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A short tale about what one species can teach you about another.


John Gillio
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Many of you may have had learning experieces similar to this one. I would like to here them if you have.

 

Smallies have almost always been in my blood, but I was also intrigued by the tales told by local old-timers about the big flathead catfish that made a home in my favorite little smallmouth stream. After seeing old photos of some of these brutes, and after losing what I felt could only have been huge cats while fishing for smallies with my ultralight gear, I decided I wanted to catch one of these big cats. I learned as much as I could from the few old-timers I knew. I found that they were eager to teach me techniques as long as I didn't ask about specific fishing spots. When I finally decided I was ready to give it a serious try I picked up a medium power 7' baitcasting rod and a reel thet could handle 20-40 pound test line and went out in search of the elusive big cats. The thought of catching a 20-50 pound fish from my home waters was exciting to say the least. It wasn't long before my knowledge of the river and that gained from the old-timers lead me to success. I became quite proficient at hooking and landing the big cats that were only legend to me until now.

 

I know this sounds like a catfish story, and I suppose it is. However, the large catfish I was catching taught me something about smallies. Big smallies like big baits. Untill I started fishing for big cats, 18" smallies were my biggest and throwing 2" lures was the norm. While fishing for big cats I caught quite a few smallies that were 18" and bigger. My catfish baits ran from 4"- 9" in length, and these were small compared to what other catfish guys were using on other streams. I was amazed at what a 20+ inch smallie would try to eat. I didn't even think they existed in my little river. I'm not saying big 20+ inch smallies will not hit small baits, they will. My heaviest smallie hit a 1 1/2 inch crankbait. What I am saying is that big baits attract larger fish more often than smaller baits do.

 

I know this is a smallmouth forum, but the following pictures are of a few flatheads taken from my home stream which is best known for its fiesty little smallies and 1 1/2- 3 pound channel cats.

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The second to last shot was messed up as I had dropped my camera...oops. Some of my artistic talent finished off the part of the fish that was blacked out.

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AWESOME story and photos!

Really enjoyed seeing this.

As I'm perfectly fine with an angler throwing whatever they wish if it makes them happy, I have to say that a 2" twister is going to get a class of fish to match more often than not.

 

I need to go dig up my old Giant Rodent now....

 

 

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Awesome pics. and story. I can totally relate to your story. The river I fish back home has plenty of big flatheads and good size smallies as well. My father grew up fishing on the same river and was always telling me stories about the big flatheads they would catch. It took some research and patience, but finally I was able to consistenly hook into large flathead. 2 years ago in July I had one my most memorable days of fishing ever. Went to the river in the morning and caught a 20" pig of a smallmouth and later that night landed 22, 35 and 45 pound flatheads. I am always amazed at the brute force of those fish! Nothing like hearing the clicker on the reel go off, turning the handle, setting the hook and then almost getting taken off your feet. It's always a fun change from smallmouth fishing. I typically fish at night off the bank and sit back and enjoy all the sounds and night time activity. I always look forward to heading back to Illinois and getting out on my favorite river for June and July. The rest of the year I occupy my time fishing for Giant Snakehead here in Thailand. They don't fight as hard as smallies or flatheads, but the fact they can take off a finger makes it pretty exciting!

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Andy, a friend of mine fishes flatheads in another nearby body of water. He also fishes for them only at night. I have fihed with him a few times. You describe it well. When I was fishing for them,I was leaving the river by dark or getting started at daybreak. I fished for them mainly with artificials so I was constantly casting and was often on foot searching them out. Is that a snakehead in your profile photo? They sound like they could be an interesting catch.May I ask how you ended up in Thailand?

 

Eric, You are walking among some river monsters up your way too (other than those monster bass you manage to catch with an uncanny consistency). I ran into a fellow who was targeting them when I was up that way this past summer.

 

Mike, be sure that Rodent can hug the bottom :) .

 

Rob, my most productive spots are all off limits these days :( . Good thing I'm addicted to fishing in general and not just flatheads :) .

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My wife and I both teach at a private International school here in Bangkok. Basically most of the students at our school are from all of the embassies here in Bangkok. We also have a lot students that are sent to our school by their parent's companies. It's an outstanding job and lets us see the world at the same time. I was raised in Geneseo, Illinois and still return there every summer to see my family, so you can guess what river I grew up fishing. I know my home river was a hot button issue last year on this forum. I also fish the Rock River and Mississippi. I went to college in Naperville so I fished the Dupage and Fox Rivers a lot. My first teaching job was in Oswego so I was able to continue fishing the Fox on a regular basis. I definitely miss fishing for smallmouth in the fall. I'm always lurking on the forum looking enviously at everyone's pics of their catches when spring and fall fishing are hot. This past summer was the first time in couple of years that I was able to fish my favorite river. The 2 summers before that the water levels were just way too high all summer. Talk about disappointment. I am able to fill the empty void with fishing for some of Thailand's native species. That is a Giant Snakehead in my profile pic. Fishing for them is very similar to fishing for largemouth during an Illinois summer. Wake up early to beat the heat. Find the lily pads, weed line, ambush points and start tossing top water baits. 95% of my fish have been caught on soft weedless frogs like Rage Toads or Bull Ribbits. It is an extremely exciting and explosive way to fish. Snakehead are very aggressive and will sometimes miss a bait 3-4 times before they finally get it. It's like the equivalent of a pit bull when it comes to fish. They latch on and do not let go. I posted a gallery of just some of my Thailand catches. You'll have to check it out. I hope to be more of a regular on the forum and would love to hook up with people and go fishing when I'm home in summers.

