Not all catfish spawn at the same time on Gaston
While many fishermen lament the catfish spawn — when blues are busy laying eggs and guarding nests — guide Zakk Royce of Gasburg, Va., is too busy catching them to be complaining.
Run Lake Gaston and avoid most of the spawn altogether. At 34 miles long, Gaston can always provide a place where the fish are feeding.
“The good news is that not all of the fish will be spawning at the same time,” said Royce (919-724-2474), who runs Blues Brothers Catfishing Guide Service. “The spawn is all about water temperature, which starts for blue catfish in the mid- to upper 70s. Because of the cool water flowing into the upper lake from the bottom of Kerr Lake, the upper end will be the last section to start spawning. That’s where I’ll be in early June, when the fish are beginning to spawn on the lower end.”
According to Royce, early June is all about a mussel-bed bite. In water 20 feet and less, Royce targets red-clay and sandy points, islands and sandbars on the upper end of the main lake where he has found mussels using his side-scan sonar. Royce trolls a spread of Santee rigs on the bottom or anchors up and fan casts his baits.
Look for suspended fish late this month
Once the water begins to warm into the spawning range, Royce is ready to shift to the lower lake. That’s where spawning has been well underway. More fish are finishing their duties and ready to tie on the feed bag.
“The early mornings on the lower end will still be a shallow, mussel-bed bite, because it’s an easy meal after they spawn,” Royce said. “But as the month goes on and the water temperature rises into the 80s, the blues will begin to slip down into the closest-available deep water. Those fish can be caught on the bottom until the thermocline develops. Then, they’ll start to suspend, and I’ll catch them on float rigs.”
Once blues are suspended, Royce will abandon his Santee rigs in favor of a 3-inch slip float. He adjusts the float to carry his shad or perch chunk in the strike zone. A 3-ounce egg weight resting on the swivel above the leader will keep the baited 9/0 circle hook straight down. Royce is careful to keep the baits above the fish.
By late June, Royce has another option. There is a good chance that the upper-lake fish he targeted in the early part of the month will be finishing their spawn and ready to eat. Then, he can stow his float rigs and go back to a mussel bed bite.
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