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Interesting Read If You Have Time "Frosty Flatheads"

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It is a little long, but it is pretty good smile I am not sure if it has been on here before!

Frosty Flatheads

The Hole Truth About Flatheads In Rivers Right Now

by Steve Hoffman

The season for channel cats on the Minnesota portion of the Red River extends from early May through the end of February. I mention this in an article about flatheads because it's the only legal season for catfish that I'm aware of in North America. Most parts of the country, though, have at least an informal season. Most veteran flathead anglers, for example, begin fishing when water temperatures warm into the low to mid-60F range in spring, and they hang up their rods when water temperatures cool below 50F in fall.

Translating those water temperatures to a calendar can be difficult because weather and water conditions never are constant from one year to the next. During a typical season, though, I'd guess the traditional flathead season in Minnesota extends roughly from mid-May through early October. Heavy cold spring rains might slide the opener back, and a few warm fall days may extend the fishing for a week or two, but northern anglers can expect about six months of fishing during a typical year. Probably add a couple weeks to each end of your season in Missouri and a month or more in South Carolina.

Regardless of where you fish, though, cooling water eventually pushes flatheads into wintering holes that afford them some level of comfort and security. The start of what we call the Coldwater Period is characterized by nearly constant cold water temperatures. Again, how cold depends on geographic location. In the north, some river sections may be covered by three feet of ice, and water temperatures range from a low of 32F to a high of about 39F. Winter temperatures in the mid-South may run in the mid-40F range, and the high 50F range in the deep south.

It follows, then, that a flathead's need for a separate winter range would be strongest in the northern two-thirds of their range. In rivers like the Tallahatchie and Big Black in Mississippi, where water temperatures remain above 50F throughout winter, flatheads may remain in the same areas they occupied during summer. In the Minnesota, St. Croix, Wisconsin, and other northern rivers, though, they usually drop into moderately deep holes when water temperatures dip below about 50F. And so long as these holes aren't filled in by changing river dynamics, fish may inhabit the same wintering holes from one year to the next.

Studies on the Minnesota River conducted by biologists with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources found that channel cats and flatheads favor different wintering holes, though some overlap occurs. While channel cats tend to congregate in the deepest available water, flatheads favor holes with heavy wood cover or rock structure that blocks current, usually in water 12 to 18 feet deep. Most fish in the Minnesota River don't move far, but a long migration may occur in some rivers.

It has long been assumed that these wintering flatheads--especially those at the northern edge of their range--seldom bite, though they're occasionally caught by anglers fishing with jigs or bait for walleyes or some other species. A reliable pattern has been difficult to establish, though, because most of these anglers weren't targeting flatheads, and most of the fish they reported catching were snagged.

In recent seasons, though, we've met anglers like John Lehto and Terry Hansen who do indeed target flatheads in northern rivers during the coldest times of the year. Both are coldwater catmen to the core. Neither pursues flatheads during the traditional summer season, but both routinely break through ice at the boat ramp thick enough to support an ice fisherman, and they brave temperatures cold enough to send ice fishermen in search of a propane heater.

JOHN LEHTO'S METHOD

John Lehto, as we've already established, is not a typical flathead fisherman. He doesn't care much for night fishing, and he claims to lack the patience he assumes is necessary to stillfish with livebait. What's most unusual about Lehto, though, is that his season doesn't begin until his neighbors in Somerset, Wisconsin, are putting their boats in storage and rigging their ice rods.

But he does like to catch big flatheads. Fishing from mid-October through the end of March, Lehto and two partners boated more than 250 flatheads in the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. Their remarkable catch included 15 fish over 40 pounds and two that topped 60. "My biggest fish was just under 70 pounds," Lehto adds, "which would have eclipsed the current Wisconsin record (65 pounds)."

Most of his fish are caught in main-river holes from 20 to 30 feet deep. "I usually drift through a hole at current speed," Lehto says, "using an electric motor only to correct my drift and keep the bait directly beneath the boat. Several drifts may be needed to find where the cats are holding. Sometimes most of the fish push toward the head of the hole, but at other times, they're lined up along the channel ledge or scattered throughout the core of the hole."

Lehto sometimes uses sonar to locate fish holding on or near the bottom, but they're difficult to discern from the bottom because of the sunken timber, rock, and other cover that litters the hole. "Flatheads usually hold behind large objects like wood and rock that deflect cover," Lehto adds, "but they also line up behind each other. At times, they're packed so tightly into prime holes that jigging without snagging a fish is almost impossible."

