The blue catfish is the largest member of the catfish family in the United States. They can exceed 150 pounds and are widely known as heavyweight fighters in the water. Blue cats naturally range throughout the Mississippi River drainage. People have stocked blue catfish into other watersheds too, expanding the fish’s range. So blue cats now show up in other places like the James River in Virginia and even the Chesapeake Bay.
Blue catfish are often found in deep waters of rivers and reservoirs. But it is not uncommon to find them cruising shallows along the shore either, especially at night. Many people fish on the bottom when targeting blue catfish. Blue catfish often suspend higher up in the water column however. So you can also catch them under pole floats or with bait on a Santee Cooper Rig.
Blue cats are legendary fish known far and wide for their size and power. According to the IGFA, the world record blue catfish weighed 143 pounds flat. It was caught in Kerr Lake, Virginia, in 2011. Many other big fish have been caught since and that record will probably be broken sooner than later.
As you will see below, cut bait is one of the most popular baits for blue catfish. But many times it actually seems like live bait works better. While cut bait can flutter in the current, nothing moves like a real live fish.
Some anglers will catch their live bait when they show up at the place they want to fish. Where legal that usually means using a throw net like this Betts Old Salt Premium Cast Net. Otherwise anything from minnow traps to microfishing rigs can be used to catch fish for bait.
Shad is probably the most popular live bait. Small blue gills can also work. So can other species like skipjack, freshwater drum, small carp, suckers, and even perch. Ultimately, blue catfish are opportunists and they will normally attack whatever prey they can get into their mouths. But in certain situations some baitfish work better than others. It pays to experiment.
As stated, cut bait is one of the most popular baits for blue catfish. It’s also one of the best. Many hardcore catfish anglers argue that fresh cut bait is the best bait for blue catfish without exception. Like any fishing, different situations can call for different approaches. But if there are blues around, then cut bait will usually give you a good chance at catching them.
Cut bait is basically what it sounds like. You take a fish and cut it up then use it as bait. You can cut the bait into chunks and fish the pieces on a circle hook. Or you can take a larger fish and cut it into strips. Another approach is to cut fish into shapes that will have action in the water and look a little more lively.
All of the live bait species will work as cut bait. But some are easier to work with than others. Skipjack is a particular favorite for people who target blue catfish. Other fish are used too. Where allowed, some people even cut up invasive silver or big head carp and use them for bait.
Yes, you have read that right. The classic frankfurter goes as well with a hook as it does a bun. It makes sense since they are filled with various ingredients and full of protein. Hot dogs are known to catch channel catfish. But hot dogs are a great bait for catching blue catfish. At certain times it seems like hot dogs are actually the best bait you can use for the fish.
Hot dogs can work right out of the package. All you really have to do is thread one onto a hook at the end of a slip sinker rig and cast it out where the blue catfish are. By modifying the bait you may even be able to draw the fish in from a distance.
I once brought up using hot dogs as bait for blue catfish to a professional catfish guide. Of course he already knew the score. Though he did say that he knew some people that modified their dogs by doing things like soaking them in chicken blood or adding flavors like Catfish Insanity Liver Scent to attract more fish. I have also heard of others cooking their dogs a bit to firm them up so they will stay on the hook. But hold the mustard.