Branched Oak Reservoir – Flathead Catfish Report

Water Body

Some of the best Flathead fishing of the year happens for several weeks after ice-out. Keep a close eye on your sonar!!!! Those big fish you mark may not all be carp!!! I had read about the large groups of Flatheads that school up for winter but never went searching for them until this winter. If you time things right you can catch some huge Flatties!!

I set out by myself on Saturday to look for the perfect spot. It didn’t take long to mark those pigs and start jigging them. After about 10 minutes….. BAM, hammered my first fish. I guessed him to be 8 lbs or so. Several more came in that size range and then the big one. It was my first Master Angler Flathead ever, a 34 incher!! WOW, what fun. Being the walleye angler I am I don’t have equipment that is right for a job like that. It took me 45 minutes to land that fish on a 6ft jigging rod spooled with 6-2 Fireline. What fun!!

Saturday was so much fun I decided to take a couple of buddies with me on Sunday. We arrived at the lake at 4:30 AM to try our luck on some walleye. We were hoping to pick up some males on the dam that were waiting for those females to show up in a week or two. Well, no luck at that, so we headed off in search of Flatties. At about that time the wind kicked up and we could see lightening in the distance. So we docked the boat and sat in the truck for an hour while a storm came in. After the storm passed we went back to the boat now filled with an inch of hail and headed out for some fun. I caught the first one right away and it was another 34 inch master angler. Mike soon followed with a 12 pounder and then it was Pete’s turn. He hooked into a PIG!!! Two long nervous hours later we got it in the boat. It measured 44 inches and was FAT. We guessed it to weigh 55 lbs + as it maxed out his 50 lb scale.

We wern’t able to get into a lot of them Sunday but at least we had some pigs. I’m hoping to get out and chase these Flatheads a couple more times this week before the water warms up and they disperse to other parts of the lake.

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Ben Garver

Avid walleye angler on several Nebraska lakes. I fish the Nebraska Walleye Trail and have fished as an amature on the PWT.Also love ice fishing!


  1. Great report!!
    Couple or Q’s:
    What where you using to jig these fish?
    What depths you keying in on?
    Where is this Reservoir?
    Do you need a camera man?


  2. Ben,great report.Those are some nice catfish.
    Please make sure you fill out your bio for the top of your reports.
    Ryan Hale

  3. DanK-
    I was using Bass Pro XPS 3/8oz. jigs tipped with a crawler or a minnow. We were in 22 FOW. (The deepest the lake is right now is only 23 feet.) This was at Branched Oak Reservoir in SE Nebraska. I could use a camera man. I had to take the pics myself on Sat.

    Ben Garver

  4. Ben, Nice way to start off your reporting here!

    Great report and a beauty flathead. Tell your buddies nice job too.

  5. Ben….good to see some Nebraska info here. used to fish branch Oaks from shore , while stationed at Offutt and couple years after, in the mid 70’s. couldn’t keep the walleyes off the hooks at times. Still have an eye fishery going there?

  6. Sounds better than pulling up wet sock walleye to me. I hope we get into some of them soon. Great report! Keep them coming.

  7. Well first I would like to clarify that It was not a whole two hours…LOL… But also I would like to say hello to everyone and I look forward to giving and receving some good information.

  8. Great report Ben! Please don’t tell Brian K you have Cats in Nebraska! He will be inviting himself over and try to teach you his “Clonking” techniques.

  9. Nice report

    I was quite saddened by your report. I enjoy fishing flats as much as the next person and what your did is perfectly legal, I don’t agree with your tatic’s. As you said yourself you don’t have the equipment for catching these fish. Being a walleye fisherman I am sure you had a hoot catching something you can weigh in pounds rather than inch’s, but to each their own. I am concerned about you targeting them in their wintering holes and playing a fish out that long, the ill effects it would have on it. You mentioned that you played a fish out for 45 minns then another for 2 hours. That is just wrong plain and simple. I would doubt a fish would survive after that long of a fight and being flatheads they are not active in the winter time so I would expect this to be even tougher on their systems.
    Here is my suggestion, if you are fishing for walleyes, bring walleye tackle. If your fishing for flatheads bring the right equipment, pretty simple. I am no expert but I would have to assume your hurting the flathead fishery. However as I mentioned earlier, what your doing is perfectly legal just really wrong in my opinion. Just my .02


  10. So, it’s morally wrong to target catfish this time of year?? It’s wrong to attempt to catch them on light tackle?

    If you believe this, can you provide some factual evidence that these cats didn’t survive? There must be some creel surveys or some scientific method of studying this.

