Running water = hot catfishing
By Luke Clayton
Jun 3, 2024
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Veteran Lake Tawakoni guide David Hanson eased the throttle back on his big Falcon guide boat as we entered a stump field on the north end of the lake. We had left the ramp at Anchor Inn Marina a few minutes before and traveled north at a good clip but, as every savvy boater knows, it was time to slow down to avoid hitting stumps that might top out at only inches below the water’s surface.

How many times through the years had I met my friend at this well-known marina? I’ve lost count but I do know every trip resulted in several freezer bags of tasty catfish fillets and memories that have already lasted several decades.

David knows Lake Tawakoni the way most folks know their route to and from work. As we slowed to idle speed and wound our way through the stumps and standing timber, David pointed to the shoreline ahead.

"See that little opening there along the shore?" David asked me. "That’s the mouth of a feeder creek where I have caught a ton of fish through the years.” 

As we neared the shoreline, I could feel the current from the runoff rainfall against the bow of the boat. David’s plan was to push a long metal pole into the lake’s
soft bottom and secure the boat’s bow with rope. We would be fishing with eight Catfish Pro rod and
reels set in rod holders and that requires a stationary boat.

It’s common knowledge that an influx of fresh water attracts fish like a magnet. All sorts of ‘fish food’ washes down the creek channel and into the main lake. Catfish congregate around these areas in large numbers to enjoy the easy pickings.

David describes the feeding frenzy like this: “Luke it’s like you or I going to an all-you-can-eat buffet. We try to get seated as close as possible to where the food is, right?
It’s the same with catfish. All they need to do is lay near bottom in the slack water on the edge of the current and enjoy the buffet!”

Fishing the eddy or slack water proved to be the ticket to success. Through the years, whether fishing for trout in the mountain states or big northern pike around incoming water from a stream in northern Saskatchewan, I’ve learned that the majority of fish don’t like to fight a strong current, they prefer to lay in the gently moving eddy water and grab what comes by. Such was the case on this trip last week. With the bow of the boat pointed toward the mouth of the creek, we began placing the baits from the eight rods clockwise around the boat, right on the edge of where the current slacks.

David had two baits positioned when I saw the first rod he set out bow heavily. When using circle hooks, the old saying, “crank it, don’t yank it” applies. Because of the spiral twist built into the hook, it simply twists into the corner of the fish’s mouth as it grabs the bait and swims away. There is no need for a strong hook-set as when fishing with a standard J type hook. The best technique is to simply crank fast on the reel to take up the slack and then remove the rod from the holder and fight the fish back to the boat.

By the time the last of the eight baits was cast into position, I had already landed two chunky blue catfish, each weighing about 2.5 pounds. The ensuing couple of hours provided lots of action. It was rare for a minute to go by without getting a ‘bite’ on one of the rods. Granted, not every time a rod tip jiggled were we able to actually boat the fish, but action was as good as it gets.

Guide David Hanson with one of many blue catfish he and Luke landed last week at Tawakoni, fishing the mouth of creeks. (photo by Luke Clayton)

The ‘trophy’ blue cat season is largely done for this year but it’s not uncommon to boat an occasional fish over 20 pounds -- and possibly three times that heavy -- but this trip resulted in steady action on what we fishermen refer to as ‘eaters’, fish weighing between 2 and 6 pounds.

Our catch consisted of ninety percent blue catfish with an occasional channel cat. Both species will readily hit the cut shad and sunfish we were using but the aggressive blues had moved into the area in large numbers.

Tawakoni, as most fishermen know, is a premier lake for catching blue and channel catfish. David and I often discuss the best-eating catfish species. Many people swear by the flavor of a crispy fried channel catfish fillet and others are strong proponents of the snow-white blue catfish fillet exposed to a little seasoning, dusted with corn meal and exposed to hot cooking oil.

Flatheads are a delicacy among most catfish eaters but their numbers aren’t what they used to be in most lakes. I can honestly say that I don’t snub my nose at either. I guess the draw of targeting eating-size blue catfish is the fact that they are, on the average, larger and supply more fillets in the cooler at the end of the trip.

David expects the blue catfish bite to remain good even after the runoff water flow ceases around feeder creeks. The hordes of fish that were are attracted to these spots will remain in the general vicinity for a while before heading back to the deeper water and fishing should remain very good for blue catfish, especially around points with wood structure.

The summer bite for channel catfish is also going strong. David suggests baiting areas around submerged creek bends with soured grain or cattle range cubes and fishing vertically with your choice of catfish baits. While action is almost always good at Tawakoni, the guide says his clients are catching larger channel catfish at nearby Lake Fork. Number four or six treble hooks are best when targeting channel catfish because they retain conventional catfish baits much better than circle hooks.

Back at the cleaning station at Anchor Inn Marina, I visited with a fellow that was using earthworms and
watched him catch several nice channel catfish from the bank. If you like fishing for and eating catfish, now is prime time, regardless the lake you choose to fish.

Contact guide David Hanson at 903-268-7391. Email outdoors writer Luke Clayton through his website