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Fall Flatheads

Catching Fall Flathead Catfish

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Flathead catfish are not native to Georgia like I am. They started showing up here about 25 years ago in some of our rivers and lakes, brought in by fishermen with good intentions, no doubt. They have changed our fisheries quite a bit.

Lake Juliette is a Georgia Power Lake that supplies water for a steam plant. It has not inflow, water is pumped into it from the Ocmulgee River. It is known for its bass, striper and crappie fishing, but not for catfish.

When the forecast called for a stormy night Friday, September 22, Griffin resident Donald Smallwood got ready to go to Lake Juliette. Anytime a low pressure front is coming through our area creating wind, rain and dropping pressure, he knows the big catfish will feed there.

When he arrived at the lake there were only two vehicles in the boat ramp parking lot, and they soon left, giving him the whole lake to him self. He put out his specially made "jugs" and baited them up. By the next morning he had a great catch of 7 cats including fish weighing 11.5, 10 and 9 pounds.

One line felt like it had a big turtle on it when he started pulling it in. When it got near the surface he was surprised with the biggest flathead catfish he had ever caught. It weighed 34 pounds! It was almost too big to go in his net. Here is a picture of it.

Donald baits up his hooks with bream he has caught in a creek near Griffin and puts them out in about 18 feet of water. Flathead and blue cats both like that depth and both seem to favor bream as their main course.

The "jugs" Donald uses are sections of PVC pipe about a foot long and 6 inches in diameter. He puts an eye bolt in one cap with a nut on either side of the plastic, seals it in, puts caps on both ends and seals them. He then paints the float orange and puts a strip or reflective tape around it. These bright jugs show up well during the day and at night in a spotlight. He keeps them in a huge canvas bag in his boat.

Since the cats like to feed about 18 feet deep, Donald wraps about 16 feet of line around the jug, puts a one ounce sinker on it and a hook. The line stays in place while transporting it with a strong rubber band around it. To fish, he takes off the rubber band, hooks on a bream and drops them over the side of the boat.

Some big cats get tough as they age, but flatheads do not. They are good at any size. One weighing 34 pounds is big enough to cut up in a lot of different ways and provide a lot of great fish fries!

Donald says no one else fishes for big cats as Juliette. They are definitely there, and he has caught them all over the lake. He is not sure how big the flatheads might get at Juliette, but he is sure there are some huge ones swimming in the depths, just waiting for his bait!

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