Perhaps the best time of the year to catch catfish…a lot of catfish…is in the fall, immediately after the first rains of the season. Here in California, we just got our first shot of precipitation in 6 months and that means it’s time to get out there and enjoy some red hot action. But you don’t have to live on the West Coast to take advantage of this situation! This method works anywhere you get some wet stuff after an extended period of dry weather.
The trick to fishing cats in rivers — and especially lakes — right after a rain is to target the mouths of tributary streams. After a long, dry summer, a big rain will wash all sorts of yummy critters — crawfish, worms, crickets, grass hoppers, minnows, lizards, freshwater clams, salamanders, etc — down creek channels and into the main water body.
The biggest influx of food occurs on the first 2 days after a rain and cats move in quickly to gobble up the buffet of protein. Often, it’s easy to figure out where to fish — just look for the plume of dirty water and fish the edges. Initially, the cats will hang on the leading edge of the dark water but will move right into the creek mouth once the velocity of the current tapers off.
One of the real beauties of this style of fishing is you really can’t go too wrong when it comes time to choosing a bait. Since the fish are in an opportunistic mode and feeding on a wide range of morsels, they’re not at all picky. Just the opposite, in fact, so you’re golden if you go with nightcrawlers, chicken live, clams or mackerel to name a few. Nightcrawlers are about as natural a bait as you can go with, though I’d opt for something a little more stinky if you’re fishing in really muddy water.
After the first rain, you’ll typically have a pretty limited window of opportunity to catch fish on an individual creek. White catfish will pile into a tributary plume just after it starts flowing, they will move just as quickly onto the next one once the food stops washing in. So, it pays to jump around until you find a creek that’s still holding fish.