The Maryland Rivers of the Chesapeake are Virginia’s best tidal and fresh waters, where you can easily catch blue catfish. If you’re a fan of giant freshwater fish, this is the perfect place to find up to 143 pounds of big game fish. Blue catfish have become a favorite among most anglers across North America in the recent past. If you’re planning your next fishing trip in North America, don’t forget the large reservoir and river systems! Here are a few helpful tips on how to catch blue catfish.
Great Tips for Catching Blue Catfish
If you’re an experienced angler, you must have noticed subtle differences between blue catfish and other catfish species in terms of behavior and habits. However, regardless of whether you understand these differences or not, the following tips and fishing tactics will come in handy when you go out fishing for blue catfish:
Proper Rigging is Crucial
Anglers can catch blue catfish virtually anywhere. However, having a good rig will significantly increase their chances of success. Most commonly, anglers put the bait directly on the water’s surface.
The simple Carolina rig, for example, is actually quite simple to use and is very effective. This is because the line is lowered into the sinker, and a swivel enables it to go straight to the hook. Floaters are very effective because they give the bait a floating look while it is swaying with the current. Rattles are very useful for helping anglers lure the big catfish to their traps.
Anglers today use circle hooks to catch blue catfish. They have discovered that using a circle hook will cause the hook to lodge easily at the corner of the fish’s mouth. The hook size should match the bait that is being used.
There is quite a lot of choice when it is time to use sinkers. Many blue catfish anglers like to use a flat sinker that does not roll. This works well in a very strong current. Egg sinker baits are best when the baits are desired to drift with the current. A whiskered rig is used to provide the most accurate location of the bait for blue catfish. A bait tied to a leader will not move around and get caught. This rigging system is very effective when fishing in areas covered in thick vegetables.
Employ Proper Tackle
To catch blue catfish, you need to employ proper tackle. In other words, the type of fishing rods and reels you’ll need matter a lot. Although you can work with a lighter tackle very comfortably, you may need to beef up your game if you’re targeting blue catfish.
Anglers who fish from their boats like to use pretty heavy tackle. Casting is unnecessary when fishing from boats, so heavier conventional tackle is necessary. Most anglers prefer to use braided lines. There is plenty of other fish that can be caught using spinning gear. Heavy spin tackle can be used for fishing without a boat, and many anglers use heavy braided lines. A long heavy rod with fast action and a 6000-8000 series reel is the perfect combo for nearly any fishing trip. Adding a 40-pound braided line or some heavy fly line completes the rig.
Use Fresh Cut Bait
The best bait for hooking blue catfish is to use chunks of cut bait that are a little larger than the hook. Herrings and squid, in general, are effective baitfish because they easily attract blue catfish, which love oily fresh baits. Fishing for chubs and shad is also very effective. However, you need to check local laws before using fresh bait.
Anglers generally cut bait fish and then sever it in chunks or strips, depending on the species. Anglers usually use chunks of bait fish, which are larger and offer more substance than strips of bait fish. These chunks will last for a long time and are harder to break off from the hook.
Hooking a chunk of bait fish to entice a blue catfish to move is easy. Simply place a small rod and hook into a chunk of bait fish and pull the hook. This is why anglers who love targeting blue catfish prefer to catch their own fresh bait. Cast net devices are also commonly used to catch bait. Anglers can also catch bait with a light rod and a short hook. Again, be sure to obey local regulations.
Blue catfish are attracted to a variety of baits, including cut bait, worms, and nightcrawlers. Anglers who do not mind using nightcrawlers are making a great catch. Nightcrawlers and worms are plentiful in the market and are easy to keep alive. Catfish anglers love to use baits that have already been prepared. It saves them time because they have already been stocked up and are ready to go.
Fish at Night
It has been said that blue catfish are nighttime predators. Catfish are built to eat a lot of food when it is virtually impossible for people to see them. This particular species of fish are adept at feeding during extremely dark times and in very murky water.
They are very intelligent and sense things based on smell much more than they do on sight. Flats near river channels are prime spots for blue catfish at night. Anglers should take extra care when fishing in the dark, and if the current is present, it is essential that they be extra vigilant.
Understand the Current
Current plays a huge role in determining where fish are caught, and blue catfish are no exception. Catfish depend on rivers’ flow, so knowing where the current will take them is very important. Predators like finding breaks in the current that will allow them to hide and not need to exert a lot of energy to do that. Anywhere there is a break in the current is a great hiding place for holding blue catfish and other species of fish.
Falling trees, broken bridges, and rock piles are great ways to cause currents to break. Currents in rivers are extremely significant when it comes to catching blue catfish. If the water is extremely high and fast, catfish will find the right places to swim where there is little or no current. Conversely, when the river is low, blue catfish can be caught in fast-moving water with some depth to it.
Figure out the Best Boat Position
Boat position is vital when it comes to landing some of the bigger catfish. It is important that you anchor upstream of a fish spot or area you are going to fish. Blue Catfish will most often be found in fairly precise areas but will also easily wander across large flats.
Anglers are then able to plan how they are going to fish in the area and what they are going to catch. Being able to anchor a boat safely requires lots of practice, and, of course, having a well-equipped boat makes the job even much easier. For instance, some anglers choose to be around 100ft to 120ft away from their anchor points (the spot we marked on their planning graph. This way, they need to let out as much rope as possible for the anchor to stay in place so it won’t slide.
Remember, anglers who do not own a boat can catch blue catfish by fishing from the banks of rivers and lakes. Fish located in rivers are easier to find.
Choose the Right Fishing Spot
Blue catfish like large structures so they can hide and hunt prey. Falls from trees, rocks, bridges, and wing dams are prime places for blue catfish to ambush prey.
Areas that have a combination of these things are prime. One of the best places to fish for blue catfish is an area with steep drop-offs and decaying tree stumps. Blue catfish will also get up on flats to feed. This is often when the water is clear. Blue catfish, like many other fish, like larger bodies of water. Smaller lakes and rivers will not be as productive. Therefore, knowing where to go fishing when planning for your next blue catfish adventure is very critical.
Understand the Eating Habits of Blue Catfish
Many experienced anglers will confess that blue catfish are very delicious compared to all the catfish species you’ll ever catch. This is mainly because they have white flesh that is flaky and firm.
However, if you go out fishing and want to keep some of your blue catfish caches for a meal later, then the smaller and medium-sized blue catfish are the best for table fare. It would be best if you considered releasing the larger blue catfish, especially the females.
Always be Cautious
Anglers who hunt for catfish of any kind should be very careful when handling their catches. Catfish can be frightening to handle due to their large size. Gloves that help you to protect your hands from being attacked by a large fish are very popular, as is a tool to grip a fish by its mouth. Their fins have sharp edges and toxic materials that can very painfully hurt an angler if they stab him.
Blue catfish are popularly known to be the largest of the three main catfish species. They are native to North America and adapt well to various river and reservoir systems. The species has virtually transformed the balance in different water bodies across the globe. Fish management agencies have, therefore, introduced blue catfish to offer both new and experienced anglers an opportunity to catch big game fish. If you invest in the right gear and plan adequately, you can rest assured of landing trophy blue catfish on your next fishing outing.
Roy Franklin is a writer and editor for Stellaroutdoorlife.com. He enjoys fishing big lakes, rivers, and streams for trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, panfish, and whatever else he can catch on live and artificial bait. Roy shares his expertise with everyone who wants to learn new ways and tactics to catch fish. He loves testing and rating new products and recommending fishing gear people can try.