Huge Potomac River Blue Catfish What am I doing wrong?

Discussion in 'MARYLAND RIVER TALK' started by Rivercat09, Sep 1, 2006.

  1. Rivercat09

    Rivercat09 New Member

    Messages:
    33
    State:
    Maryland
    I’ve been fishing for catfish in the middle Potomac in the general area of the Wilson Bridge for a number of years now, but have yet to catch the 20 to 30 pounders that I have been reading about lately on these threads with the exception of a close encounter a couple weeks ago. My biggest to date is a 29 ½” 13 ½ pounder, and we regularly catch plenty of cats in the 5 to 10 lb, 20 to 25-inch range using chicken livers or shrimp. We use 4/0 to 6/0 circle hooks on 12 to 18 inch leaders, tied to a snap swivel, with a bead and a 1 to 2 ounce barrel sinker threaded above the swivel, essentially a version of a south-west Florida Gulf of Mexico offshore grouper rig.

    We usually go on Thursday nights (our traditional boys night out), and put our 16-foot flat back canoe with 5 hp motor in at Belle Haven Marina. Our spots are all pretty much on the Maryland side: the creek bed in Smoot’s Bay in about 18 feet of water, the drop off at the old bridge pilings at Fox Ferry Point in about 18 to 20 feet, the spoils just north of I-95 in about 15 feet adjacent to the piled up Jersey walls, just south of the spoils off of the point north of the bridge in about 20 feet, and south of the bridge due east of the new construction in about 25 feet of water.

    Earlier this summer at Belle Haven, after a night of fine fishing catching a bunch of 18 to 20 inchers and several 22 to 25 inchers, we were talking to another boat of catfishermen who had just finished catching several 18 to 20 pound and a couple 25 pound blue cats using cut up bluegills. A week later, on August 17th, we brought some live bluegills with us in a 5-gallon bucket with an aerator along with the usual chicken livers and shrimp. Fishing was a bit slow at our first spot, on the Maryland side just east of the new construction south of the bridge anchored in about 25 feet, but we did catch several 20 inchers using the bluegills and chumming livers. We then moved to the point just south of the spoils, north of the bridge, and anchored up in 18 feet of water. I decided to cut up a nearly dead bluegill, and put a chunk on my hook. I then started chumming with chicken livers.

    About 15 minutes later, the monster cat hit. The hookup was a textbook large fish circle hook hookup (shades of shark fishing a month previous in the backwaters of the Florida Keys). The fish took the bait and slowly began his run. Then (just as I was coached by our backwater guide in the Keys), I slowly raised the rod tip after the slack had tightened up, thus letting the hook set itself against the pressure of the fish, which was immediately followed by the rod doubling over and about 40 or 50 yards of line screaming off of the drag. I immediately knew that this fish was huge! The monster made about four or five of these line-screaming runs. A close encounter with the anchor line was quickly dispatched with by successfully turning and leading the fish towards the stern (another applied lesson learned in the keys). This fish had a mind of its own, and did not want to come in one bit. The fish finally presented itself for a full side view after the 4th or so run, revealing its massive size and length. We were only presented with a single opportunity to net the monster, right after it showed itself to the both of us. With the leader showing and easily within reach, my buddy made a single, fruitless pass at the fish with the net as the beast made one last, final thrash, breaking the knot at the swivel. The fight lasted somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes. We estimated this fish to be in excess of 30 inches and 30 pounds.

    I think I’m starting to figure it out, but, what am I doing wrong? I’m sold on the fresh cut bait thing, and just ordered a tub of the Dan King bait from Tim Hagan’s on-line store. I’ve also read the threads here about other cut baits to try such as herring and mackerel. I think that I’m going to have to learn to throw a cast net.

    Should we be fishing deeper? Should we drift instead of anchor? Should we use a different rig other than the 18-inch leader tied to the snap swivel with the bead and barrel sinker? Should we try different drop-offs, putting in at, say, Fort Washington? Should we mix in what we’ve been doing with some new tactics, spots, and rigs?

