Article on , October, 2013
“Fall catfish bite has finally arrived” by Phillip Gentry
Fall catfish bite has finally arrived
Mississippi River at Vicksburg producing good catches of blue catfish
Bob Crosby of Blue Cat Guide Service said the fall bite, wheretrophy-sized blue catfish will readily take fresh skipjack herring around the scour holes on the end of wing dikes in the Mississippi River, is on now and should last through the winter.
Moderating water levels and falling water temperatures have provided the combination of conditions that Bob Crosby of Blue Cat
Guide Service (601-953-5767) loves to see on the Mississippi River. For most of the summer, high water and high water temperatures
made fishing the Mississippi near Vicksburg tough, but Crosby said it looks like the fall blue catfish bite has now arrived.
“We have been smoking the big catfish on the Mississippi River,” said Crosby, who guides on the Mississippi around the historic Vicksburg area. “The water is low, stable and clear. The water temps have dropped from 85 down to 75 real quick and that always cuts the blue cat bite on.”
Crosby indicated that by targeting drop-offs, ledges and scour holes in the 30 – 60 foot depth range, he has landed a 67-pounder, a 44-pounder and numerous blue catfish in the 20-pound range in the last week. Crosby said having fresh bait is the key and he has been able to round up plenty of skipjack herring for his guide trips of late.
“I prefer to target trophy catfish, so most of my tackle is outfitted with two hook rigs,” he said. “That’s a hook in the head and a trailer hook in the tail on a fresh 8 – 10 inch skipjack. I use 8/0 Gamakatsu circle hooks with a slider for my sinker like a slip slider. Typically, I use 6- to 8-ounce weights to keep the bait on the bottom in a moderate current.”
Crosby keeps a yearly log of his cat fishing trips and looks forward to the coming of the fall bite, which typically provides the best water, and the best weather for catching good catfish.
“Most of the dikes come out of the water at Vicksburg at about 14 feet, but they’re all out at 12 feet,” said Crosby. “Right now, we’re about 6 feet with almost steady water so it’s no trouble to fish the scour holes at the end of the dikes and that’s where we catch the big, big fish. We catch big fish all the time but it seems like those scour holes at the end of the dikes is where we catch those 40, 50+ pound fish.”
Looking forward, Crosby predicts the bite will only get better from now until big blue cats start getting finicky as the spawn approaches in the spring.
“They’ll bite all through the fall and even during the cold of winter,” he said. “We might have to bundle up, but you warm up pretty quick fighting big catfish.”
Article on , November 15, 2013
“Cumberland lands monster blue catfish” by Michael O. Giles
Photo by Mike O. Giles
Cumberland lands monster blue catfish
Blue catfish bite should be hot all winter
Johnny Cumberland landed this shark-size blue catfish on the Mississippi River while fishing with Capt. Bob Crosby and Mike Giles on a recent trip near Vicksburg.
Have you ever caught a big fish? I mean a really big trophy. Big is sometimes relative when you’re talking about fish. A big bream might weigh a pound, a big bass may weigh eight pounds plus, and a big catfish say 20 pounds. Catching bream, bass and catfish on rod and reel combos is challenging and fun indeed. But have you ever thought about catching a catfish as big as a man? I know I haven’t, but then again, I’m not Bob Crosby.
Crosby is the King of the Blue Cat Guides on the Muddy Mississippi at Vicksburg. It’s no contest; Crosby is just that good at locating and catching monster blue cats, and with rod and reel no less. I recently had the opportunity to travel to the Big Muddy with Crosby and Johnny Cumberland in search of a monster cat.
They say the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and I wanted to sample a bit of Bob Crosby’s magic on the river, so we quickly set up a trip.
“Mike, I’ve been fishing the river about 10 years now and I’ve learned a few things about catching monster cats, as well as how and where to catch them,” Crosby said. “We have a lot of days when we’ll catch a few in the 20 to 30 pound range and occasionally a 40 pounder.”
While many people catch big cats on trotlines and jugs around the country, few do it Crosby’s way and I couldn’t wait to try my hand at catching one on a rod and reel. As Crosby launched his boat and we headed upriver towards a honey hole, the eastern sky burst out in a brilliant array of pink, orange and blue, as the morning sun rose, illuminating the shimmering water’s surface.
We weren’t in heaven, but it seemed mighty close.
Crosby graphed the bottom as we arrived at our first hole and the LCR lit up with big fish right along a 40 foot ledge. Crosby anchored in 40 feet and we prepared to catch a cat.
“Mike, we’ll anchor here and fish in 70 feet of water, that’s where the big ones live and feed,” said Crosby. A few minutes later we pitched out a few skipjacks and let them drift down to the bottom.
Wham- one of the rods almost tore out of the rod holder as a big cat took the bait. I reared back on the rod and drove the steel hook deep into the jaws of a big cat. A few minutes later, Crosby netted my first blue of the day, a nice 17 pounder.
Johnny Cumberland wasted little time as he tied into a big cat of his own, almost the size of the one I’d landed. Crosby quickly released both fish and we continued to catch and release more blues, while waiting on that big one.
Bam! Zzzzzz, zzzzzzzz screamed the casting reel as something crushed a skipjack and dove for the bottom. Cumberland set the hook and held on for dear life, as the monster cat stripped off line. Seconds, turned to minutes and it was obvious this was no ordinary cat. Could it be that a shark had come up the Mississippi from the Gulf? Probably not, but the fish was fighting like a monster shark, and Cumberland just battled with all of his might.