Most of the flatheads caught during the Coldwater Period are, as we've said, snagged, usually by anglers targeting walleye or sauger. This has made many anglers skeptical of those claiming to catch numbers of flatheads in water colder than about 50F. "I keep a detailed record of all my catches," Lehto counters, "including notes about how the fish was caught. I estimate that about 25 percent of my fish are snagged, but that's definitely not my intent, and most of the fish definitely are taking the bait."

Lehto's choice of bait may be the most remarkable aspect of his approach. His initial catches were made with the same plastic grub and minnow combinations used by walleye anglers, but he soon learned that soft plastics were enough to trigger strikes from semi-active flatheads. "I've had success with 3- to 5-inch shad imitators like Mister Twister Sassy Shads, Berkley Shimmy Shads, and Banjo Minnows.

"I always add some kind of scent to the bait--usually Berkley's Walleye Power Bait Attractant or Baitmate Catfish Scent--but I'm not sure how important scent is," Lehto continues. "I've also experimented with rattles inserted into the plastic baits, but again, I can't say for sure it produces more strikes. The whole key to this presentation seems to be keeping the bait near the bottom and jigging fairly aggressively to trigger strikes--just like walleye fishing."

Unlike walleye anglers, though, Lehto uses heavy-power muskie bucktail rods and large-capacity casting reels spooled with 40-pound monofilament. "Snags are so common that I've started using a 30-pound mono leader,"Lehto says. "I lose a few more jigs each season, but I'm not shortening my main line every time I break off. Heavy tackle also means more landed fish. Flatheads tend to be much more lethargic in cold water, but I still expect a battle to last about a minute for every three pounds of fish."

TERRY HANSEN'S METHOD

Terry Hansen, owner of Apex Tackle in South Sioux City, Nebraska, has for years been making spectacular catches of big flatheads during the coldest times of the year. He fishes the lower ends of major Missouri River tributaries. Runs on these rivers average 4 to 8 feet deep, and most sharp bend holes are about 20 feet deep. Most of these holes are 100 to 200 feet long and drop and rise gradually at the head and tailout sections. Most also contain little wood or rock cover.

Hansen says most of the bend holes he fishes hold at least a few flatheads, but he prefers to pinpoint their location with a flasher. "You can pass right over the tops of these fish without seeing them on a liquid crystal graph," Hansen says, "but a properly tuned flasher will separate fish from the bottom. After spotting a fish, I use my electric motor to hover over the fish, holding my bait right in front of its nose until it decides to eat."

We've long recommended flashers for precision tasks like reading through dense vegetation or vertically jigging through the ice. Before you trade in your LCG for a flasher, though, realize that spotting fish holding tight to the bottom isn't always easy. "I know how to tune and interpret my flasher through years of experience," Hansen adds. "Most importantly, though, I know what I'm looking for. That flickering bottom signal may look like a stump to the untrained eye, but I usually can pick out the fish."

Like Lehto, Hansen also has found that large numbers of flatheads tend to congregate in prime wintering holes. "If I catch a fish or even see a fish on my flasher," Hansen says, "I'm confident that at least 10 or 15 other flatheads are present in the hole. Most of the fish I catch in late winter are covered with sores, scrapes, and have chunks of their dorsal fins chewed off. One fishery manager I fish with speculates that the fish are taking pieces out of each other, due either from hunger or territorial battles in tight quarters."

Hansen also finds walleyes, sauger, and saugeyes sharing real estate with flatheads. During the first six weeks of 1999, he caught more than 1,500 saugeyes in the 2- to 5-pound range and dozens of flatheads to 50 pounds. With the balance of his catch so clearly on the walleye side of the ledger, he continues to use walleye tackle and tactics throughout winter. "I use medium-power spinning gear spooled with 4- or 6-pound line," Hansen says. "My bait is a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce Apex Crystal Ball Jig tipped with a 4- to 6-inch shiner.

"Most hardcore flathead fishermen can't believe I'm able to land big fish on such light line," Hansen adds, "and I admit that I probably couldn't do it in warm water. In the winter, though, the current is almost imperceptible, and the cold water really saps the strength of a big flathead. I'd guess that Lehto's estimate of one minute per three pounds is about right for me too, but I use much lighter line.

"These fish just don't fight like they do during summer," Hansen adds. "I was bringing in a fish last season when my line frayed and broke on a cracked guide. I reached over the gunnel and grabbed the terminal end of the line that was still floating on the surface and brought the fish in hand over hand. The fish weighed almost 50 pounds but felt like dead weight on the line."

