Donald Pope and his wife Lucille Pope reeled in two nice Catfish weighing 94 and 62 pounds on the Diversion Canal last week. Not only did they both set new personal records for themselves, but they also took home some money in the Big Fish Big Bucks Fishing Derby on Santee Cooper.
Fort Mill native Mitchell McConnell was fishing in Greenfield Lake in Wilmington, N.C. when earlier this month, and he broke the Tarheel State’s brown bullhead record with a 4-pounder he caught with live bait.
I met Zakk Royce about a month after he set the new North Carolina state record for blue catfish. After discussing my personal best, 76-pound catfish (which is almost 30-pounds lighter than his record fish), I joked that maybe soon I would catch a bigger one, and break his record. His response surprised me.
Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice? You can bet guide Zakk Royce of Murfreesboro won’t be making that wager any time soon. After catching a 91-pound blue catfish at Lake Gaston on Sunday, Dec. 20 — a fish that stood to break the state record by 2 pounds — he bested himself by shattering that record the next day with another blue that weighed 105 pounds and measured 55 ¾ inches.
When Anthony Miller and his family decided to come to Santee Cooper Country for the first time, they expected to catch a handful of keepers to take back to their home in Hiddenite, North Carolina. But when his 17-year-old son, Logan, wrestled an 82-pound Arkansas Blue into Guide Linwood Thornhill’s boat, a fantastic trip out of Black’s Camp turned into an epic adventure.
Charlotte’s Evan Martin spent a long day of fishing on Oct 24 at Mountain Island Lake that began so tough that he had trouble even catching bait. He stuck to it though, and halfway through the day, he caught a monster blue catfish that tipped the scales at 70.83-pounds. It was the first of seven fish he landed on the day, with three of them going over 30-pounds.
The Wateree River is a midlands hotspot for catfish anglers, and one of the highlights of this river is that it holds big populations of all three major catfish species. On any given cast, anglers can expect to catch flatheads, channel cats, or blues. It’s not hard to catch catfish here, but Sumter angler Mike Spinks said a few tips can help even the most novice angler land their share.
“It’s a good enough catfish river than I can expect to catch fish any time I go, but I do see some anglers leave empty-handed at times, and I always give them a few tips that I think will help the next time they come here, and I think these tips probably apply to any river,” said Spinks.
Veteran fishermen debate over the best time of year to target blue catfish on the Santee Cooper lakes. Some argue for April, when big blues move shallow to spawn. Others point to June, when blues continually graze on mussel beds. Another argument can be made that February is best, as anglers claim it never gets too cold for blue cats.
The winter catfish bite on Lake Wylie has turned on, and a lot of chunky fish are being caught. According to guide Rodger Taylor of Rock Hill’s Catfish On Guide Service, the excellent action should continue and perhaps improve over the next few weeks.