Flathead catfish in Lake Wylie are growing in both numbers and size, and in the middle of summer, the best time to fish for these monsters is well after dark for three good reasons, according to guide Rodger Taylor of Rock Hill.
First, when daytime temperatures are hovering between 90 and 100 degrees, it’s just a lot more comfortable to fish at night. Second, during the day, Lake Wylie is a maelstrom of boat traffic, with pleasure boaters, water skiers, jet skiers and bass boats everywhere, but when the sun goes down, most of those boats are gone; being on the lake is more pleasant.
Third and perhaps most important, Taylor said, is that flatheads by nature are pretty nocturnal.
“Flathead catfish are more active at night as they leave the cover of downed trees, brush piles, rocks, bridge pilings, docks and piers to hunt for prey,” he said.
“Flatheads are all over the lake, but I like to target the river sections of the South Fork and the Catawba. These in general are in the upper fourth of Lake Wylie.”
Taylor (803-517-7828) said an anchor spot usually involves a bend in the river where flatheads can leave deeper waters for shallows at night to stalk their prey
“If locations have brush, piers, bridge pilings or downed timber, it makes it even better,” he noted.
Although the best fishing is at night, Taylor starts out while there is still daylight so the boat can be anchored in a good spot where various depths can be reached.
“I like to start a flathead trip an hour before sundown to set up on a specific location. I set up right at dark and get my baits out and let everything quiet down. Usually about an hour of waiting is required for the flatheads to begin to bite,” he said.
Taylor said the depths that hold flatheads vary, so fan-casting baits from shallow water to the deepest parts of the river channel is the best approach.
Top baits for flatheads include live offerings such as bluegills, white perch, bullheads and shad. If fishing with shad, they probably should be served up as cut bait because they are less hardy than bluegills or white perch.
Rod selection and rod placement are critical when fishing for flatheads, Taylor said.
“Rods should be positioned by at least a 45-degree angle in a stout rod holder for best visibility, and white is the best color for rods for fishing at night,” Taylor said.
“The rod should have a strong butt section with a limber tip. Flatheads often mouth the bait before taking it. The initial bite may be subtle with just a slight movement of the tip. This may be followed by a deep bend in the rod and flatheads fight better than any other catfish.