FLATHEADS FOR THE FUTURE

On his best day last winter, Lehto and a partner boated 35 flatheads for a total weight of more than 600 pounds. Regulations on the river section they were fishing permit each angler to keep 10 fish, but farther downstream (in the Iowa stretch of the Mississippi River), they could have harvested all the fish. "Not only can these fish be caught during the coldest time of the year," Lehto adds, "but also, they probably can be caught in greater numbers than at any other time of year. I release all the fish I catch and encourage other anglers to do the same."

Unfortunately, not all anglers voluntarily follow Lehto's example. We're committed to covering topics like this one because it's part of the whole catfishing experience. It certainly appears, though, that flatheads--particularly big flatheads--are extremely vulnerable in cold water.

Editor In Chief Doug Stange, a longtime proponent of bringing catfish regulations into line with regulations for other important gamefish, agrees. "These consolidated fish probably need protection from harvest during winter," Stange says. "Certainly, they need protection from overharvest. The problem remains that we have little definition of what constitutes overharvest in most areas. Even in conservative states, such as Minnesota, the limit on most waters is five catfish of any species, never mind that those five fish could be 40-pound flatheads with a combined age of well over 100 years.

"Never mind, too," Stange continues, "that these fish might be taken from a winter concentration that numbers in the hundreds, these hundreds being the fish that will, once spring arrives, spread throughout the river and tributaries to provide recreation for the masses. But I'm reaching here. All I know for certain is that we need to know more so we can protect appropriately in order to ensure good fishing for this incredible big gamefish. In the meantime, anglers need to exercise discipline by practicing selective harvest. Until we have a better handle on how fragile these fisheries are, let's release the big fish and on occasion perhaps keep only a small fish or two."

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Lots of opinions on this one, so I guess I'll give mine. I've watched some pretty compelling videos of these "slumbering flatheads" to think that it's probably best to leave them be. They are very vulnerable piled up like cord wood.

Having said that it's perfectly legal to target them by means other than snagging. The law is the law.

But...even the guys that say they will bite a bait, admit to snagging a good percentage of them.

I'm not going to judge anyone, but it's just not my cup of tea.

Also, if I remember right, this is a fairly old article and nothing has been changed since.

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"These fish just don't fight like they do during summer," Hansen adds. "I was bringing in a fish last season when my line frayed and broke on a cracked guide. I reached over the gunnel and grabbed the terminal end of the line that was still floating on the surface and brought the fish in hand over hand. The fish weighed almost 50 pounds but felt like dead weight on the line."

I dont know how it is for others, but for me the fight is the prize; weight of fish is secondary.

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I like dtro have seen videos and read articals on the winter slummbering flats and think they should be protected in some sort of way. I also live for the fight that a big cat has to offer and will continue to fish for flats in the warmer season.

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Ahh, you guys just don't know what fun is. I skip the summer bite altogether and target them strictly in the winter. The key is to jig aggressively. Sure, you might snag a few here and there (25% !!!)....but you'll get a few of the aggressive biters too. Yeah, they're stacked in like cordwood -- so much that it's almost impossible NOT to snag a few if you drift through there, but hey, I wouldn't call that "vulnerable". It's sweet being able to bring a 50 pound fish like a dead weight too. I mean, some people go to the health club and pay good money to lift dead weights, I can do it all on the river.

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I'd love to fish with Lehto, just to see how he does it. I'll take his word that he's getting them on plastics, but it does seem a little unorthodox, maybe even straddling unbelievable. I'm glad I'm not the only one that's not crazy about winter fishing for these beasts. 25% snagging is too high. And if they come in like a wet sack of trash with no fight, what's the point? Call me a snob, but I'd just as well like to see the season closed in the winter to discourage those that are snagging with intent. But that would be like protecting, gasp shocked , a large predatory gamefish. Right now nobody has the gall to put big cats in the same class as pike, bass, walleye, and muskie. I think Stange's comments are the ones that are more concerning: When will cats be afforded more protection in stricter bag and size limits?

