The red-hot catfish bite that could be found on Lakes Wylie and Wateree during April and much of May is winding down, and on both lakes Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) reports that the spawn is starting to take priority over feeding.
On Rodger’s last few trips on Lake Wylie he has found that the up-river spring spots he was anchor fishing until recently are starting to producing only a few small channels, but by dropping down the lake and drifting along the edge of the river channel he has found some smaller blues as well as some decent fish in the 10-12 pound range. On his last trip he then went into the South Fork River and found some nice spawning male blues in the 20-pound range, and he also caught a big flathead in the mid-20s. These fish were caught anchored in only 3-4 feet of water.
Overall Rodger says that with fish focused so heavily on spawning you can’t fish the same way as a few weeks ago and simply roll up when there is current and expect to start catching fish. You have to be willing to anchor, drift and generally move around until you find some actively feeding fish, and fortunately the catfish don’t all spawn at the same time. Fish generally spawn up the lake in holes, rock piles, and around other structure and cover, and it may be that dropping down the lake offers a better shot at targeting pre- and post-spawn fish.
In Rodger’s last trip on Lake Wateree he had a similar experience, and he went into the river and put out 8 lines with an assortment of fresh gizzard shad, herring and white perch. The results were poor, and he moved down the lake a small ways and still only caught some channel catfish and bullheads with the same set-up. However, by moving about 1/3 of the way down the lake and anchoring in about 9 feet of water where a creek runs into the main body of the river he was able to catch some blues in the 10-12 pound range as well as a bunch more fish in the 1-4 pound range. There was a stark contrast in sections and it was necessary to be willing to move around.
On both Lake Wateree and Lake Wylie Rodger still believes it is worth trying for a big bite in the morning up the river, particularly when there is some current. This is such a proven trophy pattern that it is hard to pass on the chance to catch a big fish. However, the up-river bites on both lakes are not at their peak and anglers need to be willing to move around a lot.
Finally, gizzard shad are still a little hard to get but they are showing up in cast nets again. In addition to blueback herring, shad and white perch it is getting to be the time of year when bluegill also make a good bait.