Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Catfish spawn brings hot fishing in reservoirs

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Water temperatures are climbing into the upper 70s, sending channel catfish to rocky banks in reservoirs to spawn. June is one of the most productive months to fish for them.

“Channels like crevices to spawn such as rocky areas or stumpy areas,” said Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “They like protecting their eggs in those crevices. Catfish are susceptible to bank anglers.”

You don’t need to spend a ton for good channel catfishing equipment. A 7- to 9-foot long medium-heavy to heavy power fiberglass spinning rod and matching reel spooled with 20- to 30-pound abrasion resistant monofilament line will land most channel catfish. Many anglers use a ½-ounce egg sinker on the main line above a barrel swivel with an 18-inch leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon line.

A 4/0 circle hook works wonders for this style of fishing as the catfish can take the bait for a long time without fear of a deep gut hook. Circle hooks usually catch a catfish in the corner of the mouth. Remember to resist the impulse to set the hook; slowly tighten the line until the catfish hooks itself.

Channel catfish are mainly bottom scavengers with a highly tuned sense of smell. Bait that stinks or bleeds works best. The low light periods of dusk and dark and just before dawn are the best times to catch them in June.

People have used just about anything that gives off scent to catch channel catfish. Bar soap, candy orange slices, offal left out in the sun, rancid cheese, fish guts and the innards of squirrels have all been impaled on a hook and cast for channels.

However, just a few baits consistently catch channel catfish in reservoirs: cut pieces of shad or skipjack herring, nightcrawlers, chicken livers, shrimp and prepared commercial stink or dip baits. Cheap hot dogs soaked overnight in syrup made from unsweetened strawberry Kool-Aid combined with a couple tablespoons of minced garlic make really productive channel cat bait.

Reservoirs across Kentucky hold excellent populations of channel catfish with good bank fishing. The big twins of west Kentucky, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley have arguably the best population of these fish in the state.

“We used to catch many channel catfish from big boulder outcrops on Lake Barkley in June,” Buynak said. “We caught them on nightcrawlers.”

In addition to rocky banks and points, the softball-sized riprap rock used to armor the bank around marinas on both of these lakes holds June channel catfish. The riprap around bridge approaches also hold fish.

The tailwater areas of both of these lakes have consistently productive channel catfishing with excellent bank access. Cut shad or skipjack herring fished on the riprap that armors the bank just below both dams produces channel cats nearly year round.

Central Kentucky’s Taylorsville Lake has several excellent bank fishing spots for channel catfish. Maj. Shane Carrier, assistant director of law enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, patrolled the lake for years as a conservation officer.

“The area around Van Buren Boat Ramp and Chowning Lane Boat Ramp are good June spots,” he said. “There is riprap around those ramps and rocky shorelines as well and they catch a lot of fish.” He also recommends the ADA accessible fishing platform at Possum Ridge Boat Ramp for channel cats.

Carrier said anglers catch many catfish from the face of the dam on Taylorsville. A parking lot and bathroom facilities await anglers there, but they must negotiate a steep hill.

Barren River Lake in southern Kentucky holds an excellent population of large channel catfish. Anglers should target rocky shorelines with chicken livers, stink bait or strawberry and garlic soaked hotdogs. Bank anglers may fish at Barren River State Resort Park, Quarry Road Recreation Area near the dam, the Tailwater Recreation Area just below the dam and at the Port Oliver Boat Ramp. Port Oliver has ADA accessible fishing structures and lot of bank fishing room. The Barren River Lake Wildlife Management Area in the Peter’s Creek Arm also has a fishing pier and bank fishing.

Dewey Lake and Yatesville Lake in east Kentucky both have burgeoning populations of channel catfish. Target flats near the channel in the upper section of Dewey Lake. Jenny Wiley State Resort Park offers a wealth of bank fishing in this part of the lake.

Yatesville Lake also holds impressive numbers of channel catfish. The riprap lined banks near the Yatesville Lake State Park Marina hold June channel catfish as does the fishing jetty near the marina.

Maj. Carrier reminds anglers they may not fish from ramps or their courtesy docks.

Get out now and catch some channel catfish. They bite willingly all summer long and taste fantastic.


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