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If anyone drags a jig or aggressively jigs in a hole with the intent of targeting catfish in wintering months I would place them as violating this (Link Below) - if you admit snaging them %25 of the time then your above the "accidental snag %" If your out fishing walleye using a jig I would place your chance of snaging a cat to maybe 2%, not sure you would be fishing mid winter for walleye in a 25 to 30 ft hole? maybe Sauger that deep, but if you have a walleye/sauger bait on they will bit way befor a wintering cat will. I would relate it to this, your sleeping and someone jerk-baits you out of bed and drags you across the room, No fight just dead weight.. If you know the cycle of a fish I say respect the fish and let them get the rest they need for a fair fight in the summer..

https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/statutes/?id=97C.331

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Interesting read. How extensive is any fish examined in a river system.

Makes a good point are these big guys slumbering south and do they venture north when the water warms. And what about the other species of fish like say walleye and sauger do they migrate also. And are these people who limit out in open water durring mid winter hurting the fishery further north. I ask this because the St.Croix is no longer the fishery it use to be in years past. The St.Croix in my opinion has gone through one of the worst years ever in recant memory that includes summer and winter. Maybe last year was an of year but it warrants a study and better regs for the winter months.

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I support whatever will help the Flathead populations in these rivers, and if that means creating a season and also making them C&R only I am all for it.

No need to go after them while they're vulnerable in their winter holes.

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I've caught plenty of flatheads on plastic. Under the right conditions, its (almost) consistant. They do become very agressive towards artificials but winter is not a good time to pull them out of their beds I don't think.

I'd like to take Mr. Hoffman out and show him "Dark's Mudeye Method" He looks a little too clean cut to lick one tho grin

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So after the release of these fish, are they even coherent enough to swim back to their hole, or do they just tumble around in the current until they get caught in a snag and die? Doesnt sound to sportsman like if you ask me!

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But that would be like protecting, gasp shocked , a large predatory gamefish. Right now nobody has the gall to put big cats in the same class as pike, bass, walleye, and muskie. I think Stange's comments are the ones that are more concerning: When will cats be afforded more protection in stricter bag and size limits?

thats because we know that cats are a class above all others the others just dont know it yet.

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I agree with dtro ... I don't think that winter catting is for me ... if someone else wants to give it a whirl, be my guest. I just don't know how ethical it would be to catch a weakened fish in a hole literally stacked fish on top of fish ... kind of reminds me of the 'trout fishing' they always have at the state fair!

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Its like snaggin fish in the barrel or hunting bears while they hibernate, except all the bears are sleepin in one cave.

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Haha I was going to use the 'fish in a barrel' line myself, just figured it was cliche ... such a valid point though!

hey off topic but what did that pig measure out at in your avatar? Looks like a monster!

