Capt. Gus: Flathead catfish quite a catch

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2011

There was a time when people went catfishing, and were happy to catch any kind of fish. But, just like everything else in this world today, catfishing has become specialized.
Now, there are those who fish for channel cats, others who target Arkansas blues, and a growing number of anglers enjoy catching flatheads.
Flatheads are predators that follow bait and fish schools when they are hungry. If there are not significant amounts of bait or feeder fish around, they hide inside logs and other types of cover to ambush the next small bass or sunfish that swims their way.
Flatheads have a large mouth and gullet capable of swallowing a rather large fish. It’s not only their aggressiveness that makes them a favorite with fishermen; it’s also their size. They grow to great sizes and put up a quite a fight when hooked. If that’s not enough, they are arguably the best tasting of all cat fish species.
Flatheads have been in Lake Norman for years, but were seldom targeted until the recent influx of white perch and spotted bass. That’s when anglers learned that big flatheads, followed schools of perch and spots to feast on the bits and pieces that settle to the bottom during feeding frenzies.
The flathead is perfect for Lake Norman since its brown color blends well with the clay lake bottom, and makes it almost invisible to fish feeding above.
Knowing this, anglers who target flatheads now search for white perch schools on the depth finder, and instead of fishing for them, they drop live baits and/or jigging spoons to the bottom. Both are great baits. A flathead cannot resist the fluttering action of a spoon or the vibrations of a live bait tethered to a hook and line.
Lake Norman has produced dozens of flatheads that tipped the scales at over 50 pounds. Wide-spool bait-casting reels, loaded with 30- or 50-pound-test line and medium to heavy action 7-foot rods, are used for these large fish.
Flathead Catfishing tips:
• Flatheads have a thick jaw bone, therefore a wide gapped 5/0 to 10/0 hook is best when fishing with live or cut bait.
• When jigging, a 11/2-ounce (or larger) spoon with extra strength treble hooks is preferred.
• Flatheads will take line when hooked, so be sure the drag is set to less than half the breaking strength of the line.
• A large hooped net is required to land trophy flatheads. Don’t leave home without a net.
The North Carolina State record flathead catfish is 78 pounds and was taken from the Cape Fear River on a live eel by Brian Newberger in 2005.
Upcoming Events
Free Fishing Seminar: “Bank and Dock Fishing for Sunfish, White Perch, Catfish and Bass” will be discussed at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, on from 6:30 p.m.–8 p.m.Wednesday. Bring the entire family to this free event. I will cover everything from fishing with cane poles, hooks and bobbers, to using live and cut baits. Suggestions will be given about the best places to fish from shore and where the white perch are biting. Contact 704-658-0822 for additional information.
Tips from Capt. Gus
It is not too late to view the nesting blue herons on the smaller of the two islands between creek channel markers D4 and D6. Blue Heron Island is full of hungry chicks ready to leave the nest.
Hot Spots of the Week: White perch seem to be everywhere, but most are being caught in deep water (20 to 50 feet) along the edges of river and creek channels and in coves and bays with similar depths of water. Flathead catfish and good-sized bass are following schools of white perch. Some of the bass are over 5 pounds. Schooling bass are hitting top water baits on creek and river points. Fishing for Arkansas blue catfish is good to very good when drifting fresh cut baits.
The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the high eighties in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 2.6 ‘ below full pond on Lake Norman and 2.8’ below on Mountain Island Lake.
Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures, Inc. is an Outdoor Columnist and a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his web site, or call 704-617-6812.