Guide Bill Plumley said that fishermen looking to tie into a mess of blue and channel catfish this summer need look no further than the closest bridge overpass. Plumley said that bridges are popular nesting and rearing places for a number of species of birds, and a lifetime of fishing for catfish has taught him that where birds nest over water, there will be catfish down below.
“The easiest bird to find under a bridge this time of year is a swallow that builds mud nests up under bridges,” said Plumley (864-287-2120), who guides on Lake Hartwell. “But pigeons, cormorants and other birds will also nest over water, and anywhere they do, they poop in the water, or they kick bugs out of the nest – or even the young sometimes fall out. Catfish have learned to take advantage of an easy meal.”
Plumley will sometimes fish for channel catfish and smaller blues in water that’s often deeper than 100 feet. He said catfish have no problem suspending up in the water column and will hang from right under the surface all the way down to 30 or 40 feet.
“The birds just start the cycle,” he said. “Baitfish already hang around bridges, and cats will eat them. A bridge or a big tree lamb that hangs out over the water also offers shade for catfish, so there’s little reason for them to move somewhere else.”
Plumley targets suspended catfish under bridges using light spinning tackle and 8- pound test line. A No. 2, light-wire hook and a tiny split shot complete the outfit. He typically fishes two rods per angler. Baiting each hook with a whole red wiggler, he’ll cast one line and then the other toward a bridge piling while holding the boat in the middle of the span with his trolling motor.
“Each line falls slowly and at different intervals,” he said. “The line falls the first few feet beside the piling where the catfish are most likely to hold, then the line will slowly swing away from the piling and swing under the boat.”
It’s also a great way to locate fish.
“Move to one span, cast out and let it swing,” said Plumley. “If it makes it straight up and down, I’ll let it sit a bit. If I still don’t get a bite, I’ll move on to the next span.”