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      River level at Guttenberg has dropped several feet to 8.9 feet and is expected to reach 7.5 feet by next week. Water temperature is 68 degrees at Lock and Dam 10. Walleye - Good: Fishing wing dam areas will get easier with a drop in river levels. Use crankbaits or 3-way rigs tipped with crawlers in 8-12 feet of water. Yellow Perch - Excellent: The perch bite has picked up. Many 13 inch fish are being caught with a live minnow floated under a bobber.  Northern Pike - Good: This time of year, pike are attracted to cooler water coming in from springs and tributaries. Cast spoons along the edge of weed beds.
      Channel Catfish - Good: Try cut bait or stink bait in the main and side channel borders. Largemouth Bass - Good: Look for largemouth in the slack water areas off the main channel or running sloughs. Smallmouth Bass - Excellent: Smallmouth activity has picked up. Cast inline spinners or crankbaits along rock or tree habitat in faster current.  White Bass - Fair: Cast flashy spinners or crankbaits along the rocks in main channel current for big white bass. Bluegill - Excellent: Find bluegills in clearer water with slow current in backwater areas away from main channel and sloughs. Freshwater Drum - Excellent: Freshwater drum are actively biting in areas of current. Drop a heavily weighted worm rig into the current for some big fish action. Black Crappie - Fair: Expect the crappie bite to pick up this fall after the water clarity improves. Try tube jigs or minnow under a bobber in submersed trees in the backwater sloughs.  Upper Mississippi River level is falling back into normal fall range. Look for fish to be more active as they start fall feeding activity. Water temperatures are near 70 degrees.   Mississippi River Pool 12
      Water levels will fluctuate this week, starting at 8.2 feet at the Dubuque Lock and Dam and at 10.7 feet at the RR bridge. Water clarity is fair. The water temperature is around 72 degrees. Channel Catfish - Good:Try stink bait or worms near shore. Channel cats feed heavily near shore during flooded conditions. Freshwater Drum - Good: Most anglers use a simple egg sinker and worm rig. Drum will be hanging out relatively near shore in moderate current areas. Bluegill - Good: Try finding clear water in the upper reaches of backwater areas; use worms and bobber. Largemouth Bass - Fair: Fish the upper ends of backwater areas in cleaner water. Black Crappie - Fair: Use small minnows in the clear upper reaches of backwater areas.  Mississippi River Pool 13
      Water level will fluctuate this week, starting out at 9.2 feet at the Bellevue Lock and Dam. Water clarity is fair. Avoid large tributary streams as they are muddy. The water temperature is around 73 degrees. The north ramp at Sabula is not in use this year due to bridge construction. Channel Catfish - Fair: Try stink bait or worms near shore. Move often if you are not finding catfish. Freshwater Drum - Good: The drum bite is on. Fish worms with an egg sinker in moderate current areas. Fish near the shorelines if possible. Largemouth Bass - Good: Try frog imitation lures and spinner baits in the upper ends of backwater areas and deep in the vegetated areas. Bluegill - Good: Find the clear water in the upper reaches of large backwater complexes; use a simple bobber and worm. Black Crappie - Fair: Use a small minnow and bobber in the upper reaches of backwaters in clear water.  Mississippi River Pool 14
      Water levels are predicted to fluctuate this week, starting at around 9 feet at Fulton Lock and Dam, 12 feet at Camanche and 6.7 feet at the LeClaire. Water clarity is fair. The water temperature is around 73 degrees. Channel Catfish - Good: Try stink bait or worms near shore or along brush piles. Channel cats feed heavily in flooded waters. Freshwater Drum - Good: Use a simple egg sinker/worm rig in moderate current areas. Walleye - Slow: A few walleye were caught off the bank with jigs and minnows. Bluegill - Good: Use a bobber and worm in the upper reaches of Rock Creek or Cattail Slough.  Mississippi River Pool 15
      Water levels are near 10.2 feet at Rock Island and will rise to 12.3 feet. This level will again approach "action" flood stage, so some boat ramps will be flooded. Water clarity is poor. The water temperature is around 74 degrees. Channel Catfish - No Report: Try stink bait or worms near shore. Fish near shore in flooded waters. Freshwater Drum - No Report: Use an egg sinker and worm rigs fished near shore in moderate current areas.  The water levels will fluctuate this week. Most ramps are usable again, but some will have water on them. If you have any angling questions, please contact the Bellevue Fisheries Station 563-872-4976. 
    • NORTHWEST IOWA FISHING REPORTS Black Hawk Lake
