Posted on September 15, 2014 | Permalink
Bait for Blues
Location: Potomac River
The biggest challenge with catching blue catfish is getting bait. Blue cats are voracious eaters and seem to eat almost anything. Bait on the other hand is not so easy to come by. I am hoping that DNR and/or other anglers might offer some suggestions. Here are some ways that I have caught bait.
Pentagon lagoon and the spoils: I have caught bluegill using wax worms on a bobber. One time, it took me 3 hours to catch one bluegill -- hanging my head in shame.
Washington Channel: I have caught perch using live minnows and cut down sibiki rigs. (2 hooks only)
Fletchers: I have caught perch using shad darts during the shad run in the spring.
This may come as a surprise (I know I was surprised), but blue cats eat almost anything including other blue catfish. Yesterday, I caught a blue catfish while jigging for striper. I cut up the catfish and put it on a bottom rig, and caught several more blue cats.
Hopefully, more anglers get interested in blue catfish. They have proliferated the Potomac and are literally everywhere. They are super strong and a lot of fun to catch. Anyone interested in catching "saltwater sized" fish in freshwater should give it a try.
Posted on September 9, 2014 | Permalink
I took advantage of the glorious weather on Sunday and went fishing. With clear skies, a full moon, and high pressure, I really didn't expect to catch a whole lot. To my surprise, the fishing was just as phenomenal as the weather. I caught 4 blue cats and 14 striper -- most were 17 to 22 inches, but one was a whopping 32 inches. A fish that size should be somewhere in the Atlantic right now, but lucky for me, this one was too lazy to make the pilgrimage. I caught the striper on a 1/4 oz buck tail with a 6 inch bass assassin teaser (all white).
P.S. I generally practice catch and release, but having caught so many blue cats lately, I am convinced they pose a serious threat to the ecosystem, so I have been "field dressing" them before returning them to the water. All the striped bass were returned alive and well.
Posted on September 4, 2014 | Permalink
Location: Potomac River near Alexandria
I took my son catfishing this weekend and we had a blast. We only had about 3 hours but we managed to catch 6 catfish. They were decent, but nothing huge. While I was taking one of the pictures, a giant cat took the other bait. It was peeling drag and before I could get the rod out of the rod holder, it broke the leader. We were using 8/0 hooks with 30# leader material. I just ordered some 10/0 hooks and 50# leader. The next one is not getting away.
Posted on August 28, 2014 | Permalink
Location: Gravelly Point
I generally have a plan when I go fishing. Today, the plan was to fish for bass along the grass edge in Washington Channel during low tide. The fish were cooperating. Using a Lucky Craft Pointer SP 78 jerkbait, I caught Smallmouth, Largemouth, and Striped bass -- mostly small, but one Largemouth was probably 2 lbs or better. What I didn't expect was to catch a white perch. I wasn't planning to fish for blue cats, but since I had some bait, I decided to give it a shot.
I anchored in the channel just upstream from Alexandria, near the "Danger" marker. I cut up the perch and put it on an 8/0 circle hook with a 2 oz sinker. Within 5 minutes, I had a fish on that was 60+ lbs. I fought it for about 20 minutes and just as I was grabbing it with my lip grip, it made one last shake and broke the line. I was using 30# shock leader, so it takes a pretty big fish to break the line. I fished for another hour or so and caught two more catfish, probably around 10 lbs or so and was almost ready to pack up when another big blue took the bait. After another 20 minute battle, I landed this one. I'm guessing it was probably 45-50 lbs.
It was another great day to be on the water. Driving back to the dock during sunset is one of the most pleasant experiences in the world. I don't think I will ever get tired of it. The river gets calm and the air is cool. The sky turns red and you can see the Capital and the Washington Monument in the distance. It is a great way to end the day. If there is a heaven, I hope it looks just like that so that I can savor every moment for eternity.
