It was a brisk, sunny day in March when we arrived at Ebenezer Park in Rock Hill, overlooking Lake Wylie.
It didn’t take long to find our fishing guide, Rodger Taylor, of Catfish On! Guide Service. He was the one preparing a 21-foot pontoon boat that was already in the water.
Two Lake Wylie Today Magazine staffers, plus one husband, had booked a half-day fishing trip with Captain Taylor specifically to catch the whiskered species.
We had read about the growing number of catfish tournaments on Lake Wylie and wanted to try our luck.
The magazine also featured a photo of a Lake Wylie angler posing with a whopper of a blue catfish that weighed a record 82 pounds.
It was noted on the photo that the monster catfish had been released back into the lake.
I had to see this for myself.
Taylor is an expert in Lake Wylie fishing, and writes lake fishing reports for several angler websites and has written fishing trends for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
His pontoon boat has been outfitted specifically for catfishing — upright poles lined each side, like a fence.
Once we loaded everything onto the roomy vessel, we launched into beautiful Lake Wylie.
We zoomed across the lake to the first fishing spot, trusting that Taylor would lead us to a spot that would result in a good catch.
And that’s when I learned that merely finding the catfish is half of the battle.
That’s why you see fisherman zooming around from one end of the lake to the other, in coves and in the deep center, seeking the elusive species.
With more than 13,443 surface acres that make up Lake Wylie, Taylor had to determine where to find the catfish. Where would you be if you were a hungry catfish in Lake Wylie just shaking off the winter cold?
Lucky for us, if anyone could think like a catfish, it was Captain Taylor.
According to him, in the springtime, the catfish are on the move looking for baitfish. The baitfish at this time are often scurrying around coves heading towards the Lake Wylie dam, and the whiskered bottom-feeders aren’t far behind.
“These baitfish move north in the spring to get ready to spawn, and predatory fish like catfish will be right behind them,” Taylor said. “The spring weather puts a larger number of fish into a smaller area.”
We were getting excited.
Taylor slowed the pontoon boat down near one of Lake Wylie’s many coves in the northern part of the lake, and we marveled at the natural beauty of Lake Wylie from the spot.
Our guide had a unique way of anchoring his boat. It wasn’t a heavy metal anchor with a chain; it was a floating anchor — a technique called “drifting” — where a floating anchor that looks like a windsock captures water and air causing a shallow drag without churning up the bottom of the lake.
As the boat slowed to a stop near the shore, Taylor loaded up each of our poles with cut gizzard shad, his favorite all-season bait. We cast our lines out into the water, and we waited.
Catfishing on Lake Wylie is not a task for an impatient fisherman.
There’s no active casting, reeling in and re-casting of the lines. You don’t reel in every few minutes, you don’t check to make sure your bait is still on the hook.
You simply wait for the catfish to find you.
“How do you know when a fish is on the line?” I asked, impatiently.
“Oh, you’ll know,” Taylor said.
A few times I was tricked, thinking something was pulling the line, but it was just the bump of the wind, or a wave.
While we waited, we took the time to look around and enjoy the scenery. Lake Wylie from a boat is a unique perspective — one that not everybody gets to see.
The natural blend of the water and the land was picture perfect. We were in the middle of a living postcard.
Well-known neighborhoods like Big Allison Creek and Little Allison Creek made more sense now, after navigating through their big and little creeks.
We saw ospreys collecting twigs and straw for their nests, a brightly colored sailboat gliding silently by and Lake Wylie residents enjoying the sunshine on their lake-front lawns.
Just then, the fishing pole line whirred. Taylor wasn’t kidding; unless you had fallen asleep, you’d be hard-pressed to miss it. You know it when a catfish bites.
He picked up the pole from its spot on the side of the boat and handed it to me with the instruction: “Reel!”
It was an exciting moment as the thrashing on the other end of the line got closer and closer to the boat, the limber pole bending over the side of the boat like a rainbow.
Was this going to be the monster catfish? I both wanted and didn’t want it to be the catfish I saw in the photo.
This catfish was considerably smaller, at around seven pounds, but still the largest catfish I’ve ever caught. I expertly reeled it in while Taylor scooped it up with a net. The photographer’s camera snapped away as I admired my catch.
Also good to know: catfishing is not for the weak-armed.
We caught seven catfish that day, the biggest nearly ten pounds, at four locations on Lake Wylie.
Anglers need to be willing to move around, anchor and drift to find out where these catfish are biting.
Each member of our fishing crew took turns reeling them in and checking out the different species. Taylor prides himself on often catching the “trifecta” on his trips — channels, blues and flathead catfish.
He patiently helped us unhook each catfish and put more cut bait on the lines.
I was pleasantly surprised at how catfishing (at least the way we did it) was much more relaxing than I expected. Between bites, we were able to enjoy the scenery of Lake Wylie and chat with each other at length. As we waited for the fish, we enjoyed pointing out the different landmarks, types of birds and unique natural areas around us.
When we ran out of things to say, almost on cue, someone’s line would whir, and we’d reel in a whiskered catfish.
I can see why people get hooked on this leisure sport.
Taylor, who is from Gastonia, is a lifelong outdoorsman. Having a relaxing and enjoyable experience in nature while fishing is why he’s been a charter fishing guide for more than ten years.
“The maturing of a fisherman is when you move from wanting to prove yourself by catching the limit to being able to just appreciate being out there,” he said. “You want to watch the sun come up in the morning, watch it go down in the evening and see the lake’s stillness being broken by the splash of a big fish in the water.”
And, it’s worth the wait.
Lake Wylie Fishing tournaments
- The Catawba Catfish Club hosts catfish tournaments on Lake Wylie. The 2017 season schedule is still TBD. Check www.Carolinacatfish club.com for updated information.
- HuntFishPaddle of Lake Wylie sponsors several tournaments throughout the year. A bass tournament will be held March 4 in Lake Wylie. Visit www.huntfishpaddle.com or the shop at 4070 Charlotte Hwy, Lake Wylie for more information.
All season bait……….Gizzard Shad
Late spring-fall………Blue Gill
Fall-winter …………….White Perch
Source: Roger Taylor, Catfish On! Guide Service
Where to Rent A Boat
River Hills Marina Gas Dock
Kayak and Canoe Rental
Tega Cay Marina
Pontoon Boats-22 footers
Half-day rentals-weekdays only
Light-N-Up Houseboat Charters
Nancy Bedgood, Proprietor
Private parties, outings, receptions and more
Wylie Boat Rentals
Pontoon rentals 803-619-9283 www.wyliewatercraft.com
NC Flatwater Outfitters
Canoe & Kayak rentals
Fishing charters and guides in Lake Wylie
Fishing League Worldwide Angler and Guide
- Capt. Bryan New Bass or White Perch fishing 704-421-5868
Catfish On! Guide Service
- Capt. Rodger Taylor Catfish fishing www.catfishon.com 803-328-9587 803-517-7828 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerry’s Fishing Guide Service
- Capt. Jerry Neeley Crappie, Bass, Catfish fishing www.carolinasfishing.com 704-678-1043 704-867-5116 Email: email@example.com
Tip: Get a fishing license for both North and South Carolina to have full fishing access on both sides of the lake.