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Big Baits do catch bigger smallies. Now, of course, this is not always true, but most of the time it is. I cannot tell you the number of anglers who have come to me wanting to catch bigger smallies. I always tell them to throw bigger baits/flies. They give it a try and relate back to me that it worked Guys will tell me that their stream does not have any larger smallies than about 12 inches. Most of the time, that is not the case, but the angler only throws baits that attract mostly juvenile fish. A good case in point was a few years ago I guided a fly angler looking for his first Pike on the fly. I knew a few spots where pike like to hang out. Of course, I had him throwing flies that were perfect size for pike, but very large for smallies. As you probably would guess, he caught some very nice smallies on the big pike flies.

 

Another example of this is when I talk to muskie anglers who tell me the giant smallies they catch accidently while chucking huge plugs.

 

Here are a few pics from the day I guided Dustin for pike:

 

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By the way, Dustin did get two pike that day. He is a marine and was leaving for duty overseas in just a few days after catching these fish.

 

24mcdaq.jpg

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John - Great pictures and a wonderful story. One of the wonders of fishing for me is to crack the river mysteries. I'm glade that you did and in a big way.

 

Andy - I grew up in Thailand and fished for snakeheads when I was a little boy using just a piece of bamboo as a rod and a string tied to the end of it (no reel) and worms as baits. Those smaller snakeheads (0.5-2lbs) are wonderful eating fishing. Funny how lifes turned out. A guy grew up in Illinois ended up working in Thailand, and a guy grew up in Thailand ended up here in Chicago.

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Tom-

Pla Chon Nam Tok is my absolute favorite fish dish in the world. I will sometimes keep smaller Giant Snakehead (Pla Chado) and medium sized Striped Snakehead (Pla Chon). They are an excellent tasting fish. Where did you grow up in Thailand? I've traveled and fished form Chiang Rai to Khao Sok down by Phuket. I really enjoy heading to Kanchanaburi and Sangklahburi to the Dams as well. It's been a lot of fun figuring out how to catch new species of fish. Luckily I'm able to speak Thai well enough that I can have conversations about techniques with the local fisherman and everyone has been more than willing to help. I'm always amazed at how small the world has become with the internet!

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What an interesting turn this thread has taken. Bet both you guys have some really interesting stories. My only Thai exeprience has been the food which I find to be outstanding! Especially those rice noodles.

 

John Gillo, nice write up and those are some great looking kitties! What I find to be crazy is when a 4-6 inch smallmouth hits my 3-4 lure... and gets hooked.

 

Jonn Graham, I remember reading about that outing, looked like a great time was had! I think I might have visited that bridge last summer...

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John - Great pictures and a wonderful story. One of the wonders of fishing for me is to crack the river mysteries. I'm glade that you did and in a big way.

 

Andy - I grew up in Thailand and fished for snakeheads when I was a little boy using just a piece of bamboo as a rod and a string tied to the end of it (no reel) and worms as baits. Those smaller snakeheads (0.5-2lbs) are wonderful eating fishing. Funny how lifes turned out. A guy grew up in Illinois ended up working in Thailand, and a guy grew up in Thailand ended up here in Chicago.

 

 

What an interesting turn this thread has taken. Bet both you guys have some really interesting stories. My only Thai exeprience has been the food which I find to be outstanding! Especially those rice noodles.

 

John Gillo, nice write up and those are some great looking kitties! What I find to be crazy is when a 4-6 inch smallmouth hits my 3-4 lure... and gets hooked.

 

Jonn Graham, I remember reading about that outing, looked like a great time was had! I think I might have visited that bridge last summer...

 

For those of you that find this interesting,I suggest you attend our February meeting which will be held at Tom's Thai restaurant

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Andy, we need an article and pics on your snakehead fishing for the newsletter! An international "rivermonsters" edition...

 

That would be some cool reading.

 

Tom could provide an accompanying recipie...

 

^_^

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Andy, your gallary has some great shots. Looks like there is no shortage of big fish there. Sounds like you are enjoying your job, the country, and the food. It would be cool if you and Tom could get together and share some stories and some recipes. I'm told that Thailand is a beautiful country. I hope this summer's visit home allows for some smallie fishing on that favorite Illinois stream of yours.

 

Jonn, I remember seeing that article before. Nice write-up and pics! Being we both have a special spot in our hearts for different stretches of the same river, we should wet a line together sometime. From talking with you in the past it sounds like we also both hit some of the same little creeks.

 

Tom, I do hope to visit your restaurant someday, your menue looks great.

 

Thank you all for the nice words.

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John those are some beasts nice fish, I've caught Flatheads on the Fox a handfull of times with my fly rod fishing for smallies. I've always caught them casting at the Dam face with a minnow pattern, it's always a pleasent suprise :o

That is one reason I love fishing rivers. Each cast has the potential for a surprise at the end of the line.

 

Flatheads do like dam faces as well as log jams, root balls, boulders, or undercut rocks and shorelines.

 

 

 

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