DID YOU KNOW you can catch blue catfish where you find redfish in the fall and winter months on the Upper Coast? Blue catfish are very salt tolerant and will move into bays when the water temperatures cool.
Frank Moore, is an avid winter angler who pursues these big, brackish blues every year in the Sabine Lake area.
“My favorite spot to get them are the deep, wide bends in some of the bayous. There tends to be a lot of mussel shells in some of these spots, which blues feed on and there are quite a few crabs, which the blues and redfish feed on as well. If we find blues in these areas, the reds are always close by,” Moore said.
He fishes small chunks of cut mullet on a Carolina (Fish Finder) rig and targets outgoing tides. “These fish will move up tight to the shorelines to feed on high tides. When it starts to trickle out, you can really get on a good bite. It is very common to catch fish up to 15 pounds, but most of them are in the five to eight-pound range.”
Another spot he targets is along the edge of drop-offs in the Intracoastal. “There are lots of big blues and reds in the ship channel during the winter. On warm afternoons, when you have a high tide, the dark mud heats up and the fish move onto there. Any time from an hour or so before peak high tide until an hour or so after it starts falling is a good time,” Moore said.
During late fall cold fronts, large bayous on the edge of marshes can be excellent places to intercept reds and blue catfish. Look for the fish to feed heavily on the eddies that form in these spots. Blue catfish, while primarily a scavenger, will feed on live prey. These eddies where the smaller baitfish are often stacked up, provide an easy location to feed. Reds of course can be thick in these areas and usually dominate early in the fall, but as winter gets closer, blue catfish start filtering in.
“Use a good, wide-gaped or circle hook because there can be a lot of small reds in there, and you don’t want to deep hook any. In addition, those kinds of hooks actually help you catch more fish because they take the guesswork out. When you get a strike, do not set the hook. Just pick up the rod, lift sternly and start reeling in,” Moore said.
Trinity Bay and the Old and Lost River area are great spots to find blues beginning in November, but the best fishing is in December through February.
The blue catfish record for Galveston Bay was 16.66 pounds caught by angler Ryan McKewen in 2005. Sabine Lake’s blue cat record is a whopping 42.78-pound fish caught by Bobby Hutchison also in 2005.
Just to show that when fresh water inundates bays, you never know what might be swimming there, Sabine Lake also has a record for flathead catfish.
It weighed 50.15 pounds and was caught in 2016.
—story by AUTHOR