Season Of The Catfish

NAF Staff Writer Luke Clayton heads to Lake Tawakoni just east of Dallas with his daughters Ashley (rt) and Karrissa.

What is the best time of year to catch catfish? This is a question that I’ve been asked and one that is impossible to answer with a “blanket” statement. Take an excellent catfish lake like Tawakoni with a very healthy population of both blue and channel catfish. Fishing is truly excellent here year around for those that know and understand the patterns. In the summer, it’s time to catch lots and lots of good eating channel catfish weighing between 1.5 and 5 pounds over holes baited with soured grain. Then in the early fall, it’s time to target “Eater” blue catfish. This is not to say that you can’t catch big blue any time of the year but the dead of winter is prime time for consistently putting them in the boat. Spring time, right now,  is one of my favorite times of the year to fish Tawakoni and a trip last week with veteran guide David Hanson proved the catfish “calendar” to be right on schedule! The “eater” blues weighing between 2 and 10 pounds were biting like crazy!

 The trophy blue season is coming to a close but when fishing a great lake like Tawakoni, it’s not uncommon to connect with an occasional monster blue, regardless the season. This trip provided action on fish that were ideal for our upcoming fish fry! The action was often nonstop and although I like to do battle with those jumbo size blues, I really much prefer catching numbers of eaters, especially when a big family fish fry is forthcoming!

 Hanson pulled his big boat up to within a long cast of some brush in water about 4 feet deep. Two poles driven into the lake bottom kept the boat securely in place and in short order, six rods baited with fresh shad were in the rod holders. The stage was set for catching shallow water blue cats! Having the proper tackle is a must for any type of fishing but rod choice is of paramount importance in this type fishing. Even a 10 pound catfish often “mouths” the bait. This is a game of watching the rod tip for even the slightest movement, waiting for the fish to take the bait. Hanson fishes with circle hooks and when the fish takes the bait and begins to swim off, the hook threads into the fish’s mouth and the rod goes down. The 6.5 foot rods by Pro Angler Tackle proved ideal. The tip of the rods were chartreuse color, making the bites easy to detect and yet were sensitive enough to indicate even a soft bite. When the bigger fish were hooked, the rod had plenty of “backbone” for fighting and applying pressure.  

Every fishing trip is a treat, especially when fishing with Hanson who has the skills and personality that make a great guide. Look up “fishing guide” in the dictionary and Hanson’s picture should be there accompanying the description!

My daughter Ashley and Karrissa who is the mother of my twin grandsons, accompanied Hanson and I on this trip and back at the dock after a half day of often nonstop action, both agreed this was the best catfish  trip they had ever enjoyed. It didn’t take these two long to get the hang of this simple but effective style of fishing. Before the trip, Ashley was quizzing me as to how much casting she would need to do. When the girls learned that their job was to simply watch the rod tips and remove the rod from the holder only when the fish was applying steady pressure and had the bait in its mouth, they both became fish catching machines.

Hanson mentioned that novice lady anglers are often much quicker learners than men and through the years I’ve found that to be true. Many of us guys sometime have the habit of over thinking a situation and applying our own logic which can be contradictory to the proven tactics learned by a guide who has logged in countless hours on the water.  This is something I’ve learned as an outdoors writer when hunting and fishing with a great many folks that are far more talented at what they are doing than I. 

We fished three different areas of the lake, all in water 4 foot or less and we caught fish at each spot. Hanson has raised cattle most of his life and likened a school of feeding blue catfish to a herd of cattle.

“When I pull up to a spot and don’t get a bite in ten or fifteen minutes, it’s time to move”. says Hanson  “Picture these catfish as a herd of cattle moving around on a pasture (lake bottom) when feeding. The best fishing occurs when the center of the “herd” of catfish move around the boat.”

At each spot we fished, the catfish were in the biting mode but when the action slowed or the “herd” of catfish began moving away, we moved to a new spot and located a more receptive school.

Hanson expects these good eating blue catfish to be on a very dependable bite for the next 6 to 8 weeks and then it will be time to begin baiting holes and targeting channel catfish. Hanson can be reached by visiting or calling 903-268-7391.

CATFISH BAIT UPDATE- For the past few months, I’ve been on a quest for finding new catfish baits that didn’t have the offensive odor that I’ve become accustomed to through the years. I’ve been pretty successful in my quest and recently discovered another “pleasant” but effective catfish bait called Catfish Bubblegum The bait was developed and perfected by Bradley Doyle, a catfish guide at Lake Conroe. To learn more, check out the website or “like” Catfish Bubblegum on Facebook.

Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas on weekends or anytime online anytime at

North American Fisherman Top Stories