      Water temperatures are in the low 70's. Water levels are 6 inches over the crest of the spillway. Bluegill - Fair: Use a small jig with a small piece of crawler fished under a bobber in 3-6 feet of water in Town Bay from the stone piers along Ice House Point and near the inlet bridge. Walleye - Slow: Try crawler rigs or crankbaits around Ice House Point, the dredge cut near Denison Beach, and around the rock piles near Gunshot Hill, Cottonwood Point and the East Basin. Largemouth Bass - Fair: Catch largemouth all over the lake using traditional bass lures. There is a 15 inch minimum length limit on largemouth bass in Black Hawk Lake.  Channel Catfish - Fair: Use stink bait, cut bait, or crawler fished on the bottom along Ice House Point and in Town Bay, and along shore near the outlet. Yellow Perch - Fair: Use crawlers fished 3-4 feet below a bobber on the lake side of the inlet bridge and from the stone piers in Town Bay. Brushy Creek Lake
      There is a 15 inch minimum length limit on largemouth bass in Brushy Creek Lake, and a 40 inch minimum length limit for musky. Walleye - Fair: Drift or troll slowly crawler rigs, minnows or leaches in 15-20 feet of water. Yellow Perch - Fair: Find perch along the vegetation and deeper structure. Largemouth Bass - Fair: Catch bass along weed lines near shore just about anywhere with traditional bass lures. There is a 15 inch minimum length limit on largemouth bass in Brushy Creek Lake. Bluegill - Fair: Try tube jigs tipped with crawlers in 10-15 feet of water.  North Twin Lake
      Water temperatures are in the low 70's. Water clarity is around 1.5 feet. White Crappie - Slow: No Report - A recent survey showed most crappie are 6-10 inches with a few up to 14 inches. Walleye - Slow: Walleye up to 27 inches have been seen in recent netting surveys.  Storm Lake (including Little Storm Lake)
      Storm Lake has a daily limit of 3 walleye and all 17- to 22-inch walleye must be released; no more than one walleye longer than 22 inches may be taken per day. Walleye - Fair: Use crawler rigs and troll crankbaits along the edges of the dredge cuts around the lake in 6-10 feet of water. White Bass - Fair: Troll crankbaits or fish crawlers along the dredge cuts.  Water temperatures in Black Hawk District lakes are in the low 70's. For more information, contact the Black Hawk District office at 712-657-2638.   Beeds Lake
      The park road will be closed Sept. 19th - 21st due to road construction; there will be no access to the boat ramp. Black Crappie - Fair: Drift fish or troll with a tube jig or small minnow. Yellow Bass - Fair: Drift fish or troll with a small jig. Shore anglers should fish a small piece of crawler or cut bait off the bottom.  Clear Lake
      Surface water temperature is 70 degrees. Channel Catfish - Fair: Use crawlers or cut bait in the areas where water is entering the lake. Black Crappie - Fair: Drift a jig and minnow over deeper submerged vegetation. Yellow Bass - Fair: Drift or troll a small jig tipped with cut bait or a minnow over the reefs until you find fish.  Muskellunge - Fair: Fish the edge of the vegetation and near docks.  Crystal Lake
      Black Crappie - Fair: Drift or troll small tube jigs or a minnow in the dredge cut or on the edge of vegetation. Largemouth Bass - Fair: Use crankbaits.  Lake Smith
      Black Crappie - Fair: Drift or troll a small jig or minnow in deeper near the outlet.  For information on the lakes and rivers in the north central area, contact the Clear Lake Fish and Wildlife office at 641-357-3517.    East Okoboji Lake
      Yellow Bass - Good: Excellent bite continues with good numbers of fish being caught. Cast mini-jigs or hair-jigs or use small baits tipped with wigglers. Don’t overlook the evening bite from docks as these fish will move shallow at dusk. Walleye - Good: Numbers of fish are being caught with traditional baits; good numbers of yellow bass are mixed in with the catch. Northern Pike - Fair: Anglers report northern pike action on the lake.  Five Island Lake
      Channel Catfish - Good: Numbers of fish are being caught trolling. Don’t overlook public areas to fish using traditional "cat" baits which will provide excellent action.  Lake Pahoja
      Bluegill - Good: Recent surveys show good numbers of large angler size fish in the lake.  Little Sioux River (state line to Linn Grove)
      Channel Catfish - Good: Report of angles catching fish from the river.  Lost Island Lake
      Yellow Bass - Good: Reports of yellow bass being caught with black crappie and yellow perch up to 10 inches mixed in the catch. Use small lures such as a twister tail or hair jigs. Bluegill - Good: Recent surveys show numbers of fish approaching 7 inches in the lake. Black Crappie - Good: Recent surveys show numbers of angler acceptable size fish up to 10 inches in the lake.  Ocheyedan Pit #1
      Channel Catfish - Fair: Recent surveys show good numbers of 17 -23 inch channel catfish.  Silver Lake (Dickinson)
      Walleye - Good: Expect the fall walleye bite to start soon. Troll crankbaits during the day; wader fishing is your best chance to catch trophy size fish.  Spirit Lake
      Walleye - Good: The fall walleye bite has started with action improving. Yellow Perch - Good: Good numbers of angler acceptable size yellow perch continue to be caught in the outside line of the weed beds. Bonus bluegill will be mixed in the catch.  West Okoboji Lake
