Winter Catfish: Flooded Creek Adventure

Winter fishing has always been a little bit of a mystery to me. But as an angler, there is one thing that no matter what time of year it is tells me that I should be fishing: Flood conditions. The NOAA chart had the Ohio River just dropping below flood today. Ideally you would fish as the water rises or when the water reaches its maximum level, but this trip proves that fish will still bite even as the water levels start to drop.


I set up in between two sharp bends on Pigeon Creek, this sudden change in flow creates a deep bowl in the creek bed. When the creek floods, this results in a roughly 30 foot deep pocket that has a slightly buffered current. This creates a safe place for bait fish to school up, in turn bringing actively feeding catfish. The map below shows the location that I fished.


It was too cold for me to comfortably try to cast net bait fish, so I settled for some nightcrawlers. I tied 2 ounces of lead on my line and then created a dropper loop a 1 and 1/2 foot above that. I attached a circle hook to the loop and cast the bait 10 feet out into the creek. The bite was very slow,  having a nibble once every 30 minutes or so. Luckily my patience paid of with 2 small catfish.

Fishing flooded pigeon for cats

Fishing flooded pigeon for cats 2

I missed a large number of bites, but for a short and very cold trip I was happy to have landed 2 fish.Fishing this creek only gets hard and harder as the water drops and cools down further, so soon I will back trying to figure out how to catch fish in the Ohio River during the winter. But until then, I will stay grateful for every little catfish that I get lucky enough to catch from this creek.

Falling River Catfishing

The fishing conditions were hard this go around: The river was projected to fall 4 feet the day I was out, it was high for this time of year and there were no noticeable schools of bait-fish. But that would never stop me from trying to catch a few fish.

River levels When the water is high and I’m bank fishing I look for a few key characteristics: when the water is flowing fast you will do best finding current brakes where the larger fish will move to in search of a resting place and bait. The fishing spot I choose had this, with the water levels how they are there is an underwater outcropping that goes out 30 feet. This created a huge eddy and was the perfect place to throw in live bait. The first two fish were blue catfish and I caught them on some cut shad that I had in the freezer.

28 inch blue

28 inch blue catfish

19 inch blue

19 inch blue catfish

But I was all out of shad at this point so I went out and caught some bluegill to use as live bait. This produced some wonderful results very quickly. The first strike being this 25 inch flathead catfish. After this I had two gigantic hits but they ran so hard and so quickly that they snapped my line.

25 inch flathead 225 inch flathead  Which leads me to the lesson I learned and something I’m going to have to experiment with. A lot of my rigs use the dropper lopper knot, but recent events have shown that even with very low drag that this knot creates a huge weak point in the line and causes the line to break with way less strain than other knots would cause.