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Blue Catfish question

Discussion in 'Ohio River Fishing Reports' started by GMR_Guy, Jan 8, 2005.

  1. I know that channel catfish and carp can often be found in knee deep or less water in the early spring (March and April). These fish love shallow flat area that are fed by warm runoff. This pattern seems to hold true for lakes and Ohio River backwater areas. My question is: Do blue catfish als o invade the shallows in spring? I've never caught a blue cat and was wondering if I might have a chance at some of them during this time.
  2. Fishyguy

    Fishyguy Crazy Catman

    GMR, I don't know for sure, but I know that you usually read that blues like the deepest holes they can find. This seems to hold true in my experiences fishing for them on the river. But my feelings are a fish can be anywhere. I live on the left side of the road, but I can still go to the right side if I want too.

  3. Description – Blue catfish vary in color from slate-blue to grayish brown on their back and sides, fading to a whitish belly. In muddy waters, some individuals appear albinistic, the pale skin evoking the common nickname “white cat.” They are often confused with channel catfish. Both have forked tails and similar coloration, but blues lack the small black spots punctuating the sides of young channels, and their anal fin has a straight edge, with 30 or more fin rays (above).

    Trophy-class blues are reminiscent of Japanese sumo wrestlers. Healthy individuals are bizarrely obese, with enormous pot bellies. Small blue cats are streamlined, muscular, and many are distinctly hump-backed.

    Range – Blue catfish occur in portions of at least 30 states, from Iowa to southern Texas and from Nebraska to North Carolina. They’re also found throughout the eastern third of Mexico and south into Guatemala. The native range encompasses the major rivers of the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri river basins of the central and southern United States, but blues have also been introduced in Washington, California and Arizona. State fisheries agencies stock millions in large and small impoundments across the country.

    In some areas at the fringe of their range – West Virginia, for instance – blue catfish are so rare they’re considered a species of special concern. They’re also uncommon over much of their northern range, a decline triggered by commercial fishing, dam construction and stream channelization projects. Alterations have mostly removed the combination of swift runs and deep pools blue cats need to flourish.

    Size – The largest specimen recorded this century weighed 128 pounds. It was caught in the Whiskey Bay Pilot Channel in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin in 1978. The world rod-and-reel record is a 112-pounder caught in 1998 from Tennessee’s Cumberland River. This broke the previous all-tackle record established by a 111-pound Alabama blue caught in 1996. As a practical matter, a 60-pound blue cat would be the trophy of a lifetime, and the average hook-and-line fish is under 15 pounds.

    Blues over 100 pounds were apparently common in the nineteenth century, and there were rare reports of 200- to 300-pound specimens. Blues over 130 pounds haven’t been reported in recent years, but the 1990s produced a resurgence in the number of heavyweight blue cats being taken. This decade saw the world record advance from 109 to 112 pounds, plus an unprecedented string of 26 state records, including several blues exceeding 100 pounds.

    A blue catfish’s anal fin has 30 or more rays and a straighter edge than a channel catfish.

    Habitat – By nature, blues are big-river fish. They prefer clearer, faster water than other cats, and are usually found over a hard sand or gravel bottom. If you want to catch a heavyweight, don’t waste time fishing creeks, ponds or small lakes. Blues are less likely to be found in slow, turbid waters than other catfish, but they are adaptable.

    Food Habits – In many respects, the behavior of blue catfish parallels that of striped bass. Like stripers, large blues feed primarily on shad, herring and other schooling baitfish; consequently they are on the move more than other cats and are frequently found in open-water habitat. Blue cats also favor areas of heavy current, while channel cats and flatheads prefer areas with slow to moderate water flow.

    Blue cats are active year-round, except when water temperature falls below 40 degrees. Most anglers fish for them during warm months, but many are learning the species’ habit of gathering in large feeding schools during winter. Some schools may contain several trophy-class fish. Most hold near the deepest well-oxygenated bottom structure available.
    Blue catfish also take crayfish, insects, clams and other invertebrates. Smaller fish are taken on commercial baits, such as stink-baits and chicken livers, but not as readily as channel catfish.

    Reproduction – This species’ reproductive habits are poorly known, but thought to be similar to those of channel catfish. Those stocked in reservoirs sometimes grow to enormous sizes, but few, if any, reproduce.

    Age & Growth – Despite the massive size documented for this fish, most growth studies show a 10-year-old blue cat measuring only 24 to 36 inches long. Giant blues from such waters must be ancient animals. Under favorable conditions, however, blues exhibit a much greater growth rate.

    Typical Length (inches) at Various Ages
    Age 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
    Length 6.2 11.1 14.7 18.3 22.1 25.5 28.8 30.6 32.3 34.1

    Typical Weight (pounds) at Various Lengths (inches)
    Length 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48
    Weight 2.9 5.4 9.5 15.3 23.2 33.7 47.3 64.4

    Popularity – In much of the South and Midwest, blue catfish populations remain healthy, and anglers targeting prime waters have an excellent chance of hooking a trophy fish. In fact, in many rivers and lakes, blue catfish are a largely untapped resource.

    They are one of the strongest fighting freshwater fish and considered excellent table fare. In fact, many guides in the South and Southeast specifically target blue cats for their clients. There are few other species that offer a legitimate shot at a 100-pound fish.
    On the down side, blue cats are also a favorite of commercial fishermen. On many bodies of water, the commercial harvest remains largely unregulated, and some trophy blue cat populations are slowly disappearing. A few state agencies are starting to implement regulations to reduce the harvest of these monster fish.
  4. Thanks for the replies. I really need to catch me one of those blues.
  5. catking

    catking Banned

    Blues in lake will go to the very shallow parts ( 2' or less ) right after ice out.Down in Santee Cooper, they get in VERY SHALLOW waters starting in Feburary. But then they head deep, and stay put............ CATKING
  6. rockbass

    rockbass Banned

    geez atrkyhntr, you gave me enough info there to keep me busy processing it in my brain for a week! :p I know who to ask if I ever target these monsters of the deep! :)
  7. hahahaa ... If you catch them here in Ohio they are protected thus catch & release is the only way to play ;)
  8. rockbass

    rockbass Banned

    yeah I knew they were protected. I have never fished for them do to the fact that I have never fished where they are! I want to hit the Ohio to try for these and some flatties also, but don't have a clue where to start for them. One day though, I will get a chance I am sure!
  9. Thanks for the info Catking. If the river levels and work schedules are kind to me, I might try some of the backwaters of the Markland pool this early spring.

  10. Baitkiller

    Baitkiller Baitkiller

    WV is now stocking Blues below the Bellville Dam on the Ohio River. 2,600 per year with 10-12 inch fish. In 2006 the proposed WV regs said 2 on the bag limit at 22 or 24 inches. It will not be long till Ohio MUST allow fishing on the Ohio Side of the river for them and a bag limit also (opinion).

    New State Record then should be open I would think since there is none now.

    As far as the Blues INVADING the shallows in the spring: I think most of us have seen them get the big Blues on TV just below the dams down south. My guess is that this is their pre-spawn run upstream just like the Channels do in late May here. I've read where Channels will travel up to 200 miles at this time and its the only time I target the Channels and that at the spillways. I'd bet the Blues do the same thing but I've never caught a Blue YET!!!!!!!!

    From what I know this is not what a Flathead does.

    Please correct me anyone if I'm off here.

    <>< Baitkiller ><>