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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Accepted a generous offer to ride along with someone experienced with pulling kitties from the James river near Dominion Power (near route 10/95 intersection - Dutch Gap). As much as I like yak fishing, wrangling beasts from the center console sure was nice. We brought in 38, 34, and 28 pound fish (30lbs is a citation, 50+ is not unheard of), as well as about 4 others around 15 pounds. Also had two breakoffs which felt like good fish, but got us wrapped in the structure. Some observations relevant to yak fishing:

This is VERY do-able from the yak with some careful planning.

1) Fresh bait is key based on testimonies of all the regulars. Don't waste your time with "catfish dough" or frozen shad... or so I've heard. We caught gizzard shad (the famed patapsco permit) with cast and gill nets. There were thick schools of them in places where a weighted treble hook could have also brought some in (we were in them all afternoon/evening when searching for cats). Would be easy enough to have a small rod with a weighted treble for dropping into the mud shad schools whenever you run across them. Although I'm not sure they are always that easy to get. Fresh eels (cut into 3-5" pieces) also supposedly work well, but would add to the price of the trip.

2) current can be decent. You'll definitely want to plan to ride one tide out and another in. But you don't need to go far... we ran all over the place but the river and the many tributaries are LOADED with structure. The more structure you can find with some current running over it the better. There are lots of abandoned/sunken wooden barges, laydowns, sharp depth changes, etc. If you have current, structure, and bait... wet a line. Get down in the structure and expect to get hung up sometimes.

3) A spread is a plus. Lots of guys in stinkpots had 10+ rods out. I think I'd like to make a spreader bar to take 4 rods to mount forward in my kayak... a rod straight up and a rod out to the side at at least 45 degrees for each gunwale. An anchor trolley to a rear anchor that will hold in mud will be key. Apparently you can also drift baits, but I didn't do this and we got hung up enough just anchored... I can't imagine drifting.

4) a fishfinder will be key... you want to see bait, dropoffs, and underwater structure. If you don't have one, fish shore structure with some current (even the slightest bit can be huge). We caught several fish anchored in about 15 feet of water... some from the main channel, others only a few feed from shore near fallen logs, barge framework, etc.

5) medium to heavy tackle will be fine. I liked having a baitcaster with a clicker (in freespool) but we got hooked up on several spinning rods even though the fish couldn't run with it. No hook setting... keep the rods in the holder until the fish hooks itself (engage the baitcaster obviously after the fish runs with it for a few seconds). Sliding sinkers above a swivel to some heavy leader material and a big circle hook... 8/0 or so would be my guess.

6) Cat's bite during the day. I always thought of this as a night time fishery, but we got skunked once the sun went down. The pattern had everything to do with a running current (from tide) and not time of day.

7) Secret holes. I'm sure guys have them, but honestly we fished all over the place in places that I would have guessed had fish if I had been there by myself. I'm sure you can catch em right off the dock... but a little exploring for some structure near some depth changes with current and bait (have I said that enough) yielded fish.

8) Expect runoffs. We were fishing with big chunks of bait... mud shad chopped in to 3 or 4 pieces... and one rod with a whole (but mangled) mud shad. Small fish will pick up the bait, move it, but not have the hook. You're line will be dancing, but wait to see that rod bend down hard before you touch the rod.

9) Don't stay put too long. If the fish aren't biting, they probably aren't there... unless you're expecting the current to start in a few minutes or something, move on.

10) Get messy. Cutting up mud shad is a mess. Hugging 30+ pound blue cats is messy. Bring some decent leader gloves (the orange ones that sell for a couple bucks at any SW tackle shop would be fine). Blue cats have VERY strong jaws and very abrasive lips and you'll lose some skin without them.

Bonus thoughts to "active" fisherman like me. I like to have a rod in my hand and be making a lure (usually a soft plastic) move. I generally find soaking bait boring...

Bonus thought #1 - saw at least one boat flippin plastics for bass and my captain says he gotten LM up to 4# in the cast net when getting bait... so a spare medium-light rod with your favorite bass lure might save the day or make waiting for a knockdown more exciting. Plus I have heard of and experienced cats hitting spinnerbaits in other situations. I'm betting that a lot of the same current/structure patterns will hold bass.

Bonus thought #2 - this seems like a sport best enjoyed with a cold six pack. I wasn't much in the mood with the 36 degree temps last night (36 is cold when your the spotlight operator [not behind the console] running 40mph in the dark). Between bites, it's a lot of waiting around. But 3 or 4 kayaks lined up along an abondoned 50-100 foot barge shooting the bull and sipping cold ones could be more entertaining... and then a big knockdown or two and the chaos that ensues really ices the cake!

So... who's up for it?
 

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That sounds awesome, Josh. What time frame were you thinking about?

The few times I went shocking with the VDGIF in the summer, we caught most of the big ones near river bends where the channel was really close to the shore. The smaller, eating-size fish were where the river straightened out.

In some regards, blues are a lot more like stripers than channel cats. In reservoirs, you can often find them under stripers, which are under the bait. I lived on the James for a while a number of years ago (but not near a good cat spot, sadly), and I would get blues when I set my bait up off the bottom and channels when the bait was right on the bottom. My biggest fish was only about 10lbs, though.

The Mattaponi, Pamunkey, and Rapp hold some decent fish, too, but I'm not sure how far from launch points the good spots would be. The Mattaponi held a fair number of 20+ pounders when I was shocking with the VDGIF, and I saw fish up to 50lbs come in from the Rapp the one time I worked a tournament at Port Royal. I'm not sure about shad availability, though. There's a couple creeks off the Rapp where the blues follow the herring in the spring, and sometimes you can see the blues chasing the herring on the surface.
 

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You guys should go in the spring. Like in the end of march and april. The bait is really easy to get near the city. you guys could take light tackle and catch herring and hickory shad. While you are doing that you can have rods out for cats. That would be alot of fun.
 

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Josh,

I've been interested in learning more about and trying to do some catfishing on the Potomac. Though probably not as big as the legendary James River cats, there have been some reports of nice size blue catfish being caught from the Potomac.

I want to try launching at the Marshall Hall ramp in Charles County. The MD state blue catfish record was caught not far from Marshall Hall, it was 53-lbs! I checked out the ramp one time and saw a dead catfish at the ramp that was probably around 20-lbs. I would like to try Marshall Hall in April. I don't know if you remember Mark's post on KFS. He caught a 44" Striper in that area last April. Susky Flats is not the only area where you can catch big Stripers in the spring in Maryland. If we apply those tactics in April I think we would have a good chance hooking into something big, whether it be a big cat or a striper!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Here's late pictures, also posted on the freshwater board:



 
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