After what seemed like an eternity the water erupted and a massive catfish wallowed on the surface. It was still nip and tuck and Cumberland and Crosby had a big problem, the shark sized catfish was too big for the net!
Crosby finally worked the huge net under the tail of the fish and we grabbed hold and hoisted the trophy cat into the boat. The big blue weighed nearly 70 pounds and was almost too big for Crosby’s hand held digital scales.
Article in Mississippi Sportsman Magazine, February 2011
“ Big Blues on the Big Muddy” by John J. Woods
Big Blues on the Big Muddy
Fishing for catfish in the winter on the Mississippi River? OK, nobody in their right minds would go after trophy-class record-book blue catfish on the Mississippi River, especially in the winter. No?
Well, you obviously have not been introduced to Bob Crosby of Madison and his catfishing buddy Bill Conlee of Pocahontas. And we’re not just talking about catching big catfish here either. These guys want the state-record catfish in the boat and in the record book. That’s a tall order indeed.
“Yep, if you want to catch the big ones which we do, you’ll be out on the big river when the ice is on. We’re after the state record catfish rod and reel. The state record is 95 pounds caught by Dakota Hinson in March of 2009. So far, we have landed a 90-pounder caught by Bill,” said Bob Crosby.
These guys are slowly creeping up on the record.
“2006 was a good year,” Crosby said. “I caught a 58-pound flathead. The state record for that catfish is 65 pounds on a rod and reel.
“We catch and release all the big fish we land. It would be a crime to kill anything that old. If we put back a really big fish, it should continue to grow and gain even more weight. That way then we could have the chance to catch it again on another fishing trip.
“Obviously we try to pick rough and tough fishing gear for our state-record blue cat quest,” Bob Crosby said. This means the toughest line we can get. Our choice is a braided line in the 80-to 100-pound-test range. This is awful tough line, but it is not because of the weight or pull of the fish, but due to the conditions of the Mississippi River.”
The river is brutal on fishing line, Bill Conlee said.
“When you fish on the Big Muddy, you have to recognize all the trash floating under the surface of the water and also all the treacherous structure on the bottom,” he said. “ Line can snag on a dozen different sharp surfaces that will abrade or cut a less quality fishing line in a New York minute. This is why we use such a tough line.”
Their terminal rigs are straightforward, according to Crosby.
“The rigs we use start with a 8/0 circle hook,” he said. “To that we add a 6- to 8- ounce sinker. That’s pretty heavy, but again we are fishing fast and furious river currents and trying to lay down baits into deep holes. It takes a good amount of weight to send the bait down to the bottom as quickly as possible without letting the current drift it out too far.”
The anglers use Ambassador 6000 reels and fairly stiff rods in the 71/2- to 8-foot range. They need resilient fishing gear that will hold up to river fishing.
“Heck, in theory any fish we return to the dark waters of the Big Muddy could turn out to be the next state record.
The duo hasn’t always fished the mother of all rivers, according to Conlee.
“We started out on this journey by first jug fishing the Barnett Reservoir,” he said. “We caught lots of fish, but we came to be interested in catching bigger and bigger fish via rod and reel. Other methods never really interested us. We wanted to catch the really big ones using classic fishing tackle more or less the hard way.”
Both anglers came to the realization that it was a whole lot more fun and productive on the really big fish to fish the deep holes with rod and reel. This has taken plenty of time and effort along with tons of trial and error.
They are beginning to nail down some patterns, but don’t even bother asking where they fish on the Big Muddy exactly. Their favorite locations to drop a bait in some of the regular cat holding holes are held tight to the vest. It’s a competitive thing. After all, these guys have their goals set on the state record. They are not about to give out too many details on their quest.
“We fish from a 19-foot center-console Nordic fishing boat with a 150-horsepower Yamaha engine,” Conlee said. “Years ago we started out with a much smaller outfit, but quickly learned a bigger boat with plenty of power was needed to combat the currents on the Mississippi River."
Certain sections of the river seem more productive than others, Crosby said. “Bill and I fish different stretches of the Mississippi including Tunica, Greenville, and the Vicksburg area,” he said. “Probably our favorite areas to fish are the Port Gibson part of the river. We do use a GPS to mark locations sometimes, but over time we have learned to catalog the land features on shore. So long as they don’t change, we know right where to go to find our best holes.
“We like the river conditions in the winter months, because the river is usually lower and the water clarity is greater. Deep-water catfishing is best when the river water level has stabilized. We rarely go if there is a pending fast rise or fall of the river stage. We monitor the Vicksburg gauge regularly to know what is going on. The best river level for our type of fishing is when the gauge hits the 25-foot mark.”
When fishing, these guys rely heavily on their depth finder to keep up with how deep the holes are. They typically fish holes that are 60 to 80 feet deep. They consistently let out 70 to 100 feet of line in water depths ranging from 40 to 100 feet.
The anglers use two different methods on the big river including trolling along at the speed of the river currents or anchoring in a safe spot lining up the boat so they can fish off the back end. Having tried both styles at different times on the river, they have come to learn that anchor fishing has consistently been the more productive method to use.
When they rig out the boat for fishing, they use up to four rods deployed at one time. More than that gets a bit testy, especially if more than one fish gets hooked at a time. Having two or three catfish of 20-plus pounds on multiple hooks at one time is definitely a handful of action.
But there’s never a guarantee that the fish will bite.
“Even when we think we’ve done everything right, there are still days we fish most of an entire day and still never catch anything,” Conlee said.
“Some days these big cats just simply do not bite anything we throw at them.”
Still, these two guys would rather be out on the river chasing down record-book blue cats than just about anything else. Even in the cold, dead of winter.