(Editor’s Note: The ninth stop on our year-long Catfish Hotspots tour leads us to North Mississippi and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project at Grenada, where the whiskered fish are mostly overlooked, except by some smart anglers. September is a peak time to get ’em).
Fifty-seven years — that’s how long David Wall of the small Big Creek Community on the upper end of Grenada Lake has fished for catfish in the massive flood control watershed.
He has witnessed the growth of a crappie fishery that has made Grenada a household name in angling circles.
That fame suits Wall, 75, just fine, so long as it’s crappie and not catfish that draws anglers to the lake. The veteran catfisherman said Grenada is a great place to catch catfish, mostly what the locals refer to as humpback white cats — actually blue catfish — and flatheads.
“You catch humpbacks from 4 to 20 pounds,” said Wall. “Flatheads, you never know. You might catch a 40-pound one or you might catch a 6- or 8-pound fish.”
Wall’s claim to fame on Grenada Lake is a 55½-pound catfish that he caught from the Yalobusha arm in late September about 10 years ago.
Wall said the month of September kicks off the best season to catch catfish at Grenada Lake because it coincides with dropping water levels.
He said the falling water puts the catfish in an eager mood to feed, knowing that winter is not too far around the corner.
“They open the spillway the first of August at Grenada dam,” said Wall. “The lower the water gets, the better fishing you’re going to have.”
Wall was happy to point out some of his favorite catfishing hotspots that he keys on as the water leaves the banks at Grenada and catfish start to become active.
1. Wolf Creek Point
GPS: N 33 48.503 / W 89 44.641
Long points and the subtle drop-offs associated with them make up much of Wall’s strategy in targeting catfish during September at Grenada. Fish hold on the drops and wait for baitfish, mostly threadfin shad with some gizzard shad, and a variety of minnows mixed in, to work their way down the point.
In this location near Wolf Creek, Wall will anchor his boat in around 10 feet of water and fan cast baits around the boat, making sure to cover both deeper and shallower spots along the drop-off.
“The drop-off here, it kind of holds the catfish,” said Wall pointing out the contour lines on his depth finder. “They feed up to them rocks; right off the drop-off, right off where it deepens up. All you have to do is anchor up and fish out both sides of the boat.”
For bait selection, Wall matches the hatch at Grenada. He says that threadfin shad, which he can easily catch in a drop basket in the waters of the spillway behind the dam, will produce the best results.
“Don’t come to Grenada Lake unless you’ve got some shad,” he said. That’s the best bet. Of course, they’ll bite anything but shad is their natural bait.”
2. Hugh White Beach
GPS: N 33 48.601 / W 89 43.707
From Wolf Creek Point, Wall moves up the Yalobusha arm of the lake to the next spot on the list. Hotspot No. 2 is similar in nature in that the point that comes off the other end of Hugh White State Park also has a definite drop-off that catfish key on.
One big difference between the two is the amount of structure that Wall finds in this location.
“You will find a bunch of obstructions under the water here,” he said. “It’s mostly trees that have washed off the bank and floated out into the lake, but it holds the fish here. The river is not far off the point here and they seem to like to feed out of the river up toward your shallower water.”
Again, anchoring his boat along the drop, Wall will fan cast rods around the boat. He uses pretty stout tackle — 20-pound is the norm — because of the possibility of hanging up. He uses a Carolina-rig to attach the bait to the line.
“I use a 4/0 hook with an egg weight and fish on the bottom. Put a whole shad on the hook and throw it out. Sometimes I’ll cut the tail off and use both pieces. That helps catfish find the bait. They lay up around the logs and the rocks and the scent drifts over to them.”
3. Piney Wood Point
GPS: N 33 48.942 / W 89 42.079
Wall was quick to point out that access to the deeper river channel is a factor in most of the places he likes to fish. The difference between the first two locations and Hotspot No. 3 is that he’s fishing a flat area adjacent to the Yalobusha River channel.
“No. 3 is a flat out here close to the river,” Wall said. “Catfish feed out of the river up onto this flat. That’s the reason you see those commercial fishermen’s jugs, they catch a lot of fish here.”
