Catching cold weather catfish on the Wateree River

Wateree River

Wateree River cats don’t mind the cold

For anglers wanting to get away from it all and catch some quality catfish, the Wateree River is the place to be. While fewer boats are on the lakes than have been all year, it’s still tough to get away from other diehard anglers, and the presence of homes along the shorelines can make anglers feel crowded.

But the Wateree River has very few homes along its shores. Anglers can drift or troll for miles without encountering one. And the few other anglers on the river this time of year will wave and pass by, looking for their own solitude.

And the fishing is as good as it gets. Flatheads, channel cats, and Arkansas blues all call this river home. The blue cats are most active this time of year, and this river has plenty of them.

“I don’t know why more people don’t want to fish this river. Everybody wants to go to the lake. But you can catch a lot of good fish here, including trophy-sized fish. And being on the Wateree River — you really feel like you’re getting away from it all,” said Capt. Jason Wolfe of Wolfe’s Guide Service.

Winter fishing here is outstanding

On a recent trip with Wolfe, we saw exactly what he meant. We launched his G3 aluminum boat on a cold, foggy morning and fished as the sun broke through the fog over the tree-lined banks of the river. We saw one other boat while fishing, and they were only in view long enough to wave before disappearing around one of the many bends in this waterway.

Wateree River
Jason Wolfe uses big chunks of cut bait for Wateree River’s catfish.

And the fishing was outstanding. While cruising down the river, Wolfe pointed out what he was looking for — partially submerged root balls and whole trees, which are abundant along the banks of the Wateree River.

“The catfish get down-current of that debris. It gives them a break from the current. If you put a bait on the up-current side of those breaks, the catfish smell it. They’ll swim out from behind that debris, grab the bait, and then head back behind their breaks,” he said.

We anchored up-current of several of those breaks throughout the day, casting cut chunks of baitfish toward them. If we didn’t catch a fish within 20 minutes, we’d pull up anchor and head to another similar spot. And you don’t have to look far to find another one. You can sit in one spot on this river and see a dozen or more.

Wolfe has a simple formula for fishing the Wateree River

On each stop, Wolfe would put four baits out, with four rods, then place the rods in rod holders. On some of the stops, we’d get a bite before he had all four baits out. Other times, it would take a few minutes for the baits to attract a bite. And some locations yielded multiple fish. At others, we’d catch only one fish before pulling anchor and finding another spot.

Multiple hookups are not at all uncommon on the Wateree River this time of year.

Wolfe went again this past Saturday, starting off the morning with the mercury registering 19 degrees. It was a repeat of our trip, lots of blue cats, and all of them good, quality-sized fish that offer some of the best fights an angler could ask for.

The majority of fish caught by Wolfe’s clients on this river over the years range from 5 to 35 pounds. And they’ve caught numerous fish considerably larger, including one that weighed 80 pounds.

Don’t sit on the couch! Bundle up, head to the Wateree River, and have a blast catching catfish in the cold.

To get on the river with Wolfe’s Guide Service, give them a call at 803-487-3690.

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Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1775 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of CarolinaSportsman.com. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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