    When I finally get my new boat that I was asking for input on at http://www.catfish1.com/forums/showthread.php?t=26715, I will be able to cover a greater area. Thanks again to everyone on the boat feedback!! There’s a wealth of knowledge here on these boards, I value everyone’s opinion, and I would greatly appreciate any tips and advice that would increase my chances at these plentiful monster tidal Potomac catsfish.
     
  2. photocat

    photocat New Member

    Messages:
    803
    State:
    HOCO, Maryland
    Where your fishing is a good spot... The fish do tend to be alittle bit deeper though, but in a canoe, i'm not sure how far out in the water you'd really want to be going. You seem to have the set up right and all... and the bait, bluegills work well but if you can get some shad that seems to work as well. Only other thing I can say is get out there as much as possible and spend as much time out there as you can each time... The fish will come, you just have to be patient.
     

  3. catfishrus

    catfishrus New Member

    Messages:
    1,569
    State:
    north carolina
    rivercat i think you have the problem figured out. i not saying shrimp or chicken liver wont catch a big fish but to me thats the problem your having. i think you are better off when targeting big fish to use native baits to the water you are fishing. i seen the blues wear out bream one night and the next night they wont touch them. i catch all mine on shad or herring fresh is the key also. learn to cast that net and get you some fresh bait and put some big baits out there in the summer. it will keep the smaller fish away. sometimes big baits dont get a hit but man when they do its exciting!!! you can read a lot of fishing report on the boc and you wont see too many big fish getting caught on the baits your using. 99 percent are coming from fresh bait. just my thoughts.
     
  4. TIM HAGAN

    TIM HAGAN New Member

    Messages:
    1,236
    State:
    Walkersvil
    Ok I would move more down south of the bidge right now. i realy dont do many bigger cats around fox ferry and blue plains untill late sept. And right now most of the bigger fish i have had are 30 to 40 feet. Fresh or live bait at this time of year for the bigger blue It would be hard to use a cast net in a canoe but i have been picking up lots of shad on shad drats on the flats around the bridge. just around the corner from smoot's bay around old #88 bouy in about 25 to 30 feet of water just as tide is starting to go out has put lots of 20lb plus blue in the boat for me my biggest this year there is 49.7 by a 16 year old girl I had out on cut blugill. And i would try Kahle hook 4/0 to 7/0 seem to work great I have lost or missed to many big fish with circle hooks Kahles seem to hook more and hold better maybe just me. The danny king bait will put more cats in your canoe then you can haul them 20" fish are like bluegills in a pond with the dk on your hook.
     
  5. ProVer

    ProVer New Member

    Messages:
    6
    State:
    Germantown, MD
    Good advise noted above. You have learned your most important lessons to get into big cats. Once Blues get to be 10 lbs they convert to diet of almost all fish. Use 40 lb big game line with a 50lb leader and check them knots to be sure they are tight and not frayed. Leave the ckicken livers home, unless you want Channels.

    Also, very important: it is against the law to use a cast net on the Potomac. You need to be inside a tributary off the main stem of the river to be legal. Most of the shad in the river are Hickory shad. Can't keep Hickory and/or American Shad. Only Gizzards are legal. Hickory and Gizzards look similar. The mouths are slightly different. The mouth of a Hickory sticks out more on the top than the gizzard. The mouth of the gizzard is tucked under the top jaw. Unfortunately, I haven't seen too many Gizzards in the Potomac. I would bet most guys are using Hickory without even knowing they are breaking the law. Be careful and learn to tell them apart so that you don't get busted.

    Good luck!
     
  6. TIM HAGAN

    TIM HAGAN New Member

    Messages:
    1,236
    State:
    Walkersvil
    ya your right Eric and most use perch and they must be 6" or more to keep as well. But it said no limit in size if taken by rod and reel. Also the castnet law alot of people has said about that. But I ask the DNR office about that at the meeting and he can't find anything in the law books about castnets other then 10' or less.
     
  7. ProVer

    ProVer New Member

    Messages:
    6
    State:
    Germantown, MD
    I called DNR last year and most of the staff in the office don't know the details on netting laws. A woman asked everyone that was present and none of them knew. They hunted up the person that knew the details and he called me back and gave me the scoop. I can't recall his name. The spoils is ok to throw a net but blue plains isn't. Reason being is that the spoils originally was not part of the main stem. It was escavated and considered a man made tributary.

