Regional Reports-South

James River

Anglers seeking relief from the sweltering heat and humidity should consider a nighttime outing on the tidal James River. That's when monster blue catfish go on the prowl. Fish over 40 pounds are caught from this central Virginia waterway almost daily during peak seasons and dedicated catfish anglers rarely give a second look to a 20-pounder. According to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologist Dean Fowler, the number of trophy fish has been rising since the early 1990s. In 1999, anglers on the James recorded nearly 1,000 fish larger than 20 pounds or 34 inches, the minimum measurements for trophy status. The next closest body of water was the Rappahannock River, which surrendered just 196 trophy blue cats. "The best area is between Ward's Creek and Dutch Gap (just outside of Richmond), which is where the current state record blue (71 pounds, 12 ounces) came from," notes Fowler. Best baits include fresh shad, herring filets and live eels. Contact: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (757-253-7072).