The following information is a combination of what I have experienced since moving to Clear Lake in May of 1994 and what we could find out from other catfishermen in the Clear Lake area. We do not claim to be an expert nor do we guarantee the accuracy of the information. Every year there seem to be major changes in the catfishing patterns around the lake.
We welcome any additions, corrections, or criticisms. If you have any please contact me and I will respond appropriately.....Catfish Ed.
We would like to thank Terry Knight of the Lake County Record Bee ("The Outdoorsman") for adding to this page.
We will consider winter, late November to the middle of March, the toughest season for catfishing at Clear Lake. Most of the fish are in deep water (25 to 40 feet) and are very inactive. When we get enough rain to start filling the lake with muddy run-off water, a few cats will feed wherever the muddy water flows into the lake. The best method for this scenario is to toss a line baited with a gob of garden worms into the moving water and let it drift. Occasional catfish are taken drift fishing in deep water or still fishing from shore or dock but they are few and far between. In the south end of the lake a fair amount of catfish are taken drifting with large or jumbo live minnows.
As the days get longer and the water starts to warm, the catfish start to feed. This is a slow process, a few catfish start showing up around docks and near the tules in late March.
Sometime between the middle and the end of April they start to move shallow in greater numbers to feed on crawdads and other forage. This is when bobber fishing with crawdad tails and or shrimp start producing.
The month of May shows a slow but steady improvement. Although a lot of fish are feeding shallow by now, there are still a lot of fish taken drift fishing with live minnows in 20 feet or more of water, especially in the south end. This is substantiated by referring to the results of the past catfish derbies held on the last weekend in May. Most of the winning fish are taken drift fishing in 15 to 25 feet of water.
By early June, the catfish are starting to think about reproducing and therefore arrive in shallow water in great numbers.
By early to mid June, depending on water temperature, the majority of the catfish population are in the spawning mode. Their favorite spawning areas are shallow (3 to 8 feet) rocky areas, areas with lots of sunken tires and brushy areas. They continue to feed on crawdads and various other forage throughout their spawning cycle. Bobber fishing with crawdads, shrimp, or in some cases nightcrawlers continues to be the best fishing method.
As the fish complete their spawning, the majority remain relatively shallow until late August. During July and early August there are a lot of fish taken in 8 to 12 feet of water by still fishing with shrimp or cut baits such as mackerel or shad. There are still a lot taken by bobber fishing in shallow water then also.
Late August to early September starts the migration back to deeper water. By the middle of September the drift fishing in 20 to 35 feet of water is in full swing. The top baits used in the north end of the lake are shrimp, mackerel and shad in that order. In the south end jumbo sized live minnows are the top bait.
This is my favorite time of year for catfish. We catch more nice channel catfish from early September to roughly the middle of November than during the rest of the year combined.
The fish school up in 20 to 35 feet of water under schools of bait fish (shad and silversides), waiting for injured or dying bait fish to fall to the bottom. This pattern remains steady until the heavy rains hit or the water temperature stays below 55 degrees for any length of time usually mid or late November.
As we mention in the summer section, the top method is drift fishing with shrimp, mackerel and or shad in the north end, especially the Nice/Lucerne area. For some reason, the catfishermen in the south end of the lake still rate jumbo minnows as their number 1 bait for drift fishing.
Although it didn't materialize in 1998 or 1999, most other years schools of channel cats followed the bait fish right up to the shoreline in early November and were taken in great numbers. In November of 1997, A friend and we caught and released 20 catfish to 16 pounds in a little over an hour while fishing in 8 feet of water right up against the shoreline in Lucerne.