    All the creeks are ok, Piscataway, Swan, Pomonkey, Mattawoman and so on.

    Keep in mind just because you ask someone and they aren't sure and think it is ok doesn't mean it is ok. Better to lean towards being cautious.
     
  8. Rivercat09

    Rivercat09 New Member

    Messages:
    33
    State:
    Maryland
    Thank you all very kindly for those very valuable and insightful comments. I think I am on my way to catching the big ones; I just need to focus on using cut and live fish.

    Tim: I'm definitely going to try that spot by the #88 bouy in the deeper water. Should I be drifting, or be anchored up, or does it matter?

    Also Tim, thanks for the tip about the Kahle hooks. I looked them up over the internet, and they look similar to circles. How should I set these hooks? Do I let the fish take the bait and set itself, or do I need to set these hooks just like regular mustad hooks?

    Eric and Michael: Thanks for the reassuring information about the diet of the big blues (fish). I must remember that cats are very much the predators as well as the scavengers. Many a channel cat have I caught at Great Falls while casting spinners and slug-gos trying for bass. Apparently, the large cats are pure predators.

    Thank you all for the heads up on the cast nets, the perch, and the gizzard shad.

    Bryan, Eric, Tim, and Michael, thanks you very much! I cant wait to get out again, especially since last Thursday was a bust on account of this Tropical Storm. No rain Thursday night, but 30 knot winds, the middle Potomac, and a 16 foot canoe don't mix too well!!
     
  9. critter68

    critter68 New Member

    Messages:
    366
    State:
    Alexandria, Virginia
    I have caught big blues in as little as 2 feet of water recently. Close to a wing dam on a flat near the drop to the channel (James river). Can't imagine it should be any different in the Potomac. Find a good deep channel with a fairly steep rise onto a good flat with some kind of current break (blow-down, wreck, wing dam or just a good hump) and fish all around it. The best bet for bruiser blues is bruiser bait. Like the previous post, the smallies won't mess with big bait much. Don't underestimate the size of bait a big cat can eat. A 35 pounder could just about get his mouth around your head! I have caught 5 pounders trying to eat half a gizzard shad. I guess that is how they get big!
     
  10. ears

    ears New Member

    Messages:
    55
    State:
    *Required*
    Cast nets are legal in the main stem of the potomac below woodrow wilson (MD). I have called PRFC and confirmed this. The DNR has no say over the mainstem the regs are made by the PRFC. I catch shad every trip for bait and have never caught a hickory or american shad, even during the run. They are saltwater fish that are only in the river for a short time in the spring for spawning.
     
  11. photocat

    photocat New Member

    Messages:
    803
    State:
    HOCO, Maryland
    Blue Plains is in DC Waters (well depends on what maps you look at as to the dividing lines and what not, but better safe then sorry) and DC has a no cast net rule in effect... The white perch rule i've only heard from the DNR officers on the Potomac but can't seem to find it any where in the MD rule book which it is MD DNR telling me the rule... I almost want to ask them for proof because the potomac is a chesapeake tidal tributary water and according to the regulations laid out in the booklet that they hand out (this year not till late june, but they did get it all consolidated into one book) about what the regs are in the bay and tidal tributaries... Nothing in there talks about Potomac being a seperate monster...




    "also Tim, thanks for the tip about the Kahle hooks. I looked them up over the internet, and they look similar to circles. How should I set these hooks? Do I let the fish take the bait and set itself, or do I need to set these hooks just like regulr mustad hooks?"

    Answer= yes... you can let them set them selves or if your impatient you can set the hook yourself
     
  12. ears

    ears New Member

    Messages:
    55
    State:
    *Required*
    http://www.prfc.state.va.us/

    This is the website for the mainstem of the potomac below D.C. White perch must be 6". These guys are mostly concerned with commercial fishing and dont have much of any info for recreational regs. just seasons and limits. You have to call or email them if you want to know about using electricity, dynamite, number of rods etc. It would be real nice if they would publish real regs like Va. and Md. do.