An “horrible day of fishing” is how Dieter Melhorn of Cramerton, N.C., described a New Year’s Day catfishing trip to Lake Wateree. During the outing, he and his 8-year-old son, Gracen, only got six bites. Fortunately for the Gracen Melhorn, one of those bites was from a blue catfish that tipped the scales at 60 pounds, 9 ounces.
The elder Melhorn, a well-known catfish angler and founding member of the Catawba Catfish Club, said the fish was not only his son’s biggest ever, but it was the biggest cat that’s come over the gunwales of Melhorn’s current boat.
“This is a weird time of year for catfishing on Wateree,” said Melhorn. “The great bite that we’ve enjoyed from early November until mid-December is about gone. The big feed tapers off, the water temperatures get down to about 50 and the bite just drops off. The funny thing is, we tend to catch some really big fish the last couple of weeks of December into the first of January, but not many bites at all. It’s really a terrible time to fish.”
Melhorn and his family had been camping at Lake Wateree and had fished Dec. 30 and 31 before rainy weather set in. New Year’s Day was to be the last day of the trip, and Gracen Melhorn decided he wanted to go.
“We fished three different creeks and never got a bite,” Dieter Melhorn said. “We tried a long troll, and that didn’t work, and we anchored and fished deep, and that didn’t work. I was getting pretty frustrated when I saw a couple of wading birds in the back of the creek. I figured ‘Why not?’ I had tried everywhere else.”
Anchoring on a shallow flat in only 5 feet of water, the Melhorns fan-cast several rods, baited with cut gizzard shad around the boat.
“Within 8 minutes, we had a bite,” Dieter Melhorn said. “It was the big 60-pounder, and while Gracen had it on, another 17-pounder hit. I’ve always made it a practice to watch the birds, they are the best fishermen on the lake.”
Gracen Melhorn, who weighs 78 pounds, boated the big fish in less than 5 minutes, then released the fish back into Lake Wateree.
“That more than doubled his previous best fish of 31 pounds, which he caught last year,” Dieter Melhorn said. “This one’s going to be a hard one to beat.”