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F&S Hook Shots, Episode 2, Season 3: Virginia's James River Giants

http://ak.c.ooyala.com/UyaXEwYzpoROqsqc3TfHaGjc9A--bq2N/3Gduepif0T1UGY8H4xMDoxOjA4MTsiGN

Virginia's James River is one of the country's top blue catfish producers, boasting fish that best the 100-pound mark. In episode 2 of "Hook Shots" season 3, Joe Cermele drives south with friend and "Hardcore Tackle" host Eric Kerber to hunt behemoths in the murky waters of the James. And they get a lot more than they bargained for.

The Deal: Implanted in the James River in 1971, blue catfish have taken well and grown in numbers at a staggering rate. These long-living, slow-growing monsters can reach epic proportions, with 30- to 50-pounders fairly common. Though the giants are what make the river famous, if it's eating-size fish you want, the amount of 5- to 15-pound blues is simply amazing, offering hours of non-stop action on lighter tackle.

When To Go: Blue cats can be hooked in the James year-round, though guide Chris Eberwien actually prefers the winter months for greater numbers of trophy fish. According to Eberwien, it's very hard to catch them in May and June as they're spawning. "Hook Shots" visited in April, a prime month not only for cats, but spawning striped bass that share the same holes and flats.

What To Bring: Bring tackle you'd use for tuna. Seriously. Eberwien rigs his off-shore style level-wind conventionals with 50-pound monofilament. Then he splices on a 100-pound fluorocarbon leader and 12/0 circle hook. At first glance, his rods look like overkill for catfish, that is until you realize you have to launch 12-ounce sinkers pretty far and fight catfish nearly capable of pulling you out of the boat. The rods are stiff, but man do they bend.

How/Where To Fish: The art in catfishing on the James lies not in baits or tackle, but purely location. Eberwien has a GPS loaded with marks that he's found only after years of studying the bottom and experimenting. But the short version is to focus on channel edges with steeply-sloping sides, preferably that rise up onto a shallower flat. If you can find submerged brush or debris or humps, drop a line on the down-current side. In the spring, fresh herring chucks get the not as the go-to bait, but gizzard shad is effective all other times of the year.

Where To Stay: Though we launched in the town of Hopewell, Virginia, there are more lodging choices in Chester about 10 miles away. Right off of Interstate 95, you'll find just about any chain hotel you want in any price range, but for the official list, click here.

Guides:

Captain Chris Eberwien/Eberwien's Catfishin'


 

Comments (4)

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from nuclear_fisher wrote 3 years 5 days ago

Wow those were some pigs. Can you eat the smaller ones on that river with all those industrial plants?

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from Joe_Cermele wrote 3 years 4 days ago

Nuclear, you certainly can eat the smaller ones. Chris will happily target little guys if you want food. However, there are plenty of signs that recommend eating fish no more than twice a month because of PCBs

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from nuclear_fisher wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Joe, Yeah its the same way here on my local Wabash River. I think the DNR recently increased the suggested consumption amount...but I still just fish there for fun, not dinner.

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from WAH wrote 2 years 46 weeks ago

Joe, I'm not saying I wouldn't love to catch one of those monsters, but I think you and all other Hook Shots viewers should note that blue catfish in the James River and other Chesapeake tributaries are not all peaches and sunshine. Great sport fish for sure, but also an invasive ecological menace that's rapidly spreading, both on its own and through unauthorized stocking by irresponsible anglers. Here's a pretty interesting article you might want to take a look at.
http://www.bayjournal.com/article.cfm?article=4090

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from nuclear_fisher wrote 3 years 5 days ago

Wow those were some pigs. Can you eat the smaller ones on that river with all those industrial plants?

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from Joe_Cermele wrote 3 years 4 days ago

Nuclear, you certainly can eat the smaller ones. Chris will happily target little guys if you want food. However, there are plenty of signs that recommend eating fish no more than twice a month because of PCBs

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nuclear_fisher wrote 3 years 1 day ago

Joe, Yeah its the same way here on my local Wabash River. I think the DNR recently increased the suggested consumption amount...but I still just fish there for fun, not dinner.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WAH wrote 2 years 46 weeks ago

Joe, I'm not saying I wouldn't love to catch one of those monsters, but I think you and all other Hook Shots viewers should note that blue catfish in the James River and other Chesapeake tributaries are not all peaches and sunshine. Great sport fish for sure, but also an invasive ecological menace that's rapidly spreading, both on its own and through unauthorized stocking by irresponsible anglers. Here's a pretty interesting article you might want to take a look at.
http://www.bayjournal.com/article.cfm?article=4090

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