Crappy Weather Catfish

By Brad Durick

Anyone who fishes on a regular basis knows you can’t always avoid the weather. A little shower or storm will erupt and will pass. Sometimes it’s more than a little shower and we have to know when to pull the pin and get off the water. It is all the stuff in between that will determine how hard core we are and what we are willing to go through for a catfish. Yes when we see success not only do we have a great fish but a great story to go with it.

This is a great place to put a disclaimer. DO NOT FISH IN A LIGHTENING STORM OR WITH A LOOMING TORNADO! Get off the water immediately to ensure your safety and in some cases your life.

Catfishing in the Rain
Catfishing in the rain is common. It all comes down to how good your rain gear is or how wet you want to get. Fishing in the rain can be some of the most productive fishing you can do, especially if it is not associated with a major low or storm front.

Fishing for catfish in a light rain that lasts hours or all day can spur a bite that is second to none. With all the fresh water running into the river or lake the creepy crawleys will get moving which will spur the bait fish and of course hungry catfish will come behind.

Should it be raining hard enough to get the runoff streams running sometimes the bait will move into the new current and not far behind are the catfish looking for an easy meal. In this situation, I tend to anchor up above where the water is running in and put lines all around the running water. If the catfish have moved into this area you will know in just a few moments.

When fishing in the rain there are a few tips to make your day easier. Keep a Plano Dry Box with you for cell phones and other things that cannot get wet. Also keep extra hand towels in a plastic bag and as you use them keep them in the pocket of your rain jacket. Dry towels are a key to keeping you comfortable but also help for removing snags and working with gear in cases when wet hands make things difficult.

Catfishing with a Looming Thunderstorm
Please refer to the disclaimer at the beginning. Catfishing with a big storm moving in can be one of the best bites you will ever experience. I am talking about the ones where the TV weatherman is warning you about it for a week ahead of time. These big storms set up very nicely for a catfish bite. They know something negative is about to happen and they are in preparation mode. In many cases you fish aggressively for these fish right up until the storm hits.

When the actual storm is getting closer, even if the fishing is good get out of there. I know it’s hard to leave a good bite but a catfish simply is not worth losing your life to a lightening strike.

On a side note. Early on in my guiding years I had been on a week of very forgettable fishing. I had a group in from out of town and we hit the mother load of catfish. We were catching fish like crazy and I was very happy but I also knew there was a nasty storm rolling in. I chose to stay and squeeze out as many fish as I could before I called the trip. At one point I made a cast and the line hung in the air due to large amounts of static in the air. A minute or so later we could hear the line sizzling and sparking from the lightening that was just a mile or so away. Finally I called the trip and just as we were leaving a huge storm erupted. That was cut way to close for comfort. I should have referred to the warning at the beginning of this story.

Catfishing in the Snow
Unless you are ice fishing for catfish the chances that you will fish for them in snow is fairly minimal. It can happen and happen it has, especially in the northern most reaches. The idea of sitting in a catfish boat while it is snowing just seems like a dumb thing to do and it probably is.
In my case, both instances of catfishing in the snow happened on the Minnesota Walleye Opener. For those of you who don’t know that Saturday in May is typically a bad weather day.

Most of the time catfishing in the snow is short lived if the precipitation keeps on it will change to rain before the day is done. Catfishing from a boat in the snow is one of those things that is more of a topic of conversation than something that happens often.
For the record, both days I have personally fished in the snow have provided outstanding fishing.

Catfishing in the Heat of Day
As catfish anglers we all know about dealing with heat. After all catfish are a warm weather fish and with that some of the best fishing of the year is during the hot times. It is widely known that catfish tend to sit tight during the day and are very nocturnal during this time.

During the heat of the day we should fish where the fish live. Generally the catfish are looking for cooler shaded areas. Deeper holes are an obvious area to look for heat of the day catfish. Also consider deep in snags or any area with some shade being provided.

One thing that is overlooked when the weather is hot is clouds. Even clouds blocking the sun can be enough to get catfish to come out of hiding. A few years back I was guiding a family from Iowa and let me tell you it was hot. We were catching fish at a regular pace but as the day went on when we noticed that even a single cloud covered the sun we got more fish.

This explains why during the heat of the summer many anglers like to fish under cover of darkness. The fish come out in the lower light and the anglers like it because they don’t get sunburned as bad. It is also a time when the catfish comes to you rather than you going to the catfish like we have to during the day. Besides who doesn’t enjoy a good campfire and fishing with buddies?

Catfishing in the Wind
In rivers, wind tends to not be as bad as on lakes. When fishing lakes wind can make your day miserable any way you look at it. The positive is, wind does not affect fish other than it may push them to the wind-blown shoreline. Nobody said it was fun but fishing a windy shoreline can be awesome. When the waves get too big there is a point where you have to find a way to hide from it or stay off the water until it lays down.

River anglers don’t have to deal with wind as much but wind does affect the fishing. A down current wind for those who anchor tends to not be that big of a deal other than possibly needed to put out more anchor rope to keep the boat from catching the wind and blowing you off your spot.

Up current winds can be a totally different animal. When you anchor up the boat the wind wants it to go the opposite way yet the current under the surface is pulling the baits downstream in the current. You can quickly get yourself into a mess with a big up current wind.

There are a couple different ways to deal with up current wind. Set your main anchor off the bow of the boat, back off using the motor until the anchor line tightens, then throw out a heavy anchor from the back. Leave a foot or two of extra rope so the boat can ride over waves and you don’t swamp. (if you fish rivers with barge traffic DO NOT BACK ANCHOR!) Another way you can sometimes solve the up current wind is to anchor normally and throw a big drift sock out the back to use the current to keep the boat straight. (If the current is strong you may need more rope off the main anchor line so you don’t pull your anchor out.)

The up current wind is one of the biggest challenge we face as river anglers and we simply need to deal with this and make the best of it.

Catfishing in the Worst of it All Together
Dealing with crappy weather is part of being outdoors. No matter how hard you try to avoid it you will end up dealing with a surprise storm or a big wind that came up out of nowhere. In many cases you will have to make some adjustments to you game plan, in some instances you might see the fishing of your life and other times you may just have to know when to call it and go home.

As a catfish guide I have been there and done that. I have fished in the heaviest rain, pushed oncoming lightening further than I should have and ridden out severe storms because I simply had nowhere to go. Some days the fishing was very memorable other days it was the storms or the snow that took center stage. Bottom line is that we will all run into it and we must be smart and safe at the same time. Remember the sun with shine and the wonderful weather will arrive soon.