The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 21, 2012

Ken Maurer's Outdoors column: Good, old summertime

By Ken Maurer
For The Daily Item

SUNBURY — We are into the good, old summertime now. Bass fishing can be tough at times, but if you keep trying you can put some fish in the boat. Bass are very spook-easy now, so lighter line and long casts help. I do a lot of floating downstream, trying to keep quiet.

It’s a good time of year to try some night fishing. The old jitterbug will still get you some explosions, and don’t be surprised if a channel cat or a musky hits.

Speaking of channel cats, they don’t get the limelight that bass and other species do, but they are actually quite a game fish. I have caught them on almost every type of artificial made, and they provide a lot of nocturnal entertainment for the lantern and lawn chair crowd.

I haven’t fished for them on purpose for quite a while, but I have caught them while fishing for bass and they hit an artificial with a vengeance, you had better keep a good grip on your rod if they are around. I’ve even caught them on topwater lures, both in daytime and at night. The biggest I’ve caught on an artificial was probably 30 inches and 10 pounds. He hit a spinnerbait as it swung around a boulder in some fast current, and all but pulled me out of the boat. For a while I thought I had the biggest smallmouth in the river.  

The channel cat’s cousin, the flathead, is also roaming around our river. The stronghold of the flathead population is south of Harrisburg where the larger impoundments hold back bigger areas of deep water. The tail races of Safe Harbor, York Haven, and the other dams down river are well established flathead holes.

Here in our area, we do se some flatheads, but most of them are on the smaller side. There are some bigger ones showing up though and we’ll likely see more as the population ages. South of us, they are getting them well up into the 30-pound class.

Fishing for flatheads is a little different than the normal channel cat fishing. Primarily, flatheads like large, lively bait. Flathead hunters prefer live hand-sized bluegills and rock bass. Stout tackle is also in order, seven- or eight-foot rods and 20 to 50 or more pound test on a sizable reel give you a better chance of landing a 35-pounder. I know of at least two anglers who have landed 20-pound class flatheads in our area while fishing at night for walleyes, using rapalas. Flatheads, like channels, will hit an artificial, but if you really want to catch one, fish at night with a live bluegill or rock bass.

I hear stories every year of people hooking uncontrollable fish below the fabridam and the power dam. It could be a carp or a musky, but it could also be a big flathead. Typical river anglers aren’t geared up to control a thirty pound flathead with an attitude.

A few years ago, the fish commission was telling people to keep and kill every flathead they catch, as they are voracious predators, but they have changed their attitude. Pointing to other rivers where flatheads are common, the sportfishing that has developed with them, and the fact that they would be impossible to eradicate anyway, flatheads are now just another species on the list available to catch here.

I hear they are good eating, so save a rock bass, eat a flathead.

n Ken Maurer, Herndon, is a licensed fishing guide and a regular contributor to the Outdoor Section. Email comments to kenrose@tds.net.