Big Cats at Indian Lake

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

After surviving the unusual monsoon season this year, I’m having trouble adjusting to the current heat wave. For the longest time mowing was impossible, and now, brown grass is the color of the day. What’s really irritating are the bugs that evidently enjoy this type of weather. I’m finding chigger concentrations where they’ve never been before, and getting attacked by the little critters can be more than irritating. One bite I can handle. Two dozen can set me into a mood swing. I’ve also discovered an overabundance of ticks. One is too many, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve already taken six off in the last month. My dogs get special medicine to protect them which costs an arm and a leg. I’m wondering why someone hasn’t come up with something for humans. Of course, I’d have to have someone squirt it on the back of my neck so I wouldn’t lick it off.

The weather has also played havoc with the fishing. About the only species that’s currently biting with any consistency is the catfish. There are fishermen who don’t care to catfish or even touch them. Then there are the rest of us who find Mr. Whiskers to be a true sport fish and especially fun to catch. For some, catfish are considered excellent table fare. Smaller fish are generally better eaters and bigger fish aren’t their prime target. Then there are those who fish for thrills and enjoy catching the biggest fish possible. The reward is usually bragging rights, but if done during a tournament, catching big fish can be lucrative. At GLSM, fishermen who go after big fish are limited to the channel cat. At one time, there were a few tackle busting flatheads around, but catching one today is purely by accident.

If you want to tangle with a catfish weighing 20, 30, 40 pounds or more, your chances improve greatly at Indian Lake. From the fishermen I know, 20 pounders are not uncommon. Catching them in numbers is also not unusual. Flatheads come in all sizes, and that reflects a healthy population. Indian Lake provides excellent flathead habitat, consistent oxygen levels, and other factors which translate into improved reproduction, survival, and growth rates. No one knows for sure how big these fish will get at Indian, but the guesstimations are exciting. Over the last few years, Indian Lake’s three-day catfish tournament has documented some serious weights. Depending on the year, it has taken a single fish close to 40 pounds to win this tournament.  In 2017, it took a 20 pound fish just to get in the top 20 places. For anyone interested, the 24th Annual Catfish Tournament starts at 12 noon on August 1, 2019 and fish must be at Check-in no later than 12 noon on August 4, 2019.

It’s on my bucket list to catch at least a 20 pound flathead at Indian, but without putting a bait in the water, that probably won’t happen. Last year, I did manage to fish one evening during the tournament, but it was a Saturday night and boat traffic was horrendous resulting in no fish. If you don’t care for tournaments and just want the excitement of tangling with a monster fish, fishing during the week is much more productive. In general, flatheads are caught on live bait. Bluegills and sunfish are commonly used and bullheads are a decent bait. Some fishermen also prefer goldfish. Better fishing takes place after dark and boaters have more access to good fishing spots. Plan on taking heavy tackle just in case you hook into a big fish.

Where are good areas to fish? Flatheads can be found all over Indian Lake. Bank fishermen can generally be found on the west and south banks. Boat fishermen like the stump areas and deeper water off structure. Areas commonly mentioned are between Shawnee and Lake Ridge Islands, just north of Pew Island Island, off Turkeyfoot Point, off Chippewa Island, and off Old Field Beach. Fishermen also fish around the new spillway. Flatheads like structure, and fishing around any of the stump fields can produce fish, especially if there’s deeper water around.

I consider myself a fair catfisherman, but catching flatheads is out of my wheelhouse. I caught a 14 pounder in Texas a thousand years ago and had one spool me on the Pedernales River that same year. I lost a big one fishing for walleye in Kansas, and that’s my flathead experience. I know some good flathead fishermen, and if I tag along with them, I just might catch a fish. I also belong to some on-line fishing groups that are willing to share some good information, to a point. The bottom line is that if you’re interested in becoming a good flathead fisherman, be prepared to do your homework. That’s what successful Indian Lake fishermen have been doing since the big fish started showing up in numbers. It always seems that 5% of the fishermen catch 95% of the fish. The same applies to flathead fishing. Actually, from what I’ve been told, with the number of flatheads in Indian Lake, the odds are better than that.