Many fishermen think spring is the only time to catch big catfish in the Cooper River, but guide Chris Orvin is smoking the big blues right now.
"The catfish bite has been on for a few weeks, and it will typically last for a good while longer," Orvin said. "Right now, we're catching mostly blue catfish and most of them are in the 15-pound-plus class. The top end is undetermined, because we've caught a lot of fish in the 30- to 50-pound-plus class recently, but (we) usually have two or three big fish per trip that are too big for my party to handle. The fishing is really awesome."
Orvin ( 843-509-2306) said the fishing is not difficult and the action is consistent, depending on the water current.
"There's two types of current we deal with on the Cooper River," Orvin said. "Both or either can be a real key to success. First, there's the water discharge from the Pinopolis Dam that creates a good current situation, and many mornings I fish early to take advantage of that. Also, there is a tidal current and a dropping or outgoing current can also be really good. But the key is to have some moving water so you can drift along with the current."
Orvin said that because the fish are accustomed to the current speed, the drift speed can be much faster than the speed you would drift fish in lakes.
"It's not unusual to drift at over 1.5 miles per hour in the river," he said, "but that's the speed at which the forage is flowing along in the current, so that's a normal presentation for the big blues."
Orvin uses four rods, and keeping baits precisely where he wants them is crucial. His bait of choice is fresh herring that he cuts into small chunks. He does not use the head or tail, and he said a 1- to 2-inch chunk of the body is plenty for a big catfish; he'll get three or four baits from each herring.
"I'll fish two rods with big floats set to drift the bait just off the bottom," he said. "I am fishing in about 15 to 18 feet of water right now," he said. "I let the rigs drift ahead of the boat, and I use the trolling motor to keep the boat, and thus the bait, in position. The other two rods are down rods with heavy weights fished vertically off the side of the boat. Again I keep the bait two to three feet off the bottom. Catfish will readily come up for a bait like that, and that helps keep the rigs from snagging on weeds and other debris. I use heavy braided line with about 40-pound test fluorocarbon leader and a 5/0 circle hook.
"Sometimes I'll find a hot spot and will crank up the big motor and re-drift an area," he said, "but often we will drift a long distance and will consistently hook fish. The fish are potentially found all along the river, and it's important to stay close to the edge of the river, right where it drops off into that 15-feet plus of water."
Orvin said this fishing will usually last through October and into winter, but it is prime time right now.