During the Fall season, Catfish schools migrate downstream to areas still experiencing winter, much like when ducks fly South. Alternatively, during Springtime, Catfish will then swim upstream to spawn for the new year ahead. As the catfish migrate they travel a few several hundred miles which is a significant move for our whiskered warriors. This information is extremely valuable when anglers need to locate their catch during the changing seasons.
Recently, a study was conducted within Nebraska's Platte River that revealed catfish species movement patterns in small to mid-sized rivers. The study was comprised of 38 channel catfishes whom were implanted with radio transmitters and then tracked throughout a year's worth of seasons. The results showed distinct movements aligned with seasonal trends.
In Springtime, 54% of the catfish planted with radio transmitters swam upstream while the other 46% made shorter local movements between areas of feed and rest. In the Summertime, 7% of the transmitted catfish moved upstream and 7% of the transmitted moved downstream, while the other 86% remained local. During the Fall season, 33% of the transmitted catfish stayed in locale, while the other 67% moved downstream. Lastly, during winter, 100% of the transmitted catfish movement was solely downstream.
Channel Catfish seemed to be willing to travel the farthest distances in the Fall and Spring times. During Spring the catfish averaged 11 miles with a range between 1 and 30 miles and during Fall the catfish averaged 26 miles with a range between 2 to 75 miles. Researchers concluded that these patterns of movement suggest overwintering of Channel Catfish within the Missouri River's deep scour pools, which is then followed by Spring upstream movements to feed and spawn. Then as Fall and Winter roll around the catfish will return downstream to shallow streams avoiding ice covered areas.
Thus concluding that the catfish movements coincide with the changing season temperature. These scientific results are thought to be true for the catfish currently living within the Mississippi River as well. To prove this theory a study was conducted of the upper Mississippi and the lower Wisconsin Rivers.
The study revealed that several populations of Channel Catfishes migrate from the lower Wisconsin River into the Mississippi River during winter time and visa versa in the Springtime. While this study can not be applied to every body of water that Channel Catfishes reside in, it can be observed in several other small to mid-sized rivers as well.
The Blue catfish species seem to migrate further and more often than Channel Catfishes. One factor that does not differ between the two species is the fact that they both migrate in alignment with the changing seasons. For example, in the Mississippi River, the majority of the Blue catfish population migrated downstream in wintering areas that contain warmer waters and by early summer they would return upstream according to the season temperature change.
However, Flathead catfish do not follow the same migration patterns that Channel Catfishes and Blues follow as Flathead catfish are mainly sedentary. Once Flatheads establish a preferred breeding area, they seldom travel over a mile away from the site regardless of the changing seasons.
Adult Flatheads were monitored by researchers from June throughout January in the Tallahatchie and Big Black Rivers. The studies revealed that Flatheads, on average, only ever traveled as far as a half mile from their capture site at any given time. The Flatheads were studied for a 6 months and during this entire time period they rarely if ever strayed from their established area.
This information is extremely helpful for anglers trying to locate where to fish as each season changes. The knowledge learned from each and every one of these studies can be applied to anglers determining where to find catfish throughout the changing season, which will in turn increase their chance of catching their desired species of fish. To locate channel catfishes and heavyweight blues during fall and winter, it would be best for anglers to focus their efforts near deep watering holes and visa versa. Knowing where catfish are located during each season will be especially helpful when line biting slows down. All an angler needs to do is adjust their tactics and pinpoint where catfish will be active next.