James River Blue Cats from a Kayak 11-21-2010

21 11 2010

You all may have noticed a lack of activity since the Redfishville Shootout back in early October. There’s good reason: I’ve been getting skunked every time I’ve gone out. I’ve been out 3 or so times and haven’t had any luck, however the last time I went out I saw cats. Everywhere. Cats. Big blue catfish. I took note as I had just purchased a new combo specifically for cow striped bass at Kiptopeke and big blue catfish on the James. If you don’t know, the tidal James has become one of the biggest trophy blue catfisheries on the east coast. I got some time to head out today for a couple of hours so I bought some frozen alewife and headed out.

Visibility was not nearly as good as it was last week as I could see down to 10+ feet. Today not so much, maybe 3 feet tops. Water temps were about 51F all day. I got on the water and started cutting my bait. I was targeting big cats so I was using big tackle:

  • Ugly Stik Catfish Rod
  • Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C4 6600 Reel
  • 50lb Power Pro
  • 40lb mono leader
  • 2oz egg weight
  • 8/0 Gamakatsu Circle Octopus hooks
  • Gigantic baits


I anchor down along a trench ledge, where the water goes from about 4 feet to about 12 feet. I saw the cats cruising in this area last weekend around 8 to 10 feet along side these ledges, so I figure this is a good place to start. I put on a big bloody hunk of the alewife onto my hook, the head to be exact. I’ve read the head is a favorite of blue cats so I’m anticipating something to hit soon. I cast my bait out about 40 yards, disengage the reel, and turn on the clicker. I’ve heard adrenaline pumping stories about the clicker going off as well as countless hours of watching River Monsters. I sat in anticipation. I didn’t have to wait long…

Within 5 minutes I get my alert from the clicker. click-click-click-click-click My typing doesn’t do it justice. It was more zinging off the reel.

If you catch the quick glimpse at my rod tip, you know I was in trouble and thus the immediate end to my video recording. I quickly stowed my camera and picked up the rod and started cranking. No more did I get a few turns in when line started pulling off my reel, drag screaming…this is a good fish. I quickly untie my anchor, throw the line over the side and get to the fight. A fight with a big fish is a funny thing, the entire time I’m winding in line only to lose twice of that when he makes a run. I’m constantly tightening or loosening the drag, trying to find the sweet spot. The cat makes several turns and a couple of times runs right under my kayak, requiring me to manage my rod around the bow of the kayak to prevent snapping it. I finally get a glimpse of the fish and it’s a monster. It’s easily the biggest freshwater fish I’ve ever seen in person. After several boatside slaps of his tail spraying water all over me, I finally have the monster subdued. I put on my glove, grab the leader with one hand and pull the mammoth up into the boat with the other. (I thank Kayak Kevin on tips for landing really large fish in a kayak). HOLY CRAP this thing is big.




I’ll have you know, my inseam is 30 inches. The cat was bent and was still about 6 inches up from my inseam and you can see the last picture, his tail runs the length of my foot and still extends beyond it. I’m estimating this big fella (or lady) at around 40 inches. I snap a few pictures and slide it off my kayak and back into the water. After coming home, I looked up on VDGIF’s site for trophy blue cats and citation size is 38 inches or 30 pounds. I most likely had a citation blue cat sitting in my lap and I had no idea!

Iv’e now got a grin that goes from ear to ear and start paddling back upstream to get my anchor. My arms are sore as well from the long battle. I don’t get that kind of workout sitting behind a computer all day. Between the current and the catfish, I’m now about 400 yards from where I released my anchor. I retrieve my anchor, reset my position, re-bait my hook, cast the bait, and engage the clicker. I didn’t have to wait long….again. Another 10 minute fight or so and I land another big blue catfish. This one isn’t as big as the first, but I’m estimating it at maybe 35 inches or so.


At this point I’m beaming. Within the first 40 minutes I’ve fought and landed two giant blue catfish. I’m thinking this going to be a phenomenal day and again, begin the long paddle back to retrieve my anchor. I think I’ve probably caught all the big fish out of the spot I was in so I move a little further upstream and anchor down on the upstream ledge of the trench. I cast out and engage the clicker. The wait was a little longer this time, but maybe only 15 minutes or so. I engage the the reel.

As I’m winding line I can tell this fish is a little different than the first two, much smaller. Within 15 seconds of the fight the cat leaps out of the water, about a foot in the air and lands with a splash. This was still a decent sized cat so it’s rather funny seeing it launch itself out of the water. A short fight later and I land my third cat of the day, much smaller than the first two.


At that point the bit turned completely off. I then spent the next hour and a half constantly changing positions, rebaiting with fresh cut, or simply praying to the fish gods for a bite. That didn’t help much and time inched closer to pack up and leave. I had planned on packing up at 2:30pm and as 2 approached I told myself with the next catch (if there was one) I’d head back home. At 2:20 my clicker starts going off again. A short fight later and I landed the smallest of the 4 cats on the day.


All in all, a very successful trip. I caught and landed my first blue cat and it was a monster. Now that bass season has come to a crawl, I know I’ll find myself heading out to catch some big James River blue catfish while waiting for spring to return.

All pics from my day




2 responses

22 11 2010

Eric, I got pretty excited just from that 5 second of so of video. It’s been awhile since I’ve gone fishing, so to feel that rush was awesome. Just a pity I wasn’t the one telling the story! Keep it up man.

22 11 2010
Eric Miles

Having the clicker go off is reason enough to go catfishing. It gets the adrenaline pumping!

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