Southern California - Blue Catfish Tips
By Freddie Kriegler
Just let me start off bye saying that searching for that elusive big Blue is often times challenging, frustrating, and down right nerve-racking. If youre one of these individuals, with one or all of those symptoms then you need to sit down and think about what you are doing, have you overlooked something? There are many variables to consider; what time of year is it, what time of the day or night are you fishing, are the fish spawning, have the fish finished spawning, did a warm or cold front move in, what temperature is the water, how deep is the water, what kind of structure does the body of water youre fishing have, has it been raining, has it been sunny, what baits do I use at different times of the year, am I using the right tackle, or am I using the right gear? When you put all these things together, it can get a little confusing. Im going to go over some of these things, and Im sure theyll help you catch more and bigger Blue Catfish.
There are many reasons why most people have trouble setting the hook on a Blue. Setting the hook on a Blue is a little different then setting a hook on a Channel or Flathead. Like I said before, Blues will pick up the bait and move with it before they actually take it. The most common reason for poor or no hook sets is that an individual will try to set the hook on the fishs initial run. Yes, you may hook a few this way, but I bet you loose just as many as you hook. The idea here is to let him run, and most importantly, give some slack. The reason for this is that Blue Catfish normally school. Once a Blue finds food, itll move it away from the school so that he can keep it for himself. So, let the fish take it and stop. On the second run, set the hook. If you use this technique, I guarantee that you hook 95% of the fish that strike. If youre fishing a float, then youll want to let him run for 2 3 seconds and then set the hook. Another reason is that some individuals tighten up their line once the bait has settled on the bottom. When a Blue picks up the bait and feels the resistance from the line, he will normally drop it and your chances of him coming back for it are very slim. So once the bait settles open the guard on your open faced reel or if youre using a bait castor, depress the line release button. This will allow the fish to move the bait freely.
Have you ever had a fish hit your bait once and that was it? The reason for this could be the type of weight youve tied or placed on your line. Tying a weight onto you're line will cause some problems. One is that it will weaken the strength of your fishing line, causing your line to break easier. Second, if a fish is moving with the bait it could get caught up in some kind of structure, causing the fish to drop the bait and snagging you up. Third, the fish will feel the weight and resistance, causing it to drop your bait. If you are fishing in a body of water that has little to no current then use a slip weight with a bobber stop. This will allow the fish to take the bait without the weight moving. In addition, another way to solve this problem is not to use a weight at all. The weight of the bait is normally enough to cast it wherever you want, but that depends on the type of bait you are using. Ill get into baits later. Bodies of water with some current call for slightly different techniques. If you have a body of water with current but not much structure, then a slip weight will work wonderfully. If you have a body of water with current and rocks as structure, youre probably getting a lot of snags. A great way to solve this problem is to use a large nail as a weight. The nail will slip down into the rocks and will act like a flag. When you want to bring in the bait all you have to do is flip the tip of your pole upwards a couple of times and the nail will slip right out of the rocks.
Oh yes, now on to baits. Blues prefer their food to be dead. Once and a while you may catch one on live bait, but your most productive baits will be dead, smelly, oily baits. If youre fishing a lagoon, there are variety of baits you can use. Stink dough baits work well for smaller fish, but your larger fish will prefer cut baits or blood worms. If youre fishing a pond then try bloodworms, beef, or chicken livers, stink baits, or smaller pieces or cut mackerel. Beef and chicken livers in ponds will produce more fish. If youre fishing the lakes, the only two baits you should be using are livers or cut mackerel. When cutting mackerel, you should cut pieces of the fish relative to the size of the fish you plan on catching. For example: For 30+lbs Blues youll want to cut a 2 pound mackerel into 4 6 pieces. Slice the fish down the middle from head to tail and then in half. Cut up three mackerels and place them in a small bucket. I recommend that you add some cheese and garlic flavor to the blood. For the cheese, a Macaroni and Cheese packet will work. With the garlic, you dont want to use too much, one tablespoon of garlic powder or salt should do. Once youve cut the bait and added the ingredients, let the bait sit in the refrigerator for at least one day. This will allow the ingredients to soak into the meat of the fish. If you dont have any mackerel then any oily baitfish will do. For example, popular river baits in the Mid-West are Shad Strips.
Selecting the correct hook for the type of fishing youre doing will either make or break a fishing trip. When fishing cut baits on the bottom, youll want a size 2, 4, or 6 treble hook, depending on the size of the fish. For 30+lbs fish, youll want to go with a size 2. When fishing dough baits or livers on the bottom, youll want to use a size 4 or 6 treble hook that has a wire spring that runs up the shaft. That spring will help to hold the bait onto the hook. When fishing a float with cut bait, use a size 4, 6, or 8 straight hook. When fishing bloodworms on the bottom, try a size 6 or 8 straight hook.
I cant stress enough about understanding the body of water youre fishing. You may have the best gear in the world, but if you cant find the fish then you cant catch them. Learning depths, underwater structures, and water temperatures of lakes, ponds, or lagoons arent easy things to do. I recommend that you scout the body of water you are going to fish before you actually try to fish it. For large lakes, try to find deep holes that are adjacent to coves and inlets. Youll also want to locate areas with sharp drop-offs, areas with underwater structures such as stumps or rocks in about 15 30 feet of water, target areas around buoy lines by the dam. Most importantly, learn the feeding areas of the fish for each season. During the winter months, focus on the deeper holes. As the water warms up the fish will move up. Keep these things in mind when youre trying to locate a good spot.
Weather patterns will either enhance the bite or destroy it. When a cold front moves in, Blues will to go deeper and cause the fish to become sluggish. When a warm front moves in, the fish become active, and they tend to feed very aggressively for a few days. When youre witnessing consistently warm temperatures without cloud cover focus on the shallower water with some kind of structure in the early morning and in the late evenings. As the sun moves up, focus on the drop-offs. Also, focus on the drop-offs as the sun is going down. On the other hand, cloud cover in the mornings will add a few hours to the feeding time of Blues, so youll be able to fish the shallows a little bit longer than you normally would. Just remember that the fishing will remain slow if the water temperature is below 64 degrees. When the water temperature of the lakes is still a little cool, fish the shallow ponds and lagoons. These bodies of water warm up quicker and the Blues will become active sooner than the Blues in a lake. Lagoons and ponds are great for fishing floats in the mornings. Youll want to place your floats near under water structure or around cottontails. So, try not to fish only one body of water. Find yourself 4 or 5 different bodies of water with different depths. When one lake isnt producing yet, go to the other.
Following these tips will help you catch more and larger Blue Catfish, consistently. Good luck and dont forget the camera.