Cats coming, going

Nice channel cat are a welcome by-product of drifting for Lake Wylie blue catfish in all phases of the spawn.

Track Lake Wylie blues in all phases of spawn

June has never been a great month for catching catfish on Lake Wylie, because blue catfish are spawning and mayflies are hatching, according to guide Rodger Taylor of Rock Hill. Between the rigors of reproducing and the availability of one of their prime foods, they are just not very cooperative, he said.

But since Taylor is a guide, school is out and people want to go fishing, he had to figure out a way to put catfish in the boat. The result was a pattern that targets catfish “coming and going.”

“I do a lot of fishing in the middle sections of the lake, catching prespawn fish, late spawners going up the lake, and post-spawn fish coming back down the lake,” he said. “I drift fish the area where the South Fork River runs into the Catawba River. It’s a natural place where the rivers come together, and there is some structure to hold the blues.”

Blues hold tight to structure, Taylor said; if you catch fish on a drift, you have to replicate that drift to catch them again.

“If you miss them by 10 feet, you might not get bit. Good electronics and good boatmanship help produce fish,” he said.

Taylor drifts with cut bream and cut gizzard shad when he can find them. His favorite bait for the blues is the head of a bluegill.

“I catch smaller fish in June — 10 to maybe 20 pounds — but we do catch plenty of fish to eat,” he said, adding that there’s a bonus to this tactic: channel catfish.

“Fishing this way, you tend to pick up some decent-sized channel cats. A big channel catfish on Wylie will run 4 to 7 pounds, and we get a number of fish that size. They hit the same baits as the blues on the drift.”

Taylor also targets flathead catfish, basically at night, usually in the upper part of the South Fork or Catawba rivers.

“Flathead fishing is an anchored approach,” he said. “I try to anchor on the side of a deep bend or a long point out in the lake and cast out to different depths to catch fish coming up in search of food.”

Although flatheads will hit cut bait, they prefer live bait, said Taylor, who uses  small white perch and bluegills. While he specifically targets flatheads from dusk to about midnight, he also starts off early in the morning looking for a flathead bite.

“Starting out before first light, I might be able to pick up a flathead or two, but as the sun comes up, I go to drift-fishing for blues,” he said, because flatheads slow up as the sun rises and boat traffic picks up.

“With school out, I usually run my trips from before sunup to about 10:30. There is a tremendous amount of boat traffic on Lake Wylie after 11 o’clock in the morning, and it remains heavy until nearly 8:30.”

It is not a “knock-you-dead-bite,” you just have to take what you can get, he said. “You can still catch a nice stringer of fish but you have to work at it. If you can get some channel cats to go along with a couple of blues and a nice flathead morning you have had a really good day.”

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