Gone are the days when catfish were delegated to warm weather and water for consistent fishing. With the introduction of blue catfish into many lakes and rivers in the Carolinas, the cold-weather catfishing game has changed significantly. 

Not only are blue catfish active during the cold months, they  literally gorge on forage such as gizzard and threadfin shad, as well as white perch so richly abundant in many lakes. This “consuming mass quantities of forage” trait enables anglers to target blue catfish effectively. 

Not all lakes are created equal when it comes to blue catfish and four lakes in the Carolinas stand out as top cold-weather catfish destinations. Take the advice of these experts and your odds of consistent catches and an occasional trophy will go up.

Lake Gaston

Perhaps the hottest lake in the Carolinas for trophy blues is Lake Gaston along the North Carolina-Virginia border. Guide Zakk Royce of Murfreesboro, N.C., has some basic cold-weather strategy for big cats, and he’s associated with trophy fish, having put three 100-pound specimens in his boat.

Royce, who runs Blues Brothers Guide Service, said winter, ­ and December in particular, has been very good for big catfish on Gaston. In December 2015, he caught a 91-pound blue that was certified as North Carolina’s state record. Eighteen hours later, he caught a 105-pound blue that broke his own record. He has since caught blues weighing 102 and 100 pounds at Lake Gaston. 

Royce (919-724-2474) said targeting big blues in cold weather begins with finding forage, then following up with the right strategy.

“It’s more than just having baits in