Capt. Gus with a summer flathead catfish.
Photo courtesy of Capt. Gus

Want to catch big fish in July? Try fishing for Arkansas blue and flathead catfish.

Blue cats average three to ten pounds, with an occasional fish over twenty pounds. In fact, the largest catfish ever taken from Lake Norman tipped the scales at eighty-five pounds. Flatheads, while not as plentiful, fight hard and can exceed fifty pounds.

  • Time of Day: Some believe that catfishing is best after dark, and they might be right, but a great many are taken during daylight hours. The good thing about large catfish is that they feed close to shore, making them easy targets for anglers casting off docks, piers and the rip-rap rocks that protect the shoreline from erosion.
  • Tackle: Heavier than normal fishing tackle is required to tame big catfish. For that reason, savvy anglers use a seven foot or longer rod, or a medium-to-heavy rod, and a bait-casting reel loaded with at least thirty-pound test line. Attach a fifty-pound test leader material to the main line with a two-way swivel and add a big hook (5/0 or larger) and a weight.
  • Bait: Blue catfish depend on the sense of smell to track down forage. So, baits that smell awful are best.  Day old fish left in the sun, chicken parts laced with garlic powder and barbequed shrimp are among the favorites.  But, anything that stinks or smells will do, including chunks of cheese, chicken livers and pizza crust.

The flathead catfish is a predator and prefers live bait over smelly baits. Live sunfish, perch and herring are preferred. Some swear by live goldfish.

A long handled, big hooped net should be available to aid in landing a trophy-size catfish.

July Fishing Forecast:

Bass will be surface feeding on points and over humps at dawn and dusk. Top water lures that pop, gurgle and spin are popular with Lake Norman bass fishermen. If you haven’t tried a “Whopper Popper”, give it a try. It’s shaped like a Zara Spook, but has a tail that spins and creates a commotion on the surface.

When bass aren’t surface feeding, cast drop shot rigs and other soft plastics around drop-offs and under boat docks.

July is the peak summer month for catching white perch.  Most will be found near the bottom in water from thirty to fifty feet deep.  Live minnows and Sabiki rigs are the baits of choice. The multi hook Sabiki rig makes it possible to catch two or more white perch at a time. It’s fun and easy. Fish the rig a foot off bottom and yo-yo it up and down.

Tips from Gus:
Beat the heat and boat traffic by fishing early. Fish bite best on most summer days between 5:00 and 9:00 AM.

Upcoming Events:

No Fishing License Needed to Fish on July 4th
July 4 is “free fishing day” in North Carolina. Everyone — residents and non-residents, can fish in any public body of water from 12:01 a.m. to 11: 59 p.m., without having to purchase a fishing license or an additional trout privilege license. For more information, visit

“How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night” is a free safe boating class to be held at Wher-Rena Boatland, 18919 W. Catawba Blvd, Cornelius, NC on May July 12th beginning at 6:30 p.m. Sgt. George Brinzey, Becky Johnson and I will cover topics that include “Understanding LKN’s Channel Marker and Buoy System”, “How to Avoid Shallow Water”,” The Ten Most Dangerous Spots”, “Interpreting Lake Maps” and “Safe Boating  Law Enforcement Tips.” For more information, call Cheryl at 704 916 6889.

Free Fishing Seminar – “Catfishing on Lake Norman”- Jake Bussolini will conduct this ninety minute seminar beginning at 6:30 p.m. on July 19th at Lake Norman Volunteer Fire Dept., 1518 Brawley School Rd., Mooresville, NC. For additional information, contact Jake at 704-201-8709.

Lake Norman’s water level is about 1.2’ below full pond. The surface water temperature is in the mid-eighties in water not affected by power generation.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures, Inc. is an Outdoor Columnist and a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his website at or call 704-617-6812.