Most folks will spend most of their evenings looking at the wrong shiny object. You might consider turning off that Pavlovian Prompter for awhile, walk outside and ponder that eerie yellow orb casting spooky shadows across the landscape.
Native Americans and Anglo-Saxon Celts didn’t have the distraction of smart phones or that living room centerpiece grandpa called the ‘idiot box.’ They had plenty of time to ponder Mother Nature and their personal place in the grand scheme of things.
Celts called July’s full moon the “hay” moon or “wort” moon because it was time to harvest hay or herbs and fungi to make potions or remedies. Native Americans called it the “buck” moon because antlers began to poke out of whitetail heads.
Grandpa called it the “flathead moon” because these huge, ugly nocturnal catfish would be active as long as the full moon was visible.
For the next few days these conditions will exist for at least a couple hours after the sun comes up. It’s never wise to stare at the sun. Check the opposite horizon, and there she is. July’s actual full moon is Tuesday, but the phenomenon and fabulous daytime flattie fishing is waiting for you from now through next Saturday morning.
There is no doubt the full moon affects human behavior. This was certainly true for grandpa who would modify long hours as a carpenter to be on the water when both full moon and sun were visible in the sky.
Grandpa Carlos was a tough man and a craftsman. He didn’t have power tools to feed his wife and six kids during The Great Depression.
Besides carpentry, he also had “River Rat” knowledge passed down from his father.
One of the keys to finding an alpha flattie’s lair is to look for “fishy” spots that seldom give up fish—like that deep hole beneath the bridge with a snaggy driftpile that makes getting hung up regularly a part of the adventure of not catching fish.
There is a very good chance this is because almost everything swimming there has either been eaten or fled for its life.
Like muskies, flathead catfish are alpha predators which feed when, where and on whatever can’t eat them first.
Except for this special window on either side of the “buck” moon, most flathead feeding activity comes at night, when hunting is easiest. It also comes at the upstream edge of that deep river hole on a shallow flat where ambush is easiest.
You’re likely to find smaller catfish and other species foraging on this flat during low-light periods.
Predators go where the prey is.
The hands-down best flathead bait is a bullhead, which are increasingly tough to find with Wisconsin’s greatly improved water quality.
Second choice is a bluegill with most of the tail hacked off to better send the “easy food” message through the water column.
A little bluegill butchery may seem harsh. This is nature. Nature is brutal.
Get over it, Jack, or just stay home in your air conditioned nursery.
The DNR has strict guidelines on transporting bait to avoid introduction of native species. Practically speaking, you need to go fishing twice when hunting these piscatory predators—first for bait, second for the pull of a lifetime.
A workable alternative is leopard frogs. Bullfrogs are subject to harvest regulations. The best way I’ve found to capture leopard frogs is lightfooting around wetland areas with an old tennis racket duct taped to a length of PVC pipe.
Keeping frogs corralled once captured makes the concept of herding cats an orderly operation. It shouldn’t surprise you that frogs can be jumpy. Its best to work alone when you head out with a tennis racket and mesh collection bag. I’ve found that mumbling to yourself helps keep curious folks away.
Frogs are also better bait when they are alive but slightly injured. A small slice in the frog’s belly after you hook ‘em up works well.
Impaling the frog through the nose with a heavy 6/0 hook before exposing the guts is a short learning curve after skulking around a wetland with a tennis racket.
It’s aggravating to see hard work hop away.
Rigging is simple: A modified Lindy rig with a one-ounce or heavier egg sinker above a barrel swivel with 18 inches of heavy line tied to the other end leading to the hook. Just cast the meat to the lip of the feeding shelf where it drops into deeper water and wait a full five minutes before reeling in and making another cast.
Big flatheads are TANKS.
Anything less than “light” muskie gear can break your rod and heart. There is no better opportunity for a grandpa to bond with the kids. Don’t forget to mumble and chuckle to yourself every now and then.
This ensures an adventure they will remember until the end of days.