February’s crazy weather can be very good for catfish anglers
One thing about the weather in February: it is reactive, filled with wet, cool days, buffeted by cold, north winds pushing one front after another, then jolted with a freakish day or two when temperatures spike into the 80s. That variability can make for unpredictable fishing — unpredictably good for catfish at South Carolina’s Lake Wateree.
“My approach to fishing Wateree this time of year is much-more consistent than the weather but takes account of its variability,” said guide Rodger Taylor of Rock Hill, S.C. “Water temperatures in the main channel generally are in the mid-40s in February. The shallow water, however, is colder in the early morning and warmer in the afternoon, given a decent sunny day. Shallow-water fishing often comes into play, because fish move back with bait when temperatures rise.”
Taylor normally starts out in the early morning fishing the deeper water near the mouth of a creek. He fan-casts cut gizzard shad from an anchored position into 15 to 30 feet of water. Then, as the sun rises and temperatures start to warm the backs of the creeks, he moves to shallow water and fishes 3 to 6 feet deep.
Don’t ignore the shallows
“Shallow-water fishing is my favorite. It is very productive. The average fish is 6 to 14 pounds. But we also catch much larger fish,” said Taylor. He noted that Wateree is blessed with lots of large, shallow, backwater areas, particularly on its western side.
“Some of my favorites include Wateree, Taylor, Dutchman and Colonel creeks, but a word of warning:️ Dutchman and Wateree creeks are full of large stumps, so navigate in there with care.”
On a fairly sunny day, even if the air is frigid, Taylor (803-517-7828) said the shallow backwaters will warm a few degrees higher than the main channel. Just a small temperature change will draw bait and fish to the shallows.
“Sea gulls, cormorants and herons are a sign that bait and fish are present, particularly if they are actively feeding. Screaming gulls can be heard from a great distance and usually they are there in great numbers. And that’s a positive sign,” he said.
Back in the shallows the approach is basic bottom-fishing with 10 to 12 rods cast all around the boat to cover a large area.
“The scent from all that fresh cut shad will diffuse into the water. Some patience is required. But blues often will come in schools and fishing can be fast and furious,” Taylor said. “The bite of blues in shallow water is very exciting. You really get a chance to see how much speed they can generate when they want to.”