For 30 years, guide Stanley Correll has been making the long trek from his home in Lenoir, N.C., to catch flathead catfish out of Tuckertown Lake, and one thing he’s learned to count on is the big, yellow-brown cats turning on once October arrives.

“My experience is that I think flatheads instinctively know that their metabolisms are going to slow down for the winter, and they begin feeding heavily in the early fall,” said Correll (828-640-7203), who also guides for striped bass on Lake Hickory and smallmouth bass on Lake James. “They will feed all the way through Thanksgiving, but the peak is October.

“I might go to Tuckertown in June and catch five, then go in October and catch 25 or 30.”

Last year, in the span of four days, Correll had a 53-fish day and a 45-fish day on Tuckertown, landing flatheads up to 60 pounds.

Correll likes to fish on the main-river channel, a few miles upstream of Tuckertown Dam. He said that the waters of the Yadkin River moving through the 2,556-acre reservoir have scoured the old riverebottom, leaving rocks and boulders — perfect ambush spots for flatheads.

“The current is what gets it going,” said Correll, who likes to begin fishing around 6:30 p.m. “They like to hide behind the big rocks on the bottom of the channel. You’ll get several fish on at a time because they’re just lying down there, and if one of them gets hooked, it seems like the others come over to see what’s going on, and if there’s a bait in front of them, they’ll eat it.”

Correll’s primary bait is gizzard shad, which he catches in a cast net. If he can catch a few crappie on rod-and-reel, he’ll put them in the battle, too.

“I do better fishing the main-river channel; if I can find where a feeder creek intersects the main river channel, that’s a flathead hot spot,” he said. “There’s a place I fish where the channel makes an S-turn, and there are a couple of feeder creeks around, so it’s the perfect flathead spot.”

Most of Correll’s fish are caught from 28 to 35 feet deep. He fishes his baits on a Carolina rig with a live-bait style hook or treble hook on the business end and a 2-ounce egg sinker above a barrel swivel. He wants the baits just a few inches off the bottom.

Correll said an explosion of baitfish has really helped the Tuckertown catfish fishery, which he describes as the “best it’s ever been.

“I’ve never seen this many 5- to 15-pound flatheads in this lake, ever,” he said. “There’s so much bait in the lake; they’re just gorging on it.”