Summer Cat Fishing
June 2021

There are times during the summer when the lake water gets so warm that fish stop biting. Catfish however are the exception. The warmer the water, the more actively they feed. The reasons are many, but simply stated, catfish have a higher tolerance for warm water than other hook and line fish.

Lake Norman is populated with three types of catfish – channel, blue and flatheads. The average channel cat weighs from one to three pounds and is fun to catch on light tackle. Channel cats are frequently caught on heavily scented store-bought baits known as stink baits. In addition, fishermen have learned that catfish eat chicken parts, table scraps and left-over foods. Some of the more popular refrigerator baits are chicken livers, shrimp, cheese, and bacon strips. Minnows (dead or alive), night-crawlers and red wiggler worms are also good baits at times.

Blue catfish grow to over one hundred pounds. The Lake Norman record is eighty-five pounds. Knowing that a big one can be taken at any time, savvy anglers use heavy tackle, large hooks (3/0-7/0) tied to fifty to eighty pound leader material. While blues will hit the same baits as channels, anglers prefer to use fresh-cut strips of bream, herring, shad and perch. Some believe the head of a bream or white perch will produce more strikes than a filet strip. The theory is that the head holds more scent and juices which seems to attract larger fish. Another bait and one that has that has gained popularity in recent years is small pieces of chicken breasts sprinkled with garlic powder or Cherry flavored Kool-Aid.  

Flatheads, while not as large as blue cat fish, do achieved weights of over fifty pounds on Lake Norman. The state record, however, is a 78 pound,14 ounce flathead taken from the Neuse River last July. While other species of catfish are scavengers, the flathead is a predator that stalks forage and game fish. Live shad, herring, perch, bream and goldfish are frequently used by those targeting them.

Since catfish make excellent table fare, you might try this popular recipe:

  • 1 each – 8 oz. cat fish fillet per person
  • Vegetable oil
  • Blackening spice

    Preheat a 10″ cast iron skillet until very hot. Brush each fillet with vegetable oil. Sprinkle blackening spice evenly on both sides. Place fillets in a hot skillet and blacken each side for 6 to 8 minutes or until the fish is firm. Use a spatula to turn the fish and to remove it from the pan.

Tips from Capt. Gus:  

There is no size or creel limit on catfish taken from Lake Norman, with one exception. The daily possession limit is only one blue cat fish greater than 32″.

Hot Spots:

Spotted bass are schooling on creek channels and river points. Try catching them on top water lures, swim-baits and soft plastics rigged drop-shot or with a shaky head jig. For largemouth bass, skip-cast soft plastics under deep water docks during the heat of the day.

Summer has arrived and the white perch fishing will be excellent all month. It’s not uncommon to land two, three or more on a single drop when fishing with Sabiki rigs. Anglers trolling the river and creek channel edges with Alabama rigs are likely to land a mixed bag of white perch, spotted bass and an occasional hybrid striped bass or catfish.  

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.