JUNE - AUGUST
Warm weather has arrived and the catfish, sunfish and clear water stream species are on the attack! Summer, June especially, is a great time to introduce someone new to fishing and spend family time on the water!
Unlike many popular freshwater species that feed by sight and sound, catfish primarily rely on taste and touch.
Spawning usually begins in late May and can run all the way into July depending on where the body of water is located in the state. Hollow logs, overhanging underwater ledges or holes under mud banks are typical nesting places. Female catfish lay about 10,000 eggs each. Males guard the eggs against intruders, including females. Eggs hatch in 6 to 10 days as determined by temperature.
After hatching, fry are attended for a short time by the male as they feed in a dense school. While spawning habits and feeding mechanisms are similar, each species varies in what they eat and how you catch them. Catfish are also much more active in the lowlight and overnight hours, but can be caught at any time of day.
Channel catfish are opportunistic omnivores and are often referred to as lake trash cans due to their tendency to eat just about anything with scent that will fit in their mouth. Channel catfish are best targeted along dam rip rap and creek channels. A worm and bobber is an effective way to catch lots of small- to medium-sized channel catfish along dam rip rap from May into June while they are gorging during the pre-spawn period. Punch bait, stink bait, cut bait and other scented baits fished off the bottom are also effective ways to target channel catfish along dam rip rap and channels. Channel catfish are much more likely to eat non-live or non-natural baits than flathead and blue catfish.
Flathead catfish can be an elusive fish to catch on rod and reel. Like largemouth bass, flatheads love a live bluegill, but locating and casting to flatheads can be difficult. Most anglers catch flatheads on live bait left unattended overnight, such as trotlines, limblines, juglines and yo-yos. For those looking to catch flatheads on rod and reel, focus your efforts in heavily wooded areas, such as coves or backwater that have lots of hollowed logs and stumps. Hook a live bluegill through the lips or between the dorsal and tail fin with a sturdy 6/0 to 10/0 circle hook attached to a 12-inch leader line below a barrel swivel and ½- to 1-ounce egg weight. Cast into the woody areas and let your line soak until you get a take.
Blue catfish are a good intermediary to channels and flatheads. Blues can be caught on both live and dead natural baits as well as artifical baits like lipped crankbaits. Shad are the preferred food choice of blue catfish. Cut shad on a circle hook fished either off the bottom or below a float around creek channel ledges and dam rip rap is an effective way to catch lots of blues, especially in June.
Blue and flathead catfish are excellent table fare, especially the belly meat from flatheads.
Early summer is a great time of year to catch large sunfish exceeding 10-inches. Sunfish are often thought of as a first fish for new anglers, but 10+ inch fish on micro lite rods with light line will get the most experienced of anglers reinvigorated in pan-fishing.
Redear sunfish attain lengths up to 12 inches and weights to two pounds. They respond best to natural bait and are more difficult to catch than bluegill. Redear sunfish normally inhabit deeper water than bluegill and congregate around stumps, logs and roots.
Weed beds are ideal habitat for really big bluegill and redear sunfish.
Green sunfish are usually found in the shallowest of water around cover or structure (branches, weeds, cut banks, etc.). Due to its large mouth and voracious appetite green sunfish can often be caught on much larger baits than the other typical panfish species.
Most people are introduced to sunfish with the most basic of setups: a live worm and a bobber. While this is an excellent method, especially to new anglers and youngsters, sunfish are still predators (just lower on the food chain in most bodies of water) and will take artificial lures and flies.
In June focus your efforts for sunfish in shallow water in the backs of coves, flats off of main lake areas or creek channels, weedy shoreline and riprap. If you are employing a basic hook, split shot and bobber technique, try night crawlers, crappie nibbles, corn kernels and crickets/grass hoppers. Crappie nibbles work great for catching sunfish, are easy to store (without refrigeration) and do not make the same mess as worms or other natural baits.
As the summer wears on, look for vegetated flats that have woody cover and structure like stumps and logs.
Live minnows or soft plastic baits like baby shad fished below a slip cork bobber or dead sticked off a dock or boat in transition areas (areas of rapid depth change) that have the most cover and bottom structure are an effective way to catch a lot of fish during the summer months.
Target brush piles below docks and off of points, channel drop-offs and ledges in areas of the lake that are closest to the thermocline.
WHAT'S A THERMOCLINE?
