, with a mean of three.5 forage fish per abdomen. The researchers counsel that beneath low and clear situations, concentrations of forage fish enable simpler feeding by channel catfish on free-swimming prey.

Pencil illustration of a rod and reel
(Doug Schermer illustration)

Sept. 20

Caught 4 fish in 4 casts, 5 good fish in all, within the space on the head of Fence Pool. They’re plump this time of 12 months, they usually take a bait with out hesitation.

Editor’s Word: The autumn transitional interval may be among the finest occasions to fish for channel catfish in small rivers. They’re actively feeding to maximise health earlier than winter, peaking in physique situation after a full rising season.

Sept. 26

Tried a brand new spot to catch bait at this time, simply upstream from Washout Reduce. I’ve discovered that one particular person can successfully function a minnow seine. Merely repair the highest and backside cords from one finish to a tree root alongside the financial institution or stake it with a sturdy department, ensuring it holds tight. Quietly stroll the bridle finish out into the water and sweep the seine in an arc over backside, pulling it to the mounted finish. That is finest performed shortly to keep away from horrifying the baitfish, and be sure you preserve the weighted line scraping backside to stop escape. The ­quarter-inch netting is good—simpler to pressure, and it doesn’t foul with particles as a lot because the finer mesh.

This space proved wonderful for seining. The underside is usually coarse gravel, with few snags to hold up on. Three hauls yielded an assortment of small fish: frequent shiners, spotfins, yearling suckers, and others. At about 5 inches, a small sucker supplies 4 good baits, two from every filleted facet, or steaks minimize from the meaty midsection of a complete one. The catfish appear keen on meaty parts, however they’ll take the top and tail sections, too, although not fairly as eagerly. If the haul doesn’t yield suckers, a complete shiner or minnow makes wonderful bait. Simply minimize the intestine space delicately with a jackknife earlier than hooking it.

Editor’s Word: Each glass and graphite make advantageous catfish rods. For small rivers and streams, a 7- to 8-footer is right. The very best rods have a softer tip, with muscle within the midsection for leverage to drag cats away from and out of canopy. Lengthy casts normally aren’t vital, and in tight quarters you possibly can load the smooth tip and lob a light-weight rig simply and precisely. For circle hooks, a moderate- to slower-action rod with a softer tip is right, permitting the hook’s level to catch within the mouth and embed whereas the cat strikes off with the bait and the rod progressively masses with resistance.

A slipsinker rig works nicely for fall channel cats, though float rigs also can carry out nicely earlier than catfish exercise slows within the colder, late-fall situations. For both setup, match it with a 2/0 to 4/0 measurement hook for small- to medium-size channels. Basic J-style hook choices embody the Eagle Claw 84 and Mustad 92671. For circle hooks, attempt the Lazer Sharp L702 and Daiichi Circle Chunk Mild, or the lighter wire Lazer Sharp L787, a good selection for extra delicate baits.

Pencil illustration of a lakeside tree with a downed log hanging over the shallows
(Doug Schermer illustration)

Oct. 3

Introduced alongside my birthday current at this time. The brand new graphite rod is stiffer than my fiberglass rod, particularly within the high third, nevertheless it’s sturdy, remarkably gentle, and handles a catfish nicely. It’s a foot and a half longer than my glass rod, so it ought to turn out to be useful for reaching and dropping baits into and round logpiles again upriver subsequent spring. Be sure to deliver it every time. It’ll make her glad.

Oct. 15

The underside woods are close to peak coloration. The arduous rains have already knocked off a multitude of leaves from the sugar maples within the yard. The oaks are at all times the final to go. Coated a number of water above Fence Pool and caught solely two fish. The chunk up there has noticeably slowed. Extra wooden geese than standard on this stretch—the hunters ought to have a great 12 months. Begin checking beneath Parker’s.

Editor’s Word: Water temperatures cooling beneath about 60°F typically alerts the beginning of the second main migration interval of the 12 months for channel catfish. In most cases, this motion is downstream to deeper river stretches with appropriate wintering habitat.

Research have traced fall exercise of catfish outfitted with transmitters. Outcomes present that the extent of motion and distances traveled relies on the provision of wintering habitat. In smaller rivers missing wintering swimming pools, which is commonly attribute of tributary streams, catfish have been proven to vacate the world completely, relocating downstream to the bigger rivers or reservoirs that the tributaries feed. Different research have proven that catfish might reside year-round in smaller rivers, if they supply appropriate wintering websites.

