Beat the Heat for Summer Blue Cats
By Dan Grulke

As July gets into full swing, big blue catfish will have completed their spawning, and anglers can now target these trophy specimens. The challenge when fishing for these catfish is staying cool long enough to catch them. Here are some of the techniques, tactics, locations, and tidal patterns that I follow in order to be successful when fishing for these goliaths.

There are two ways to beat the summer heat. The first is to fish early in the morning or late in the evening. If you choose this tactic, look for days when these low-light conditions coincide with an outgoing tide or low tide. The other option is to fish at night. However, this option should only be attempted by the most experienced of waterman. For safety's sake, I tend to recommend the first option.

My favorite summertime haunt for trophy blue cat fishing is the Washington D.C. area. I prefer to target points and humps in or near the main river channel that are adjacent to shallow flats. The best depth range is 25-35 feet with the ability to run one or two lines on the adjacent flat, usually 10-15 feet. At this time of year, the big blues are very active, and I prefer to use live bait such as bluegills and white perch. These baits are readily available and stay alive on the hook for a long time. Check the regulations for legal size limits on these fish. Even though they are used as bait, they must be of legal size to possess and use. I usually run four setups with live bluegills and two setups with cut bluegills Again, check the regulations for where you are fishing; in some areas, you are only permitted to run four setups at a time.

I find the gear I use to be as important as the locations I choose when targeting these trophies. My choice is the 110170 Shakespeare Ugly Stik Catfish rod paired with a Daiwa Sealine-X SHA conventional reel. If you prefer a level-wind reel, the Daiwa Millionaire-S is a good option. There is no better line than 20- or 25-pound test Sufix Tritanium Plus in chartreuse. This line is highly abrasion resistant to withstand all the hazards of the river bottom. It also casts very smoothly, and the highly visibility makes it easy to untangle lines when fish cross them. The hook I prefer is the VMC Tournament Circle hook in 9/0. This hook is a little thinner than the Gamakatsu models I have previously used, so it penetrates better.

To make your time on the water as comfortable as possible, remember to drink lots of water and apply sunscreen every two hours. The fish are more scattered at this time of year so change spots frequently. Set the drags on your reels a little looser now because big blues fight extremely hard in the warm-weather months. And whenever possible, fish an outgoing tide either early in the morning or late in the evening.

To book a fishing trip for monster blue cats, contact Capt. Keith Barker. Trophy season is February-March with both size and numbers in the April-May window and again from the middle of July through November. For specific questions about gear and tactics, contact Dan Grulke.

Capt. Keith Barker

Dan Grulke