A thermocline is a thin but distinct layer in a large body of water in which temperature changes more drastically with depth than it does in the layers above or below.
In Oklahoma, keep your offerings relatively small. For small creeks, like Barren Fork, stick to naturally colored tubes and grubs in the 1.5” to 3” variety on a 1/16th to 1/32nd ounce jighead or for the fly guys and gals, naturally colored streamers and wooly buggers in size 2 or smaller.
For the bigger streams, like the Illinois or Blue, bring the heavy artillery. 1/8th to ½ ounce jigheads paired with naturally colored tubes and grubs in the 3” to 5” inch variety. Fly guys and gals should stick with naturally colored streamers and wooly buggers in size 2 up to 3/0. I recommend investing in some jig flies for the bigger water. While not the easiest to make pretty casts, it’s more effective than loading up the leader with split shot to get a bead-head to dive.
During the midday hours, the biggest fish will be on the shady side of cover in the deepest holes and move up into the riffle runs at first light and last light. Never overlook the shallow tail-outs at any time of day. Every now and then you’ll find the largest fish in a run.
Don’t forget polarized sunglasses. You can get a cheap pair at a sporting goods store or gas station for less than $25. It’s imperative not only for fishing, but for safety to be able to see the streambed when your wading. While I can’t promise that polarized sunglasses will catch you more fish, they can save you from a hospital visit or worse.
- 1.5"-2 1/4" Squirmin' Squirt Tube in Green Pumpkin Red/Black Flake paired with a 1/32nd to 1/16th ounce Bass Pro Shops Red Hook Squirt Head
- 2 1/2" Heddon Baby Torpedo
- 3 1/2" Heddon Chug'n Spook Jr.
- 3" Zoom Fat Albert Grub in Rootbeer Pepper/Green Flake paired with a 1/8th ounce jighead
- 4" Chompers Skirted Twin Tail Grub in Rootbeer Green Flake paired with a 3/16th to 1/4th ounce jighead
- 5" Zoom Super Fluke in Pearl White rigged weightless and weed-less on a 3/0 to 5/0 offset hook
- Size 14 Pheasant Tail Nymph
- Size 12 Rubber-Legged Stimulator
- Size 6 Rubber-Legged Hopper
- Size 2 Beadhead Wooly Bugger in Olive, Brown, Black or White
- Size 2 Clouser Minnow in Sculpin, Silver Shiner or Olive and White
- 1/0 Bett's Bass Bug Popper
Wadable Public Access
- Upper Illinois River accessed at multiple points along HWY 10
- Glover River accessed through Honobia WMA
- Blue River accessed through Blue River WMA
- Barren Fork Creek accessed through Thomas A. Bamberger Sr. WMA
- Sycamore Creek accessed through GRDA right of way HWY 10 bridge just southeast of Wynadotte
Try lipless crankbaits in gold, silver or red patterns, sassy shad and swimbaits, shallow- or medium-diving lipped crankbaits in shad-colored variations, and small white maribou jigs or curly tail grubs on the wind blown side of points, rip rap and coves in the low-light hours of the mornings and evenings. If fish begin to boil on top of the water, switch to topwater lures such as poppers, buzzbaits, walking dogs and propellor baits.
During the middle of the day, use a live minnow or shad on a small- to medium-sized bait holding hook attached to a 12-inch leader line below a barrel swivel and ¼ to ½-ounce egg weight on main lake flats, channel drop-offs and ledges. Let the line off of the reel directly below the boat to your desired depth or use a slip float if fishing from the bank. Vertically jigging spoons and slabs can also be effective.
As water temperatures rise into the 70s, some largemouth bass will form loose schools in open water, over vegetated flats, in the main lake portions and creek channel areas. Good lure selections include swimbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, lipped crankbaits and lipless crankbaits in shad and bluegill patterns.
Some largemouth bass will seek areas that have lots of different structure and cover features in a small zone, so they can move throughout the day to rest and feed without expending too much energy. Docks that have lots of vegetation and rapid depth change underneath are a great starting point. Points, channel drop-offs and ledges are also good areas to target. Pitch soft plastic baits such as lizards, tubes, worms, crawfish and baby brush hogs on a skirted jig or bladed jig, drop shot setup, off-set hook with a bullet weight (Texas rig), or bottom bounced (Carolina rig).
The early summer is a great time to work topwater lures, in shallow water, during the low light hours of the mornings and evenings.