Oct. 20

I fished over two miles of water at this time from simply upstream of Parker’s to about midway all the way down to Meadow Bottoms. The water at Parker’s is displaying a slight rise, nevertheless it’s across the regular mark for this time of 12 months. The few delicate days we’ve had would possibly maintain the fish up right here a bit longer. However with leaf-off and the rising season ended, a number of good rains will principally run off and convey the river up farther and get the fish transferring once more.

I discovered a number of good fish scattered among the many holes all through this attain. The very best spot was on the upstream facet of a gap beneath Parker’s the place it shallows to about one to 2 ft earlier than the gravel bar. I’m satisfied that completely working over a great stretch of river is required to search out fish now.

I finished fishing at about 2 o’clock and beached the boat up on the gravel bar. There was a pleasant sitting log to look at the river and light-weight the pipe. Many of us don’t just like the scent of pipe smoke, however I just like the aroma of the Cherry Gold label, particularly within the outside. Rapping the hardwood pipe on the outdated log to empty the ashes sounds surprisingly like a woodpecker after grubs.

Editor’s Word: In fall, catfish touring downstream quickly maintain in swimming pools, particularly these with cowl, both boulders or rock. Additionally they typically collect the place shallow water or obstructions gradual downstream motion. At occasions, throughout this season, significantly throughout a hotter interval and in low to reasonable flows, teams of catfish may be discovered feeding in riffle and run areas upstream of deeper holes. Fish a spot, and in the event that they’re not there, preserve transferring. A spot containing no fish at this time may very well be productive the subsequent trip.

Oct. 27

The timber are principally naked apart from a number of cussed oaks. It’s getting darkish early now that the clock has been set again. Spring forward, fall again. Appears the catfish is likely to be on the identical clock, as they do that within the river across the similar occasions. A number of bouts of regular rains have introduced the river up. This could settle catfish into the great spots beneath Meadow Bottoms.

Editor’s Word: Finally, because the season progresses and water temperatures drop beneath the 45°F to 50°F mark, channel cats focus within the largest and deepest holes, the place they’ll stay for the winter. As water temperatures drop into the 40s and beneath, they’ve a decreased tolerance for sustained swimming or for holding place in present. The bottom flows are most frequently discovered within the deepest swimming pools, and wood- and rock cowl serve to gradual present much more, offering further shelter.

Channel catfish metabolism slows in chilly water, which reduces feeding, so there’s possible little competitors among the many consolidated catfish for the restricted meals sources out there in wintering websites. Some catfish will feed, nevertheless, if given the chance, on smaller items of cutbait introduced on a backside rig or suspended on a jig off backside. As a result of a single wintering website can collect massive numbers of catfish from a prolonged stretch of river, the fishing is commonly good, even when solely a small proportion of the fish chunk.

Pencil illustration of an angler in a boat fishing the shoreline of a treelined lake
(Doug Schermer illustration)

Nov. 3

Mild snow flurries this morning, and the river temperature has cooled fairly a bit these previous two weeks. Launched beneath Meadow Bottoms. I noticed solely two different boats all day, carrying hunters throughout the river to succeed in deer stands.

I fished a number of handsome holes. Solely two held catfish, the identical holes which might be normally finest this time of 12 months. The catfish appear explicit about which spots they use most now. Many of the holes I fished downriver at this time and in earlier years are deep—18 to 25 ft—however there are solely two which have good fishing.

The catfish chunk far more hesitantly. They take extra time to eat a bait when it’s chilly, so it’s finest to look at for slight ticks of the rod tip. Nonetheless, they bend the rod over, and as soon as hooked they battle surprisingly nicely, for a warmwater gamefish in chilly water.

Nov. 13

It was chilly and windy at this time, however the fishing was good within the two holes beneath Meadow Bottoms. 9 fish to five kilos. The fish are arrange barely sooner than final 12 months. Maybe the fishing may be too good. I can see what number of expert fishermen may catch and preserve their share each trip, as soon as they discovered these teams of catfish.

I stored two smaller fish for supper, however I’ll possible not preserve any extra this 12 months. I look ahead to numbers of catfish again in my favourite locations upriver subsequent spring. I particularly wish to see how they take to Huge Cottonwood.

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