Fresh off a day on the water on Lake Wateree, Captain Rodger Taylor (803-517-7828) rates the bite for catfish as somewhere between very good and excellent. As has been the trend recently, his party today caught a significant number of strong 15-19 pound catfish to go with a “kicker” 33-pound fish (pictured). Rodger says that right now is the hot pre-spawn fishing period where everyone wants to be fishing.
Fish can be caught in other areas of the lake (and Rodger caught a few in the back of a creek today), but the vast majority of the fish seem to have moved upstream into the upper 1/3 of the lake. Feeding fish are setting up on ledges in 6-25 feet of water, and they are eating cut threadfin shad as well as white perch. Fish seem to use the channel as a highway, and active fish move up onto the sides of the channel where it drops off to feed. On Lake Wateree Rodger is relying almost completely on anchoring right now and doesn’t even have the trolling motor (for drifting) on his boat at the moment. Rodger notes that gizzard shad have been a little hard to find recently but threadfin have been working very well.
Striped bass are also making up a significant – and tasty – by-catch right now, and particularly early in the morning striper are eating in the same areas as the catfish. The cut shad is better for striper, and they are catching good numbers of 4-7 pound fish. Today the striper bite died once the sun and wind got up. The last couple of years the striper have not made a great run up the lake, and so it is good to see them doing it this year.
Up the Catawba on Lake Wylie catfish are in a similar pattern, and on recent trips in the lower part of the lake Rodger has not found a great bite. It seems that fish are also transitioning up the lake, again using the river channels as a highway. Both the South Fork and the Catawba are producing. The edge of the rivers in 6-20 feet of water has been the best range, but on Lake Wylie humps in the same depth range are also good. It seems that humps provide the same feeding stations to the catfish as the sides of the channel do. On Lake Wylie cut blueback herring and cut shad have both been working well.
While we don’t usually offer a report for the Wateree River below the Lake Wateree Dam, the author was in the area today and observed coolers full of catfish being caught just below the discharge on cut bait fished on the bottom. There were also striper being caught on bucktails fished behind an egg sinker. Clearly the fish’s movement parallels the trend in both Catawba Chain lakes – namely heading up the rivers.
Overall, Captain Rodger Taylor advises that for the next 6 or so weeks the pre-spawn catfish bite should be hot.