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Thread: My Summer with the Big Cats

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Default My Summer with the Big Cats

    Attachment 20453
    The Schuylkill river runs through suburban Philadelphia and through the city into the Delaware. Once popular for plentiful but short smallmouth bass. For a while now I live about 1/4 mile from the banks of the river. About 12 years ago i started to pick my first Wallleye and unheard of catch in our area, not long after i could catch them relatively easy during their spring and fall seasons. Several years later we started to hear about Flathead catfish and the PA fish commission issued a kill on site and even posted signs along the creek that do not release these invasive species. 35 miles upstream is a well funded well stocked big lake with a reputation of poor fishing due to layout of the lake. The lake sits low and i think gets a lot of run off off steep banks on two sides and they regulate the depth by releasing massive amounts of water out the spillway. Sirens sound so no one fishing the creek off the spillway is swept away by the water discharge. That creek then dumps into the schuykill. The PA state record was taken in this spillway.


    The smallmouth fisherman all started to sound off how the fishery was dying and i started to notice it in my walleye catches. Much like saltwater patterns walleye were getting bigger but less fish. There was no doubt in mind the flat heads were eating the baby gamefish. Crews of guys started to show up live lining sunfish for flathead. I targeted them once about 6 years ago, went with the sun too high got a bunch of snags and said the heck with this.

    The reports over the last few years indicated the fish just kept getting bigger, but not easy to find or catch for most. The last few years i been meaning to try once again, this rough fall walleye season I vowed to come back this summer and kill as many flat heads as possible. Little did i know it would consume my interest and lead up to a big catfish tournament on the river in august. It started with me clowning up the joint, missing and losing fish with the wrong wrongs and rigs.

    But my first effort in June did yield this 5 lber, note the googan snelled hook, but the right hooks aren't easily stocked so far from the salt Attachment 20454

    The main tactic is live lining sun fish, even though a catfish flathead are predators, and to my surprise fight like game fish with violent head shakes sometimes. The one thing i had going for me was i understood rip water and ambush points, 30 minutes before dark the hits would begin but the marathon brand snelled octupus striper hooks were killed me i was dropping 3 out of 4 fish. They hit shocking like a striper takes a live bunker too. Once i got set with more traditional large hooks and 50lb leaders and fish finder it was game on. some 15 lb class started to come in, posing with my trademark masked look helped as the area was being heavily fished, lights flashed all over after dark as many enjoyed these summer nights, most however content to throw chicken livers for the much small channel catfish.

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    scars from the July spawn
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    I started to use a new tactic a lot of the "experts" said wouldn't work, I knew the biggest fish much like stripers get lazy, i started to use chunks of bigger sunfish the moment it got dark. I fished the rockiest parts other people wouldn't fish due to snags. I casted upstream to avoid rolling into snags in the current. one night after a quick storm an hour before dark, a pattern i expected to have good potential. The pattern all year has been 30 mins before dark and 45 mins after then seem to stop cold. This extra night would produce 7 fish with a few lost and for the first time sent me into river to land some. Click image for larger version. 

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    after a high teens fish it felt like a hooked a car and my drag screamed as it raced across the river and when my line when slack i was disgusted a lost a true monster. But here was the thing, life sometimes gives you a second chance, on a long cast cast 5 mins later I had quick and hard pick up as soon as i set the hook, i knew it was a large fish and it shot across the river again, after i nice fight I flipped on my head lamp and saw a fish close to 40 inches rolling around and as most of the bigger ones do they reclaim line and shoot off in the darkness one last run and the panic comes in you'll never get the fish, but i did and went in to my knees and craddled this river monster. best guess 23-24 lbs had a lot of length not the fattest one

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    an exact week later on a Saturday night the pattern repeated, a 15 min heavy rain in the evening had me optimistic and again it was game on action with rapid fire bites after dark but all fish were 12 lb and under but just then a hook up made my reel make unnatural sounds from the drag as a fish made a fierce run and again the line went slack, no worries much like last week, a hard hit mins later and the battle was on and 5 mins later i again found myself wading into the river to craddle a monster.

  2. #2
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    Mar 2008
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    Default

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ID:	20462 this time i cracked 30lbs. Each night was a new personal best and i was loving it. No longer thought of exterminating them and i was all about the upcoming tournament.


    As this has gone on long i ll cover the events of the $1000 tourney in a part 2.

    a few more pics from this year

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  3. #3
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    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails FotoFlexer_8-12side.jpg   IMG_2147.jpg  

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  4. #4
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  5. #5
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    Mar 2008
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    NJ
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    Beautiful pics and reports thanks for sharing and congrats dude!

  6. #6
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    Beast! Congrats.

  7. #7
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    Jul 2008
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    I see you got deeper and deeper into the abyss. It seems like it has paid off.... you are really pulling some nice fish out of there.
    Congrats, those are quality fish. Thanks for sharing.



    "Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." -Henry David Thoreau.

  8. #8
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    Mar 2008
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    Monster fish! Cool beans.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    NY
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    907

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    Hefty cats, nice job.

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