When the water temperature in Lake Murray drops below 65 degrees, it’s time for the winter blues, according to guide Chris Simpson of McCormick, S.C.
“There is a large crop of 8- to 15-pound blues this year in Lake Murray, and there are numbers of 20- to 30- to 40-pound blues there, too,” Simpson said. “And I would not be shocked to see an 80-pounder caught out of Murray this winter. Someone caught a 73-pounder last winter.”
The way to catch those blue catfish in Lake Murray in December and through the winter, according to Simpson (864-992-2352), is to locate the baitfish because catfish will be feeding voraciously in the cooling water.
“Look for diving loons. They will pinpoint the baitfish, at least the general area the herring and shad are in,” he said. “Once you locate the baitfish, pay close attention to the structure they are holding on, whether it’s deep-water flats, up in the creek runs near the channels or out in the river channel.”
The shad will be deep in the colder water, Simpson said, and the herring will be even deeper. Watch your graph to see if it is marking feeding fish under the bait, but if not, look for scattered smaller groups of bait, which indicates bigger fish have busted up the larger schools of bait, he said.
“The best way to catch the blues is Santee-style drift fishing, keeping the bait in contact with the bottom no matter how deep it is,” he said. “Drift through the bait, whether through channels, over humps and over points or in and out of feeder creeks. Cover a lot of area to locate the aggressively feeding catfish.”
If there is enough wind to move the boat, Simpson usually puts out drift socks to assure a steady drift. If there is no wind, he will use the trolling motor to establish the drift, holding the speed at .6 of a mile or less.
“Use cut and whole herring and cut gizzard shad for bait,” he said. “If they are feeding on really small threadfins and gizzard shad, the 2- to 3-inch variety, you may find that cutting the bait into smaller pieces will produce more strikes.”
As the water gets colder the bait and catfish will move even deeper, Simpson said.
“When it gets toward the end of December into early January, you may find that the majority of the catfish will be relating to the main river channel and the deeper creek channels. You should just concentrate on drifting the channels more then,” he said.