Blue catfish are the largest species of catfish in North America. The world record blue catfish is 143 lb out of Kerr Reservoir along the Virginia/North Carolina border. Blue catfish are native to the Mississippi and surrounding areas but blue catfish have been deliberately introduced to many bodies of water across North America including most of the major tidal rivers along the mid Atlantic.
How do Identify a Blue Catfish?
Blue catfish are blueish grey or white in color which is much different than flatheads and bullheads which are brown and yellowish. Some channel cats and white catfish have similar coloring to blues, but the sure fire way to tell the difference is that blue catfish have an anal fin that has a straight edge while channels and white catfish have a curved edge to their anal fin.
How are Blue Cats Different Than Flatheads?
Unlike fatheads, blues love brackish and tidal water. Some of the best blue catfish rivers in the world are tidal. Blue catfish also do a lot better in the winter time than flatheads. Typically, flathead cat fishing slows way down when the water temperature drops, but the best time of year to catch trophy blue catfish is in January and February. Blue catfish also like dead bait a lot more than flatheads which prefer live bait.
Large blue catfish’s metabolisms do better in the cold water than small bait fish. Consequently, in the winter time blue catfish have more energy than their prey. Big blue catfish spend the winter gorging on bait fish that are sluggish from the cold water.
Best Ways to Fish for Blue Catfish:
You can catch blue catfish all year long, but if you want to catch massive blues the absolute best time is the day time in the middle of winter. January and February is best. Find a warm sunny day in the middle of winter and then concentrate on holes and other structure in large shallow flats wherever there are schools of bait fish.
On a sunny day in the middle of winter trophy blues are often found in less than 4 feet of water. In the heat of summer blue cats are more often caught in deep holes and at the bottom of deep shelves next to shallows.
The best baits are massive chunks of fresh local bait fish on big circle hooks. Shad, skipjack, herring and blue gill are the classic blue catfish bait.
However, blue catfish are routinely caught on the same baits used to catch channel catfish. Chicken liver, hotdogs, worms, stink bait, dip bait, punch bait, soap, spam, frogs, boilies, pellets and even lures have been used to catch blue catfish. My personal favorite blue catfish baits are cut shad or herring, marine halibut pellets, sweet corn and clams.
If you would like to see an example of how great trophy blue cat fishing can be check out this youtube video from one of my trips to the James River in Southern Virginia. I caught over 356 lbs of blue catfish in one day using the tactics in this website.
Here are some fun videos demonstrating how to catch blue catfish:
- 356 lbs of blue catfish on the James River
- Catching Blue catfish and Carp in Washington, DC
- Catching Blue Catfish on Cured Chicken Liver
- 20+ blue catfish nearly ripping the rod out of my hand