Most Texans think of blue catfish as a freshwater fish, and this species is actually the largest freshwater gamefish in the state. But saltwater anglers should consider targeting blue cats, too. They’re present in many brackish and partially-salt coastal tributary rivers, with particularly strong populations in the Neches, Sabine, and Trinity Bay systems. Fishing for them isn’t a whole lot different than fishing for blue catfish in lakes and reservoirs, but if you want to focus on these big bruisers, keeping these five tips in mind will help.
- Look for creek bends and marsh points where holes have been scoured out. In briny water blue catfish tend to look for these deep depressions, especially if there’s structure to hide around, too. Generally speaking, deeper is better. Even channels created by tide-drained marshes can be productive in some areas.
- Use circle hooks. BIG circle hooks. Catfish of all types, blues included, are ideal candidates for circle hook use. Because of the way they feed and then slowly swim off, they virtually always get hooked, and right in the corner of the jaw. Be sure to thread on your bait at the edge, leaving as much of the hook exposed as possible, to improve your circle hook hook-up rate. (The blue cats won’t be deterred by an exposed hook one iota).
- After casting, set a light drag and don’t pick up the rod until it bends over all on its own. When using the circle hooks, “Rodney the rodholder” has a better strike-to-hookup ratio than any human can attain.
- Use cut fish for bait, and use whatever the oiliest, smelliest fish is locally available. In areas where menhaden swim, for example, they make prime baits. Mullet are also a good choice, as are shad. In any case, cut a fist-sized chunk – give the blue a nice, big meal to feast on – and don’t throw away the head as this is commonly an excellent offering, too.
- Fan-cast a number of baits, then let them sit. You don’t need to give a blue cat offering any action or motion, and sitting dead on bottom is the best place for your baits to be.