Early Spring Blue Cat Trotline Tips
While you wait out the winter months, check out these tips and tricks for catching blue catfish on a trotline
During the winter months, many of us cold weather anglers like to sit in our favorite chair or heated garage watching our favorite fishing show while tying on lures on the fishing pole, rigging the boat for the first trip out or like me this week, making trotlines. Yes, you read that right; making trotlines, early season blue cats. While the water is still cold and you’re fishing for crappies, one of my favorite things to do is run trotlines while fishing for early season catches. As most of fishermen can tell you, crappies are one of the best tasting freshwater fish out there. But if you gave me the choice between a blue cat and a crappie, I can promise you I’d choose the first one every time. These colder water fish are hands-down some of the most wonderful, whitest, flakey and sweetest fish that you can get this time of year.
With the boat and poles already rigged, all that’s left to do is trotlines and wait on warmer weather. But while I sit here tying these new lines as strong as I can in case of bad weather, I’ll give a few hints that I’ve learned that you should know before you go. As we get older yes we do learn new tricks and better ways to catch fish, but sometimes we need to sit back and remember the old fashion way as we learned growing up. I've used blood balls, dough balls, shrimp, livers, and even one time part of my chicken sandwich (didn’t work if you were wondering). You name it and I’ve probably tried it. Yet one of the best baits I’ve found is one that’s already right under your boat. Yup, you guessed it; cut bait. The cut up blue gills work especially well for catching blue cats or really any other kind of catfish. The fresher you can get the blue gills the better they are. Not only can you catch plenty of them, but it’s more of a challenge! Working your way up the chain by upgrading your bait is probably one of the best parts to me of fishing. For new fishers, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to fall in love with fishing since most everyone knows how to catch a bluegill.
We start off fishing for some gillys on the dock because you want fresh cut bait, fresher the better. Then we head to the trotline to see what we've caught and then to re-bait the hooks. I like to get my deepest part of the line in about fifteen feet of water; which in my cases would be ten feet from the bottom of the cove. You’re already fishing the shallow sides of the cove as you go deeper to the center of the line. This method gives you the chance of the deeper with the shallow sides as well as we already know. The lines run about 150 ft long with thirty-three hooks, with a minimum of two feet apart; in some cases a little more. Check with your local regulations on the number of hooks and the legal spacing.
We like to have plenty of line on both ends since gives us extra line to find that perfect tie down. Now remember not to give too much slack. The fish could always dive down and possibly wrap around a piece of structure. Fifteen feet down and about eight to ten feet off the bottom should be good in most cases, but not in all cases though. This is where doing your homework on your spot pays off. Now as an avid bass angler also I've seen people run trotlines that I didn't see until I snagged it. We’ve all seen theses from time to time. So some respect for your bass angler and mark your trotlines very well, no one wants to snag it on their pole or worse yet--in their prop. Mark it with a bright color jug if you can. I use empty orange laundry soap jugs on each end of my trot line, with my name and address, also (because the man with badge says I have too). Show your respect, mark the lines well and all great anglers will leave it be.
Now back to what I meant by I like my lines strong for bad weather. I've fished with thinner trot lines in the past and they work great until you need them to hold the boat. Yes most of the time your partner can handle it while you navigate the boat down the line as they pull the fish off and bait it back up. Few years ago we got caught in a windy snow on the lake and of course had a thirty-five pound blue cat on. So I had put the motor in idle and lend a hand. We were relying on our trot line to keep us stable until the fish was off. We let the boat swing so it wasn't sideways catching all the wind but our trot line was still pulling tight with the wind. If you ever in this situation just remember to keep the line down by the water, keep all the hooks under water if you can. If you keep them low and for some reason your line snaps? You won't be dodging thirty-three hooks coming yourway at Mach4 speed. We were fortunate and that didn't happen but that made us realize we wanted bigger line. From that day forward we use a larger line and as I said, keep it low. If the line breaks in the water, the water will slow up the hooks from flying around, safer.
So as I sit here tying my trotlines up, I wonder "what works best for others?" What kind of bait do you prefer? Is it the cut bait or maybe you like the blood balls, or even shad? Doesn't have to be a trotline but what you like best for your catfish trips. Just because we've been fishing for twenty to thirty years doesn't mean we still can't learn better baits or better techniques. So please share some of your thoughts or ideas of your favorite bait and techniques. And always remember the safety.....Know Before You Go
Written by Brad Clark
Edited by Delaney Clark