The winter catfish bite on Lake Wylie has turned on, and a lot of chunky fish are being caught. According to guide Rodger Taylor of Rock Hill’s Catfish On Guide Service, the excellent action should continue and perhaps improve over the next few weeks.
"Most action is on the blue catfish, but we're catching quality channel catfish as well," Taylor said. "Last year, the bite turned on about the same time in December and lasted well into January. I think the overall population of blue catfish continues to grow and is mixing well with the channel catfish for cold weather catfishing at Lake Wylie."
Taylor said he is drift-fishing with a standard drift rig, and that a key to finding the catfish is to locate the big schools of forage.
"I begin each day of fishing by finding the shad," said Taylor (www.catfishon.com). "While my graph is indispensible, I do what striper fishermen do on a striper lake, I look for the big groups of gulls. The gulls will be around the areas where the bait is close to the surface and that's a great place to start catfishing. Most of the fishing is in the main channel of the lake right now. "Blue catfish are big-time eating machines and having forage nearby is a necessity," he said. "I'll drift different depths and different type structures until I hit the right pattern.
"The specific places are a changing day-to-day process," he said. "One day, the fish are deep and either on the river-channel ledge on in the river channel. The next day, they may be on the shallower flats away from the channel. The key is, they orient to the baitfish. I am finding catfish in a lot of different depths; 25 to 35 feet is a good depth to start. But be flexible in thinking and follow the shad. Sometimes the blue catfish, in particular, will get into pretty shallow water during cold weather. If a pattern is working, stick with it, but be willing to change if you're not getting consistent bites."
Taylor said he is using fileted chunks of white perch as his primary bait, but shad is a good alternative. His drift rig consist of a one-ounce worm-type sliding weight above a swivel and three-foot leader with 20-pound Trilene Big Game line and a 6/0 circle hook.
"The average size of the fish is excellent right now," he said. "Most of the fish I'm catching are blue catfish in the 10- to 14-pound class, with the occasional 20-pound-plus fish. The channel catfish are smaller, but still plenty up to eight pounds are being taken. That's a great average size, and the action can pretty fast on some days."