It’s safe to say that this summer has been unlike any other in recent memory, and I’m guessing the same can be said for other states like Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. It’s been real mild here with lots of rain, and that has made fishing a challenge at times. The shad population in our reservoirs has exploded, so the fish have had plenty of groceries to choose from. But there have been a few times when we’ve done well in adverse conditions.
It’s been a while since I posted a report, so this will cover a general, broad time frame from about July until now. We’ve done lots of trolling like usual, and tried to figure a few new things out. Some haven’t worked, while others have worked out real well.
Like usual, we’ve spent plenty of time on the Tri County canal system and associated lakes. We’ve done lots of trolling, and trolled new areas as well. It’s always a learning process in the canal as snags get moved, current goes up and down, etc. We have fished one of the western reservoirs on the canal system a little more than usual this year, and it has paid dividends. My buddy Paul landed a nice 26 1/2″ wiper back in July, and a few weeks after that I managed a 27″. I had another one tackle a Flicker Shad, and I could not stop him. It’s extremely rare, but who knows, it could have been a striper, but I doubt it. It eventually popped the hook, but who knows how big it was.
Another common area we fish has been greatly affected by the Colorado floods as far as I can tell. The flood waters have raged through the canal system and I believe taken some of the fish with it. They frequently move downstream throughout the canal system, but I believe two large bursts of water in the past 12 months has urged them to move more than usual. We usually catch good numbers of saugers, and this year they just have not been present. The catfish on the other hand, have not moved far. They know this is their home, and we’re very happy to have them replace our sauger fun, especially since they’re flatheads.
Last year we caught some nice flatheads up to 37 pounds on crankbaits. Needless to say, I’ve been waiting for July, August and Sept ever since. This year I had a plan to try further for flatheads specifically on crankbaits. I also found something new, which helped our catch rate go up slightly. There is an area that turned out to be a huge eddy on the canal. The water peels off a point, causing this backwater area, which is a natural hangout for flatheads. One day back in August I had 4 bites in an area about the size of a football field of two, and the two I reeled in were 6 and almost 13 pounds. Another snapped me off due to bad line, but the last fish was a true monster. He got below the boat, sat there, and did not appreciate me trying to lift him. Off he went with another crankbait. I’ll agonize about that all winter because he was big, no doubt about it.
Things have been generally slow in the canal with not many fish being caught some days, but last week we were greatly rewarded. On a particularly windy day, we trolled over a point and one of our rods went down. Once the fish realized he was hooked, the fight was on. I’m guessing it took us about 15 minutes or so to reel him in, but it was the biggest flathead I’ve seen in years. He went 45″ long with a girth of 27″. According to a chart found here on IDO, he went about 43 to 45 pounds, so I feel comfortable calling him 44. As full and thick as he was, he may have hit 45 or 46. Sure wish I’d had a reliable scale with me.
Other areas have not been so rewarding. Elwood has been up and down all summer. Wipers are being caught one day with zeroes the next. I recently fished there with fresh shad and could not get anything interested at all, save one catfish. I managed one thick 19″ wiper as a school popped up on top near me, and I was able to reach it with a spoon. Once it hit the water, he was on. Once we get a cold snap, things will improve there.
Fall is not far away, though it’s hard to tell when we’re having weather like we are right now. Nearly 90 degrees here yesterday, so who knows when we’ll get that much needed cold snap. Flatheads are still feeding, walleyes are starting to cooperate on fall patterns, so we’re not far off. With all the shad stocked up, it could be a dynamite fall for fishing. I’ll be out there finding out for myself!
Just to verify, yes, all these fish were caught on cranks! I learned a few new things this year about flatheads with crankbaits, and I already can’t wait for the heat of 2015 to spark another great flathead bite.
Nice report Brian! Few questions.
How fast is your boat moving when the flats bite?
Are they behind a break or all in an eddie?
Do you feel trolling is more or less effective then dropping a live bait down and being anchored?
Good questions Joe! I’m probably going a bit slow for the conditions as it seems the hotter it is, the better the bite. I’m usually going about 2.0-2.1. I bet they’ll still hit em at 2.4 or even higher because of the time of year though.
Most of these fish are located near breaks for sure. I did find one area that seems to be a large eddie that holds a few fish. But even then it’s important to recognize breaks and associated areas where the fish will be.
I think when they’re feeding after spawn, which is late July around here, all the way into November, trolling cranks can be very effective. There are times when the live bait thing is hard to beat, but trolling allows you to cover large amounts of water and present different baits to numerous fish in numerous areas. I think during this time, trolling can definitely be more effective. I already can’t wait for next summer to try a few new things I have in mind. Always lookin to get better!
I can’t believe you chase flatheads with miniture crankbait hooks, but kudos to you for figuring out HOW TO!!!