Wall said that like himself, most of the commercial catfishermen on Grenada have been fishing the lake for a long time. They understand the bottom contours that catfish find to their liking and they fish those locations. He said anglers who are unfamiliar with catfish habits on Grenada could do worse than just be observant for jugs and fish those areas.
“Most of the time, the jugs are in the flats where it is shallow, but close to deep water,” he said. “If you see jugs, that’s because there are fish there. The commercial fishermen know where the fish are. If you see jugs, fish around them.”
While the weather and the water temperatures early in the month will still be pretty hot, Wall was quick to point out that catfish don’t mind shallow water this time of year and will scour the shallows in search of food.
“I’ve caught fish in 2 feet of water this time of year,” he said. “Humpbacks feed in real shallow water. It’s not going to hurt anything to put the boat in 3 or 4 feet of water this time of year.”
4. Wildlife League
GPS: N 33 48.626 / W 89 41.581
As if to reinforce the concept of targeting shallow water this time of year, Wall takes us even shallower at hotspot No. 4. In fact, the winding creek channel that comes out of the area known as the Wildlife League runs right along the bank. Wall has no problem throwing up on the bank and dragging the bait back into the edge of the water.
“The river comes in close to this red clay bank right here and you’ve also got the creek coming in right there,” Wall said, pointing to the shoreline. “You’ve got a creek channel coming into the river channel right here and the catfish just feed up right here as close as they can get to that bank. That old bank washes off a lot of worms and insects and stuff into the water. Catfish will get right up there close to that. You just fish close as you can get to that bank.”
Because of that, Wall said No. 4 is a hotspot for anglers who don’t have a boat and fish from the bank. In fact, he said a lot of locals will park close to this area and camp right on the banks of the lake and fish at night.
“You can see right up there on that grass where they’ve been parking up there,” he said. “They’ll park and fish all night right there off that bank. They can throw from the bank. The water level is at about 215 now, if it gets on down to about 210, they can throw out into the river. They catch them over in the river and right over on the side of it there.”
5. Redgrass West
GPS: N 33 48.856 / W 89 41.242
Hotspots No. 5 and 6 get better as the water levels on Grenada Lake recede in the fall. Several humps and islands outside the mouth of Redgrass Creek make up the area.
In the fall, it’s an ideal spot to catch both numbers and sizes of catfish.
“This is one of the best spots in the lake,” said Wall. “It gets shallow, but you’re close to the river. When the water drops some more, you can see all the islands out here, dry land. Fish feed up in the shallow water close to these islands.”
Wall has a special affinity for the area. It’s where he caught his personal best catfish — the 55½-pounder, in water shallow enough to stand in.
“The day I caught the big fish, we were catching 6- to 15-pounders just about as fast as we could reel them in,” he said. “We caught every one of them in 4 feet of water. They were feeding on shad in that shallow water.”
Wall knew when the big fish hit that he was going to have to chase it down. It wasn’t an ordinary catfish.
“I knew exactly what I had,” he said. “I had to get on the trolling motor to run him down. I couldn’t reel him in. It took probably 30 to 45 minutes to run him down and wear him out.
“He came up by the side of the boat and rolled and we finally saw him. The guy that was with me liked to have fallen out of the boat when he saw him. We had a great big net, and boated him with the net after he’d give up.”
6. Redgrass East
GPS: N 33 49.202 / W 89 40.303
Too big a place to classify as only one spot, Wall said the Redgrass area requires a water level of 217 to fish, and is most productive at levels of 217 to 221. He suggested that anglers concentrate on underwater structure such as stumps and deadfalls on the creek channels leading to these areas if water levels were less than 217 and to go further inland into the shallow flooded cover in times of higher water.
“This area has hundreds of obstructions — stumps, snags and so forth — under the water,” said Wall. “As the water falls, you can begin to see them. The islands will be out of the water. Pull up on an island, fish in about 4 feet of water and you can wear the white cats out.”
Another fish attracting feature of the Redgrass area is that it’s a roosting site for cormorants. The birds sit up in the trees and poop in the water. It’s like having automatic feeders for the fish.
“I wouldn’t anchor under any of the trees for the bird droppings,” he said. “But, the catfish just work the water after those droppings.”