Posted on August 6, 2014 | Permalink
Where to Find the Larger Bass
Location: Upper Potomac River
Fishing on the upper Potomac has been good the past few outings. The water is low, but hydrilla has yet to take hold. I generally manage to catch 20-30 smallmouth in a few hours, but they are all small (13" and smaller). During spring, it seems everything is 17" or larger, but during the summer it is rare to catch anything over 15". Question for DNR, where do the big ones go? Any tips on catching them?
I also caught a fish with lesions all over its mouth (pictured). This was a 13" smallie and had plenty of fight in it. I was wondering what is the cause of the lesions? Any recommendations when catching fish like this?
DNR Response: The larger bass are more active than the juveniles at cooler water temperatures, generally from the mid-50s and cooler. Also, the mature bass are actively feeding during the prespawn period to secure energy and nutrients for the spawn and later aggressively defend their nests and brood. During the summer, the larger bass spread out in a variety of habitats remaining hidden near boulders and ledges when the sun is bright and the water is low and clear. They become more active during low light periods of dawn and dusk and also at night when madtoms (a small noctural member of the catfish family) are active.
The fish in the photo is most likely suffering from infections related to hooking injuries. Always try to remove hooks quickly with as little tissue damage as possible.
Posted on July 1, 2014 | Permalink
Sunset Striper Action
Location: Gravelly Point
This past Saturday will go down as one of the epic fishing days of 2014. With an incoming tide and wind helping it along, conditions set up perfectly for a striper bite at sunset. I launched from Gravelly Point around 6:30 PM. First I spent a little time fishing for Largemouth Bass. I caught one 13 incher and also my first gar (pictured). They were caught near the surface in shallow water with a jerk bait and crank bait.
Around 8 PM, I moved to deeper water and turned my attention to the bottom third of the water column. Striper tend to prefer longer profile baits, so I tied on a deep running stick bait to see if I could find any. I got a few strikes in the first 30 minutes but did not catch any fish; I lost one striper near the boat so I knew they were there. Then around 8:30 just before sunset, the bite turned on. For the next hour, it was complete striper mania. 3 out of 4 casts resulted in a fish. By 9:30, the bite was still on, but I was worn out so I decided to head home. In one hour, I had caught 11 striper and lost 4. Most were 20-22" but the smallest was 19" and the largest was 25". It took more time to unhook the fish and snap a photo, than to get hooked up. All fish were released, but unfortunately, one did not survive.
Posted on June 23, 2014 | Permalink
Location: Upper Bay
Pictured are a couple of rockfish I caught at Podickery Point -- perfect size for eating. I caught 5 in all, but kept my limit of 2. Stingrays were all over the place. You could see them mating near the surface. Thankfully, I only hooked one ray; fought it for a while, then it cut me off on my anchor line. Question, is it recommended to kill rays? If so, how do you do it? They are so powerful. I usually fight them for 10-15 minutes then cut the line.
DNR Response: DNR does not recommend killing of rays in order to decrease the population, rays are annual visitors to bay waters during the warmer seasons.
Posted on April 29, 2014 | Permalink
Upper Potomac Smallmouth
Location: Upper Potomac
I fished for 2 hours the morning of 4/25 and only caught 3 fish, but they were all healthy and strong. Two fish were 19" and one was 21". All were released unharmed. Water temp was 55 and water clarity was good. I was using Pumpkin seed tubes with 1/8 oz jig head. I also threw crankbaits and spinnerbaits, but didn't get any bites.
Posted on April 22, 2014 | Permalink
Shad and Cats in the Potomac
Location: Potoamc River
I trekked up to Fletchers to check out the shad action. There are some really chunky shad running right now. Pictured is an 18" shad. Question, is that a Hickory Shad or an American Shad? After having fun with the shad, I decided to go for something a little bigger. Using cut perch, I got what I was looking for. Biggest cat was 48" and I would guess about 50 lbs.
DNR Response: Smiley, it looks like you caught an American Shad.
Posted on April 15, 2014 | Permalink
Managed a Few Smallies Even in the Wind
Location: Upper Potomac
It was a tough day on the river 4/14/2014. The wind was howling and the current was strong, but I managed to land a few nice smallies. Here are couple that couldn't resist a jerkbait. Both were released unharmed.