      Bluegill - Good: Rock piles in deeper water with stands of aquatic growth will produce good numbers of angler acceptable sized fish.  For more information throughout the week, contact the Spirit Lake Fish Hatchery at 712-336-1840. 
    • SOUTHEAST IOWA FISHING REPORTS Big Hollow Lake
      The unstable weather isn't helping the fishing or the number of anglers out on the lake.  Black Crappie - No Report: Start looking for crappies in 6 feet of water. Bluegill - No Report: Bluegills should be moving in to more shallow water soon. Start at 6 feet and work your way in from there.  Deep Lakes
      Grab a pole and go exploring at Deep Lakes; there are lots of ponds to try. Largemouth Bass - Fair: Most of the ponds have good numbers of bass in them; most are smaller, but there are some big ones. Go subtle in your choice of lures with the ultra-clear water. Bluegill - Good: Find the right pond and you can catch some nice bluegills.  Iowa River (Columbus Junction to Mississippi River)
      The Iowa River still has a lot of flow right now, but is currently back down in its bank with only some low area flooding; it looks to be headed back up.  Lake Belva Deer
      Water warmed up over the last days to around 78 degrees again. The cooler weather forecast should reverse that trend. Black Crappie - Fair: Last week was pretty slow;  crappie should start biting again with the water getting back to normal and cooling off. Channel Catfish - Fair: Should still be able to pick up a few catfish up by the inlet from the marsh. Largemouth Bass - Fair: Picking up a few bass in the more shallow water up along the rocks and gravel bottom areas.  Lake Darling
      The water temperature is back up to about 79 degrees. Water clarity is improving despite more heavy rains earlier this week. Fishing, while still pretty good, is a little more hit and miss due to the weather.  Bluegill - Good: Decent numbers of hand-sized bluegills are being caught in 5 or less feet of water. Water still hasn’t cleared up after last week’s heavy rains. So a little flash to any lure is a good idea. Channel Catfish - Good: Anglers continue to catch catfish. It’s a good time to fish the weirs in the in-lake silt dams as the water from the recent and forecast rains come into the lake. Largemouth Bass - Good: Bass are hovering over the rock piles in about 5-8 feet of water. Spinnerbaits and spoons work best.  Lost Grove Lake
      Water temperature was 78 degrees on Wednesday; the storm may have cooled it off more since then. Black Crappie - Fair: Anglers are still catching crappies out deep, but if the nights stay fairly cool, they should start to move in to shallower water. Largemouth Bass - Good: Run your favorite crankbait on the north side of the lake, out along the mounds on the flats and in shallow.  Skunk River (Coppock to Mississippi River)
      The Skunk River is back down to about 1/2 bank full. The parking areas and lanes to them are still muddy.  For more information on the above lakes and rivers, call the Lake Darling Fisheries Office at 319-694-2430. Central Park Lake
      The lake is close to full after the renovation project; fingerling fish have been stocked.  Coralville Reservoir
      The lake level is at 705 feet (normal pool is 683.4 feet) and slowly falling as of 9/20. All public ramps are under water and the Mehaffey ramp is closed due to construction.  Diamond Lake
      The water is muddy. Black Crappie - Fair: Try small jigs fished over deeper brush. Most fish are 8-9 inches. Channel Catfish - Good: Stink bait works best. Some limits are being reported.   Iowa Lake (Iowa County)
      Largemouth Bass – Slow. Channel Catfish – Slow. Bluegill – Fair. Black Crappie - Fair: Fish in 12-15 feet of water and look for fish suspended a few feet off the bottom.  Iowa River (Coralville Lake to River Junction)
      Catfish were biting at Hills and River Junction before the flows bumped up to 10,000 CFS. Flows will continue to be this high until the Coralville Reservoir is back down to normal, which could be weeks.  Kent Park Lake
      The lake is currently drained for a lake restoration project.  Lake Macbride
      The motor restriction is off; any sized motor may be used at no-wake speed (5 mph). Black Crappie - Fair: Use jigs or minnows around brush; some fish are reported as moving shallower. Walleye - Fair: Troll crawlers or crankbaits in 7-14 feet of water. Largemouth Bass - Fair. Wiper (Hybrid Striped Bass) – Fair: Try topwater baits early and late then troll during the day. Channel Catfish - Fair: Try cut bait or stink bait. Evenings are best.  Pleasant Creek Lake
      The lake is still 1.5 feet low. Use caution on the lake, as many of the new rock and wood structures are becoming submerged. There are 2 docks in at the main ramp and the fish cleaning station is open.   For more information, contact the Lake Macbride Fisheries Station at 319-624-3615.   Lake Keomah
      Bluegill - Fair: Use small jigs tipped with live bait near shore and around the fishing jetties. Black Crappie - Fair: Use a jig tipped with a minnow around deep structure. Try different depths until you find active fish. Channel Catfish - Fair: Use stink bait or chicken liver in 4-8 feet of water. Largemouth Bass - Fair: Try spinnerbaits, crankbaits or rubber worms around the fishing jetties and along the dam.  Lake Miami