Wall warns that once the water levels drop to 213 and below, anglers are cautioned to raise the motor and idle into the areas at a slow speed because of all the stumps in the area.
“You might think you’re in 20 feet of water and you’re in 2 feet so you need to idle,” he said. “Anything from 213 down on these spots that we’re marking, you need to be very careful when getting in here.”
7. Carver Point Boat Ramp
GPS: N 33 50.322 / W 89 40.794
An old abandoned boat ramp at Carver Point is the focal point of hotspot No. 7. A steep drop off the old ramp is why Wall said the spot has always produced good catfish, as far back as he can remember.
“I’m not exactly sure what holds them here, probably the bait fish eat that algae on the rocks,” he said. “Right here is one of the deepest spots in the river. It drops off probably 35 to 40 feet deep right here. They feed out of this deep water up towards the bank. You get close to the bank, you’ll do better.”
This area is big for grabblers during the May 1-July 15 hand-grabbing season, which coincides with the spawning period. When the water is low a lot of the fish houses (wooden boxes), placed by fishermen to attract spawning flatheads and blue cats, are visible.
“Starting about early April, late May, they’ll put out boxes,” Wall said. “They’ll be like 2 feet at one end and they’ll widen to 4 or 6 feet at the mouth. They’ll stop up one end of it and they put this white riprap on top of the box.
“The catfish come around this ramp here. They’ve got all the baitfish here and that’s just a natural place for them, for those big ones to come and get. And that’s where they come to lay their eggs in May and June. The fish find the boxes, wiggle inside and later the grabbers come pick ’em out.”
8. The Horse Trough
GPS: N 33 50.272 / W 89 41.483
Feeder creeks and ditches are naturally attractive places to catch catfish. Hotspot No. 8 is a little variation on that type of water source. It’s an old artesian well situated in and around a rock pile.
Wall calls it a catfish gold mine.
“It’s a bunch of rock down there in the old horse trough and an artesian well comes out,” he said. “The water is probably 30 to 35 feet deep and it comes up to about 10 or 12 feet. Those catfish stay right around that hump in those old rocks. It’s one of the best places in the lake.”
Wall said finding the sweet spot at the Horse Trough may take a little bit of searching with the depth finder.
“You have to look for it a little bit,” he said. “It’s about 20 feet wide and it’s about 35 to 40 feet long. If you’ve got a good depth finder, you can find it pretty easy because there’s a hump there and it’s got a lot of big sand rocks on it. You’ll also mark some brush piles. There’s 2 or 3 brush piles on it and about 6 stumps on it.”
Wall said he fishes this area differently than the other locations, anchoring on top of the spot and fishing straight down. At times he may even use a cork.
“You might want to take a cork and set it,” he said. “If your water is 10 feet deep, set you a cork at 8 feet deep. Put you some cut shad on it and just let that cork float over the top of it.”
Wall offers this warning: “They’ll break your line … big catfish.”
9. Main Lake Point
GPS: N 33 49.946 / W 89 42.829
On all of Grenada Lake, there is no better main lake point than the one between the Yalobusha and Scuna Rivers. It is Wall’s last hotspot.
“We’re on a flat between the rivers,” he said. “That’s what makes the place real good to fish because you’ve got deep water on both sides and you’re between them on a flat.
“If the fish are here, they’re going to find it pretty quick. If you don’t catch nothing in 30 minutes, you need to pull anchor and go. You can move a few hundred yards and try it again.”
The rod limit on Grenada is three per angler. Wall uses 7-foot baitcast rods spooled with 20-pound test monofilament line. Since there is not a lot of current and minimal depth to contend with, he uses a 1-ounce weight on the Carolina rig.
“Throw a couple up shallow and one out deep,” he said. “You’ll find them hanging on a ridge or a rock and then the action is on.”
10. Grenada Landing
GPS: N 33 48.010 / W 89 45.554
Wall said even the ramp where he puts in can be a decent place to fish. Shad move up on the riprap surrounding the area and the catfish follow.
As far as launching the boat, Grenada Landing allows access to the spots mentioned and will remain usable as the water recedes.