Catch Lake Wylie flathead catfish on summer nights

Jeff Taylor of Rock Hill, S.C., shows off a nice flathead catfish taken at Lake Wylie. (Photo by Rodger Taylor)

Ditch the crowds for Lake Wylie catfish at night

Located in the middle of the Rock Hill-Charlotte megalopolis, Lake Wylie is a wide-open lake. It’s filled with recreational boats during summer. So in July and August, catfish guide Rodger Taylor usually fishes at night after the water skiers are gone and temperatures are more bearable.

His target species on Lake Wylie most nights is flathead catfish. And a good night can produce three to five fish, normally in the 15- to 25-pound range, he said. Taylor noted that some flatheads grow much bigger. So the opportunity for a trophy catfish is always possible

“Growing to sizes in excess of 50 pounds, Wylie flatheads are very formidable, even on heavy catfish tackle,” said Taylor, of Catfish On! Guide Service (803-517-7828).

Flatheads are so well established, Taylor said, that you are subject to catch one in the main lake just as easily as you are in the river section. But most serious fishermen concentrate on the river because of its cover, structure and good water flow.

Hit the water just before dark

“I like to start before dark, set up on a likely spot and put out multiple rods with live and cut bait. You will probably will get some blue cats too, and that is a bonus. We don’t catch flatheads in the numbers that we catch blues,” he said.

Early morning is another good time to fish for flatheads in the heat, Taylor said.

“I like to start days in the summer around 5 a.m., then get off the water by 10 a.m.,” he said, leaving the 13,400-acre lake to the pleasure boaters.

Drifting is an effective alternative to anchoring from July through September, he said, noting that flatheads often locate near vertical changes in the bottom such as river ledges, confluences and creek mouths. They often will be just sitting on the flat near the channel drop.

Top baits include bream, white perch and gizzard shad, all readily available in Wylie, he said.

“I like to snip part of the tail fin on large, live offerings. This causes the fish to move erratically, and it’s less likely to pull your rig around,” said Taylor, who also cuts up pieces of gizzard shad that run to as big as 12 inches — so a cut piece including head may be several inches long.

“I once believed that the best bait for flatheads was live bait, but cut bait drifted or trolled is an excellent way to hook up with flatheads. This technique in July often produces the bigger numbers of fish,” he said. “I do prefer live bait, but like other species of catfish, flatheads will not turn down fresh cut bait. Gizzard shad are bloody, muddy and very oily. They put off a lot of smell in moving water. You may also hook up with a big blue when fishing a large piece of gizzard shad.”

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