Most fishermen are waiting for cool weather to arrive, but those who are fishing for catfish now are catching plenty of large ones.
Cat fishing improves every summer when the weather gets really hot, and this summer has been no exception. Three of the best places to try your luck are at Cowans Ford Dam, "The Sandbar" and "Cocktail Cove."
The area near the dam has been teeming with Arkansas blue catfish since striped bass began to die in late July. It seems the blues are feasting on the dead fish that are suspended in the thermocline (the zone between deeper, colder water and shallower, warmer water) and haven't floated to the surface.
There have been so many catfish at the dam that some anglers are catching them on 1-, 11/2- and 2-ounce jigging spoons without bait. Others are using a variety of cut and live baits. The cats range from 5 to 10 pounds, and an occasional 15-pounder to round out a stringer.
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"The Sandbar" and "Cocktail Cove," two places that are very popular with the raft-up crowd on weekends, just happen to be great catfish holes during the week. Blues and channel cats frequent both locations and are easily caught when boat traffic subsides.
For those unfamiliar with the area, "The Sandbar" is just south of the two islands between markers D4 and D6. "Cocktail Cove" is midway between markers D7 and D9 on the east side of the Brawley School Road peninsula.
To catch flathead catfish, a good bet is first to find a big school of feeding white perch. The flatheads will be under the perch, feeding on them and anything else close enough to swallow. The best bait, of course, is live white perch suspended just off the bottom. The fluttering action of a jigging spoon will also tempt big flatheads, which must think the metal jigging spoon is a wounded fish sinking toward the bottom.
Catfish have been thrilling dock and shoreline anglers all summer. Stink baits, worms, minnows and a variety of table scraps are baits of choice. Many believe in catch-and-eat versus catch-and-release. The tasty meat of channel and blue catfish is excellent.
So before the summer ends, give catfishing a try. They are plentiful, and some are really large.
Light House Marine Services will offer a course titled "How to Safely Navigate Lake Norman" 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at Gander Mountain, off Interstate 77 Exit 36, Mooresville. As instructor, I'll discuss "Understanding Lake Norman's Marker and Buoy System," "Identifying and Learning How to Avoid Dangerous Shoals" and "How to Use and Interpret Lake Maps." Fee is $25. To register or for details, call Lt. Scott Spivey, 704-587-0325, or visit www.Lmservice.org.
The deep water at Cowans Ford Dam is still the place to be for Arkansas blue catfish. Spotted bass are hitting jigs, shaky heads and worms fished on drop-shot rigs on creek and river humps at both ends of the lake.
White perch are suspended just off the bottom in water to 40 feet deep. Best bets are deep coves and brush piles. The lake level is about 2.8 feet below full pond. The water surface temperature is in the mid- to high 80s.