Fall Blue Catfishing on the James River Update

December 5, 2011. Fishing has been outstanding on the James recently. Throughout November, and into the first week of December huge blue catfish have been bowing up my fishing poles one after the other. Wow, fantastic catfishing in December. It’s funny how my perspective of catfishing has changed over my lifetime. 
From the humble beginnings of fishing for bluegill on Russles Pond, a neighborhood pond, my angling adventures have slowly turned into a passion and now has become a lifetime’s journey of ‘Discovery on the James River’. 
When I was in my teens I thought catfish only bit at night and in the heat of the summer and spent many nights fishing the Occoquan River and the outflow of the Possum Point power plant on a tributary of the Potomac River.  Baiting a hook under the light of a lantern, if I caught a 10-pound catfish, that was a monster. Most were channel cats, but there were a few blue catfish mixed in, and even a flathead or two. Before ‘Discovering the James’, my biggest catfish was a 25 pound flathead catfish caught from the Occoquan when I was 25. 
Today, on the James, fishing for catfish is much different … I fish with bigger fishing rods, from a boat, and I get the opportunity to fish with lots of different people, both young and older alike. One of the highlights for me is seeing someone reel in a big fish for the first time, or better yet, to see a kid reel in a big fish.  In the image at the top, two youngsters are holding fish they caught at nearly the same moment. The biggest fish, caught by Nic weighted 51 pounds, while Daniel holds a 38-pound blue cat … caught at the end of November.
The other images are of two recent catches. The middle image is of a fellow who caught a 70-pound blue catfish last week. Funny how big fish like this can lurk in areas you never thought would hold such big fish. I am not going to divulge this secret spot, but it’s only the second time I ever fishing it, and believe me, I’ll be out there again soon. The last image, the bottom photo, is of 80-something year old Bill Schieman. Bill has been fishing with me for five or six years now and is one of the finest fishermen in the history of freshwater fishing in Virginia. He has to his credit over 500 largemouth bass citations (over 22” or 8 pounds!). He loves to catch big yellow perch, crappie, walleye and of course, big blue cats on the James. This fish weighed in around 35 pounds. His personal best with me is a 64 pounder caught last November.

Yes, catfishing is much different now than it was when I was younger. 

--Capt. Mike