High Rock catfish are best September choice

High Rock
Maynard Edwards shows off a couple of typical High Rock channel catfish.

High Rock is a puzzle for anglers this month

September ranks as one of the toughest months for fishing on North Carolina’s High Rock Lake. The early part of the month is an extension of the sweltering heat of August. And later in the month, cooler weather puts the fish in transition somewhere between here and there in the depth zone.

But there’s hope for anglers targeting channel catfish.

“It’s a lot like that with September fishing for channel cats at High Rock Lake,” said Maynard Edwards of Yadkin Lakes Guide Service. “Channel cats are easier to catch in September than other species. But you have to search for them, because they can linger in 6 to 20 feet of water.”

Edwards (336-249-6782) begins his morning search by pulling baits at shallower depths, choosing among a number of productive flats at the mouths of Panther and Crane creeks. Around mid-day, he probes deeper waters on flats and humps outside of Sailboat Neck to what’s locally known as “Big Boat Neck.”

“Many fishermen neglect to notice what depth they’re fishing when they get a strike because of the excitement of hooking a fish,” he said. “Once you get a strike, note the depth and keep pulling at that depth until the strikes stop.”

Trolling is a great way to put cats in the boat consistently

Edwards pulls Santee rigs at about .6 mph. They have an in-line float attached 6 inches or so above the hook to keep the bait off the bottom. His slider weights range from 1 1/2 to 3 ounces, depending on depth, wind and current.

His reels are spooled with 20-pound mono and matched with 7-foot, medium-heavy rods. A 2-foot, 20-pound leader with a No. 5/0 or 6/0 Kahle hook holding either the head or belly section of a 4-inch gizzard shad completes the rig. With inexperienced clients, he switches to circular hooks so hooksets aren’t important.

“Just reel the fish in. The hook sets itself,” said Edwards. He discards the tail sections of baits to keep his rigs from spinning and slits the belly sections to emit more juice and smell.

“Channel cats feed more by smell than sight,” said Edwards. “The smellier the bait is, the better it is.”

Edwards will fish from six to eight rods, depending on the size of his party. For pulling shallow water, he sets out planer boards.

Edwards said a normal, 5-hour trip results in around 20 cats from 2 to 6 pounds, with the possibility of a bigger fish.

“Trolling for cats is great for family outings because it doesn’t require expensive equipment, casting skills or endless patience waiting for bites,” he said.

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