      Largemouth Bass - Fair: Try topwater lures in the early mornings and evenings then switch to rubber worms or crankbaits during the hotter parts of the day. Target the cedar tree piles and the fishing jetties. Bluegill - Fair: Use a chunk of night crawler along the fishing jetties or around the cedar tree piles.  Lake Sugema
      The south boat ramp off of Highway 2 has been reopened. There is now a construction project on the north ramp. Largemouth Bass - Fair: Use topwater lures in the early mornings and evenings. As the day progresses, target deeper structure using rubber worms or deep diving crankbaits. Black Crappie - Slow: Crappies are suspended. Try drifting minnows around the flooded timber at different depths to find active fish. Bluegill - Fair: Try live bait tipped on a small jig around the shorelines and fishing jetties. Keep moving until you find active fish.  Lake Wapello
      Channel Catfish - Fair: Use chicken liver or stink bait. Don’t fish too deep as the lake does stratify; target 6-8 feet of water. Largemouth Bass - Good: Use rubber worms or crawdad imitating crankbaits around deep structure. Try also topwater lures around the cedar tree piles in the morning. Bluegill - Fair: Try small jigs tipped with a chunk of night crawler around aquatic vegetation. Black Crappie - Slow: Try jigs tipped with a minnow in 6-10 feet of water.  Rathbun Reservoir
      The current lake level is 906.10 msl. Normal operating elevation is 904.0 msl. Lake Rathbun has zebra mussels, so make sure to properly drain, clean, and dry equipment before transporting to another water body. Channel Catfish - Good: Use stink bait or chicken liver in coves or areas with some water running into the lake. White Crappie - Fair: Try minnows around deeper structure. Trolling small crankbaits can also catch suspended crappies. Crappies will start to move shallow as the water cools. Wiper (Hybrid Striped Bass) - Fair: Troll crankbaits along rocky shorelines and around rock piles. Follow the gulls as they will be where the schools of hybrid striped bass are feeding. Try also vertically jigging spoon baits around rock piles. Walleye - Fair: Use night crawler rigs or troll crankbaits around rock piles and submerged points.  Red Haw Lake
      Largemouth Bass - Good: Cast the shorelines in the early part of the day and then fish deeper structure as the day warms up. Use rubber worms or crankbaits. Topwater lures can be productive along the lily pads. Black Crappie - Fair: Try tube jigs along the shorelines. Bluegill - Fair: Use small jigs tipped with live bait around the shorelines and fishing jetties. Channel Catfish - Fair: Try night crawlers or chicken liver around the fishing jetties and the outer edge of the lily pads.  The district includes Mahaska, Lucas, Wayne, Monroe, Appanoose, Wapello, Davis and Van Buren counties. Contact the Rathbun Fish Hatchery at 641-647-2406 with questions about fishing in south central Iowa.   MISSISSIPPI RIVER  FISHING REPORTS Mississippi River Pool 16
      Tailwater stage is 10.36 feet at Lock and Dam 15 in the Quad Cities, but is forecast to reach 12.5 feet by the middle of next week. Flood stage is 15 feet. As of Sept. 19th, the Clark's Ferry boat ramp was still closed due to high water, but the ramp at Shady creek is open. The docks have been pulled out at the Fairport Recreational area due to high water. Fishing has been slow.  Mississippi River Pool 17
      Tailwater stage is 10.31 feet at Lock and Dam 16 in Muscatine and is forecast to rise over the weekend. Flood stage at Lock and Dam 16 is 15 feet. River stage at Muscatine is 12.14 feet, but forecast to reach 13.2 feet by the middle of next week. Flood stage at Muscatine is 16 feet. The Kilpeck Landing is closed. Big Timber is also closed due to high water. Fishing has been slow.   Mississippi River Pool 18
      Tailwater stage is 12.57 feet at Lock and Dam 17 above New Boston and has been falling the past week, but is forecast to rise over the weekend. Flood stage is 15 feet at Lock and Dam 17. River level at Keithsburg is 12.52 feet and is forecast to reach 13.1 feet by the middle of next. Flood stage at Keithsburg is 14 feet. The Toolsboro access is inaccessible due to the Odessa road being flooded. Ferry Landing is closed. Fishing has been slow.   Mississippi River Pool 19
      Tailwater stage is 9.43 feet at Lock and Dam 18 and is forecast to start rising over the weekend. Flood stage is 10 feet. River level at Burlington is 14.63 feet and is forecast to start rising over the weekend. Flood stage at Burlington is 15 feet. Fishing has been slow with the high water.   River stages have been falling the past few days. With recent heavy rains, the river is forecast to start rising over the weekend. Some boat ramps are closed due to high water. Main channel water temperature is around 73 degrees. Water clarity is poor due to high water conditions. Fishing has been slow with the high water. If you have questions on fishing Pools 16-19, contact the Fairport Fish Hatchery at 563-263-5062.
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