Despite the alluring aroma of gizzard shad, blue catfish at Lake Gaston have another item on the menu to choose from in late summer. While those gizzards are the building blocks of trophy catfish, blues will sometimes overlook them in lieu of the white perch, a more-fortifying meal when they’re worn down from summer heat.
While perch may smell pleasant to the human sense of smell compared to the stink of shad, but blues may sense something extra.
“I think they can smell the amino acids that signal it to be a higher protein, more substantial fish,” said veteran catfish angler Jon Royce. “Blues are very efficient feeding machines, especially when the water warms up. They’re not going to waste energy chasing shad when they can get more of what they need from the perch. When they start targeting them, we’ll catch more blues on the sharp, main-lake points where the perch hang out.”
Perch possess a ravenous appetite and will often be found shadowing large schools of smaller threadfin shad. While it is possible to catch them in a cast net (legal west of I-95), savvy anglers looking to make bait fast, have learned a trick from the saltwater boys and are getting sneaky with a Sabiki.
The average Sabiki rig measures about 5 feet long, with six small hooks tied with a flashy material at intermediate intervals. Once pulled from the packaging, one end is attached to the main line of a relatively short rod and reel, and the terminal end is tied to a casting sinker of about an ounce. Most anglers lower the rig vertically into an area marked with a school of perch; some jig the rig, and some do not. After a fish appears to be on the line, it is advised to allow additional time for multiple fish to find the baits. Some anglers tip the tiny jigs with bits of night crawler, while others use the rigs right out of the pack. A few drops in the right place should suffice for a day of catfishing.