Thermocline has Kerr cats feeding strong

A distinct thermocline sets up Kerr Lake fishermen for good action on nice blue catfish in August.

Seeing where fish aren’t, helps find where they are

When summer heat hits its peak, every angler could use a break to put his catch together, regardless of where it comes from.

That’s what guide Austin Sartin of Burlington, N.C., has found at Kerr Lake on the North Carolina-Virginia border. Many lament the thermocline and the dead water below it. But Sartin uses it to tell him where blue catfish aren’t. And then he puts a bull’s eye on where they are.

“In August, we have a strong thermocline that sets up anywhere between 24 and 32 feet deep,” said Sartin (336-687-0519), with Blue’s Brothers Catfish Guide Service. “That concentrates the fish in a tight band where the highest oxygen level meets the coolest water. We find out where that depth intersects the banks and points. The catfish will be real close. That’s where the bait is. And catfish will use those areas as ambush points.”

Sartin focuses on main-lake points outside of coves and creek mouths close to the main channel. He prefers the middle to lower end of the lake in August, from Grassy Creek to Eastland Creek. Sartin finds the thermocline by using his sonar. He looks for the thin line that can be amplified by increasing sensitivity. Then he sets up to begin his troll.

Speed is critical for Kerr catfish

“I run 10 rods at a 1⁄2 to 1 mile per hour,” said Sartin. “Eight on the bottom and two slip corks with 30-pound monofilament main-line and leader. On the Santee rigs that run on the bottom, I use a 1 1⁄2-ounce drift weight. I try to run the slip corks right in the middle of the thermocline. So if I go out into deeper water, they’ll still have a good chance to get bit.  We bait up with cut shad, white perch or bream and usually keep a couple of perch rods out with Sabiki rigs tied on to catch them at the same time.”

Sartin said that a consistent pattern since last fall has been the potential for torrential downpours that can raise water levels up to 2 feet overnight.  In these instances, he finds that fish will leave the main lake to stage in the backs of creeks and sample the buffet line that washes in. All bets are off in terms of water depth in this scenario as fish go super skinny to get dibs on a free meal.

Click here to read about catching Kerr Lake’s summertime crappie.

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Dusty Wilson
About Dusty Wilson 251 Articles
Dusty Wilson of Raleigh, N.C., is a lifelong outdoorsman. He is the manager of Tarheel Nursery in Angier and can be followed on his blog at