    I’m not a cat fisher, so I’m looking to be educated. I think if you want to challenge someone publicly, you should try to educate them, not bash his/her methods.

    I liken this to walleye fisherman catching fish from 30 FOW in late July. How many fish does this actually kill?? The DNR proved our theories to be quite off, on Mille Lacs anyway.

  11. Thanks for your input kooty

    As i stated I am not a expert nor a Biologist, I work on electronic’s and DC power plants, However I do enjoy fishing mainly catfish and sometimes others as well, and I have for better than 30 yrs.
    Can i prove these fish didnt surive? Of course not, I am in MN and wasnt there
    Can I attest to what happens when you play a fish out way to long, well yeah a lot dont surive. but then again I am no expert I can only say what I have observed and experenced 1st hand.
    as far as the challenge someone publicly portion. this is a public forum and was hoping to let people know there are two sides to this coin. I do not know of a sigle cat fisherperson who would target them during their wintering months, this discussion has come up a couple times in the past in the catfish forum. Briank, Dirk, jetcat, Comachero, anybody have any input you would like to add to this topic
    This has gotten off topic.

    It sounds like you guys had a great time and that is what fishing is all about

  12. Sean…I took your response to be informative…

    Pete…nice report and pictures. I applaud you and others recently that have really brought a “multi species” flavor to current reports…very COOL!

  13. Hey CA, bash was not the right word. You must remember you are talking to a SD grammatically challenged individual.

  14. Quote:

    you are talking to a SD grammatically challenged individual.

    Can anyone claiming to be “grammatically challenged” actually use the phrase “grammatically challenged” to make their point?

  15. In case anyone is thinking “holy cow Kooty jumped all over CA”. I’ve exchanged a few PM’s and we are cool. He now knows better than to mess with us walleye guys.

    I think his last response was along the lines “once you go cats, you never go back” Not real sure what that means, but I’ve got a PM into BrianK for clarification. I sure hope is doesn’t mean wearing gloves in a pink dress.

  16. The ol’ fishing the wintering hole post!

    We have tons of info on this in the MN/Mississippi River/Catfish forum…come on down to the bottom and read some of the very informative threads reguarding these monsters of the deep. Most folks aren’t aware of their “hibernation” and they prefer live bait over dead…or that they travel up to 60 miles to spawn once the water starts warming.
    Fantastic these flatheads are.

    Cattin Addict’s point of view is held by many catters around here…in fact I recall on post stating “Anyone that fishing flathead on a wintering hole wouldn’t be called a catfisherman”. And that’s what we really have here.

    Two guys (walleye guys) having a great time getting into some awesome fish! I’m sure that brute made the boat sit a little lower in the water!

    I spoke with Ben today, in a very short time I learned a lot from him about NE waters… We live just a few hundred miles apart…but yet our laws ect are so differant. I didn’t think any state beside SD (Kooty ) allowed fishing eyes while they were spawning? To me, that’s amazing.

    This is a good thread, and I hope we learn more about the Great State of Nebraska and other states as we continue to expand In-DepthAnglings reporting area!

    Good Fishen!

  17. Wow,
    Brink (mealy worm) are you running for public office.
    C/A I thought your responce was very KIND compared to the smack we used to talk in the Red River Form!
    A couple wallnutters don’t like your tone? Huh too bad.
    At least you took a stand.
    I remember a lot of this type of stuff coming up in the catfish form a couple years ago and geez the Outrage from the catfish community, where are they now.
    All we got is Mealy worm running for office.
    I don’t know the dude that made this report, but I say good for you dude. Enjoy real fish if its not unlawful live it up.
    Its the Silent Catfish community that troubles me.
    If mealy worm fishes at the same spot every night in the summer people get cranky but here is a guy pulling 50 pounders out of wintering holes and know one (but C/A) says anything.
    I guess the only excuse is that no Catfisherman look in this area.(Form)
    C/A I am glad you and kooky made up.
    See I guess we all can get along.
    See ya,


  18. 1:36 AM?
    Brian K running for office? Huh?
    Bowfin, you wouldn’t happen to be sitting next to Otis in the Mayberry Inn would ya? I missed the invite to Happy Hour evidently…

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