Fishing for eels and flatheads at the muddy Schuylkill (after rain)

After all the rain these past few days, the Schuylkill River became a muddy and "dirty" place to fish. It happens almost every year: it rains for a certain period of time in/around Philadelphia(sometimes a couple days), and the river becomes a mess! All the water from the rain runs down the Schuylkill River - a combination of logs, branches, different kinds of vegetation, and all sorts of litter. The current becomes violent, and the water stays muddy for a couple days. Sometimes it even floods the banks, bringing a lot of trouble to the Schuylkill Banks' staff. However, a messy and muddy river doesn't necessarily mean "bad". Sometimes, these are the best conditions for fishing if the angler knows the right spots and baits to use!

It's well known already that fish are opportunists. They take full advantage when opportunities show up; specially when it comes to food. It doesn't really matter if the fish is not hungry: it will eat if good food is available. Rain usually messes up the current of the river (it becomes stronger), and brings with the current a lot of food available for fish. However, not every fish can take advantage of this opportunity, hence some species cannot stay long in muddy water (e.g. White Perch - they will not bite that often when the river is muddy). On the other hand, catfish and eels take full advantage of this opportunity to feed!

One of the best techniques for fishing the river when the current is extremely fast is finding places where water runs "slower". By logic alone, fish tend to get CLOSER to the banks when the river's current is extremely high because the current of the river is faster in the middle than in its borders. I could take 10-15 minutes to explain "capacity" and "competence" of a river, but I've decided to just post a link below with an article on it:
Knowing angling techniques and etc is very appropriate for fishing itself, but learning some environmental science (specially when it comes to the aquatic cycle, rivers, waterfalls, hydraulic force, etc) is definitely plus knowledge that may increase your success in catching fish. As a matter of fact, all the fish I caught today at the Schuylkill River was withing 2 feet from where I was standing. Note that this does NOT mean that fish are not present in the river's outwards! Today a guy fishing there caught two channel catfish on clams, casting far outside.

Another technique is simply placing a set with a very heavy sinker (2-4oz) and heavy line set (15lb+). Cast next to structures (e.g. bridge supporting pillars - it cuts the current, making the current after the pillar slower. Fish can rest in these kind of places, and even feed), or anywhere else with obstacles that may cut the current and form slow pools of water.

Last year, I caught a bunch of channel catfish after a heavy period of rains - the biggest one exceeding 8lb. The video below was made by someone that was nearby, while I was landing a catfish. Despite the music, I just wanted to show you guys that fish do BITE in this kind of circumstances, hence a lot of people asked me if fish would bite in days like these. The link for the video is below:

I started my session today at 9 a.m., loaded with nightcrawlers. I was really expecting to fish eel for bait, as I use it a lot to catch catfish at the Schuylkill and the Delaware river. People usually hate to catch eels for two main reasons: (1) they are extremely slimy, and if you touch them bare-handed, be aware that their slime will NOT go off easily, even if you wash yourself. (2) They are the "knot masters". They can make knots on your line by twisting their bodies that even the most skilled fisherman can't make. It's a pain to untie the knots, and usually the person just cuts that portion of the line. Well...I do have to say that I hate to fish for them as well. However, they do serve as a very good bait for catfish - second best bait I would use for it (I'm not telling what the first is =D). I ended the session with 17 eels, all caught on nightcrawlers - bottom and still fishing with a 1oz weight and a size 10 hook, no further than 2 feet from where I stood.

It was around 11:30 a.m. that something very surprising happened. I was fishing for eels with one rod, and catfish on the other rod. The rod with catfish had a number 4 hook with a flat 2oz weight (also no further than 2 feet from the wall), loaded with a full eel on the hook. It turned out that something heavy hit on it. At the beginning, I suspected a channel catfish right away. The fish was giving me a hard time, as it tangled itself in some debris at the bottom of the river. I decided to leave my rod there, and see if the fish could set itself free of the snag. It was right after I put my rod down that the tip of the rod bent in an unbelievable way! My drag started to burn, releasing a huge amount of line. It certainly reminded me of a carp by the way it was fighting it, but I knew it was quite rare to catch one under those circumstances (and impossible to catch one on an EEL). It fought crazily for ten minutes, until I finally could see the tail for a heartbeat - it was a catfish! After a long fight, the beast finally emerged, showing itself beautifully - a 12.5lb (measured) flathead catfish caught on a whole eel. It was definitely the highlight of the day.

I ended the day with 2 white perch, 1 sunny, 17 eels, and a flathead. I was more than satisfied, and went to South Street to eat some Indian food. Everything went back to the river (including the flathead), excluding the eel - which I'm keeping for future bait.

I hope there are more surprises tomorrow! Stay tuned for future updates...

Best luck for all of us!

Long days and pleasant nights,

Leo S.


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