Fish Catching Travel
The Great Blue Cat Hunt.
Growing up in Iowa I fished creeks, rivers, and ponds. There was never a real plan, just a boy, his bike, and a Zebco. We caught bass, bluegills, carp, catfish, and anything else that would be foolish enough to hit our baits. Over the last few years I have spent many days and dollars chasing bass, tarpon, redfish and a host of other glamour species, but basically forgot about the catfish. For some reason lately I have been wanting to catch a big blue cat. I see the pictures online, and I have caught a couple nice ones on lures bass fishing, so I decided now is the time.
If I can do it, you can do it. Try something different today.
So how to approach it? I decided that with all the great information available via the online message boards I would try an experiment. If I asked the online posters for help would they respond in a way that was truly useful? The answer is yes. Next, could I then take that information and actually catch blue cats? The answer to that is yes. Last, could I catch a big one? The jury is still out on that. So I posted on the catfishing forums in both 2CoolFishing, and the Texas Fishing Forum, asking for help in drift fishing for blue cats. Not only was I given actual straight forward advice, but they shared web sites with great information.
I headed for Coleto Creek yesterday at daylight. Not being adept at throwing a cast net, now definitely on my list of things to learn, I brought small worms and decided to catch some brim to use as live and cut bait. Using a small bobber, which got blasted a couple of times by bass while reeling it in, I was able to catch 6 small ones pretty fast so off I went. The brim were 3 – 6″ and I intended to use them both live and and as cut bait.
So Lets Go Fishing.
I made my plan the night before, again taking things I read online, and choose three places to start my search. The first was an area up lake that has a real defined channel, meaning a good sharp drop on both sides, big flats on both sides, and of course bait. It was 23 ft. in the channel with about 5 foot edges rising to 15 ft. on the edge of the flat. There was a slight breeze blowing, so I positioned the boat upwind and right on the edge of the channel. It was the perfect wind, and I was able to use the trolling motor to stay on the break, trying to keep the boat in about 20 feet.
One of the great pieces of advice I got online was to believe your eyes. Having guided where we often caught crappie over brush piles in 30 ft of water, I know that is critical. Your locator is your eyes underwater, not just a depth-o-meter. The locator allowed me to keep the bait close to the bottom, moving it up and down on occasion to always stay close to both the bottom and the channel break. I saw fish near the bottom, mid-depth and shallow as I drifted. The boat just went over some mid-depth smaller fish, with big marks on the bottom, when I got the first bite.
For rods and reels I used the stuff I use for saltwater bottom fishing and trolling. One rod had 20lb test, 30 on both the others. For the terminal end, I rigged a combination of the things I read. A 1 oz. sliding sinker, a red bead, then a large black swivel. Next came the leaders, 2 were 2 ft. long and made with 35 lb. fluorocarbon, one was 50 lb. clear mono. For hooks it was 7/0 Gamakatsu circle hook, at least I know enough not to cheap out on the hooks.
All the rods were placed in a rod holder with the drag set a little less than tight. By doing that with circle hooks the rod actually sets the hook when the cat swims off with the bait. I lowered them to the bottom, reeled up 2 cranks and set them in the holders. It worked just like clockwork. A rod rigged with the fluoro leader and cut bait bent over and I was on to my first blue. I landed him relatively easy, and he seemed to be around 3 lbs or so. In the box he went. An interesting note, when I cleaned him he had at least 20 or more freshwater mussel shells in his gut, greedy little bugger.
I made several drifts in the area. A little while later I caught one that was even bigger, again on the rod with a fluoro leader and cut bait. Even though during the day there were a couple of hits on live brim, clearly the cut bait was better. The live bait was rigged on the 50 lb. leader so I am still wondering, was it the live brim they were not that interested in, or was it the leader? The only way to tell is to go again, which I am going to do in a few hours.
There is something to be said for not catching a CPR (catch photo release), they can all end up in the frying pan!
I decided to head for the second likely spot, a large cove were the channel comes out and hits the main river channel, surrounded by flats. Working the area with the wind, which pretty much died, and the trolling motor, resulted in no strikes. I fished there about and hour and then thought back to the advice, believe your eyes. I was not seeing the large hooks and schools on the bottom, so time to move.
The third area I intended to fish was the the deepest part of the lake, the damn area. The wind was still light, so I went upwind so it would push me in the main channel, an area about 32 ft. deep. I was able to catch one more good one, again on cut bait.
So all in all a successful first outing doing something I have never tried before. I caught 3 keepers, missed a couple of more, and lost one, with all the good bites coming on fillet of brim with the skin on. The only thing I did not accomplish was catching a big one. Now I need another fishing hobby like I need a hole in the head, but I can promise this is not the last of my blue cat fishing. I will not stop until I can have one of those great shots standing in the boat, holding one of those cats that you can only dream about.
What I learned.
1. Just go. I was able to learn enough online with help to catch a couple of blue cats. If you have something you want to get done, research it, and then apply it.
2. Believe your eyes. I think I had one bite where I was not seeing fish, and good size hooks, on the bottom.
3. Do not help out the circle hooks. I had the uncontrolled urge to grab the rod and set the hook at times when they were messing with it. Control yourself, the circle hook will get the job done.
4. Learn to throw the cast net. I have put this off forever, but I can see how nice big fresh shad are the ticket.
5. It seemed after the cut bait dragged around awhile it lost its’ appeal. Solved by making sure to keep a fresh bait on.
6. Anyone with a boat can do this.
7. KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Just drift, watch the locator, and pay attention. Even you can catch a big blue cat, and maybe I will too.
I am going to keep at it. Not only today, but I am very excited about this winter. From what I learned it is the prime time for big blues. But it is not winter yet, so will that stop me? Of course not, think I will head out this afternoon for a little late evening drifting.
The soon to be a fish fry.
And last but not least.
Thanks to Southern Catdaddy, Shadslinger, and Obiewan 57 on the 2CoolFishing forums. Additionally to those guys on the Texas Fishing Forum: TxCatfishGuide, Caribu, and proudveteran74. These are the folks out there who are happy to share their love of the sport, and their knowledge, with someone they have never met. The fishing world is a better place because of these guys. Share your knowledge with someone, take someone fishing, it will make the world a better place, and we will all catch more fish.
Good Luck and Tight Lines!