When Chuck Porter goes fishing early, he's not talking about dawn. During the sweltering heat of late July and August, he's talking about being anchored up on a hump or ledge on Lake Wateree while it's still dark.

"A summertime sunrise on Lake Wateree is better with catfish already in the boat," Porter said. "My gameplan is simple: beat the heat and catch catfish. I get out early, catch the fish and get off the lake by late morning or noon. Right now, the catfishing is excellent and catching a cooler full of hefty blues and channel catfish is the norm in a morning of fishing."

Porter said because of the extreme heat, the lower end of the lake is stratified, and he primarily fishes from Beaver Creek downstream to the dam. Most of his fish are being caught in 20 feet of water or less; he said a lot of his fish are coming out of 8 to 12 feet of water.


"A lot of fishermen think you've got to go deep during the summer, but I'll stick to the depths where the thermocline sets up and shallower," he said. "Most forage fish are going to be in that depth zone, and so are the catfish. Bass fishermen on Lake Wateree use the thermocline as a depth guide, and that pattern holds for catfish."


Porter uses two basic methods; he anchors on humps, then drops and fan casts as many as a dozen rigs around the boat. When he finds the hot bite, he focuses on that target. The other technique is drift fishing.


"I like to anchor up early in hopes of hooking a big fish," he said. "Recently I've been catching them as shallow as 7 to 8 feet of water just at dawn and for a while after the sun gets up. Then they move deeper and scatter. That's when I'll start drift-fishing, and there's usually a little breeze by then to move the boat along. If not, I'll use the electric motor."


Bait is always a key, and Porter uses a variety.


"Some days, the fish have a favorite bait," he said. "I'll have gizzard and threadfin shad, as well as bream and white perch for cut bait. I'll also have chicken breast soaked in WD-40; that is a very consistent producer. I also use stink bait, specifically Doc's Catfish Getter Dip bait. This stinky brown goo is great for hot weather catfish on Lake Wateree."


Porter said some big fish in the 30-pound class and much larger are being taken, but those fish are not caught every trip. But lots of 5- to 15-pound fish are being caught consistently, and he said this basic pattern should hold up through August.