Fishing for catfish is a lot of fun. When you learn how to target them, and where to target them, you can do pretty good at consistently catching them. That’s the trick, though is finding where they hide. Most lakes, ponds, and rivers leading into the delta have them. It’s an underrated fish in the US. Catfish is a great tasting fish, but not as widely fished for as bass, trout, and stripers. They grow huge, and they put up a great fight the bigger they get. When you hook into a huge one it’s game on!
Catfish Fishing Guides
There are many different fishing guides that offer guided fishing trips for catfish, and pretty much any other fish that you may want to target. FishingBooker is a service of local guides that you can choose from and schedule your next guided fishing trip. Book A Catfish Fishing Guide Today!
Types of Catfish
The first thing to learn about is all of the different kinds of catfish there are. We will go over a few of those here. To understand where they hide, what bait will work the best, you have to know which type of catfish that you are targeting. In the US, there are four main types of catfish that fishermen target. The Blue Catfish, Channel Catfish, White Catfish, and the Flathead Catfish. They share many of the same waters, and hunt for the same type of prey, but they are very different fish. •Blue Catfish•Channel Catfish•White Catfish•Flathead Catfish
Blue catfish are the biggest and most sought after trophy fish for fishermen in the US. They can grow to over 140 pounds. Blue Catfish are not as solitary as other catfish. They typically group together in large numbers, but also can be found individually on their lonesome. Due to their like of clumping together in groups, it can usually mean for an action filled fishing trip, catching catfish after catfish. Though they do swim in much of the same waters as flathead catfish, they are typically in deeper waters in the lakes and main river sections. They also like to spend their time in strong currents where the water will bring the prey to them as they wait to ambush their prey.
Largest Blue Catfish Ever Caught
The biggest world record sized Blue Catfish ever caught, as per the International Game Fish Association, was caught in Virginia, at Kerr Lake on Buggs Island, in 2011, and it weighed in at 143 lb 0 oz. Weight - 143 lb 0 oz.
Channel catfish are quite a bit smaller than the blue and flathead catfish. They are usually below 20 pounds, though they can get up to 50 pounds on occasion. Fishermen are typically looking to catch more catfish since they are smaller in size, and it takes a few to have a family dinner. For what they lack in size, they gain in quantity and location as they are pretty much located in every state in the US, as well as Mexico and Canada.
Largest Channel Catfish Ever Caught
The biggest world record sized Channel Catfish ever caught, as per the International Game Fish Association, was caught in Santee-Cooper Reservoir, South Carolina, in 1964, and it weighed in at 58 lb 0 oz.
Flathead catfish are one of the toughest catfish to catch. They are solitary, and they are hard to locate, but they put up one heck of a fight when you hook into one. Due to their size, many anglers are very happy with one fish per trip. Though it’s fun to catch more! Flathead Catfish live in many areas, such as the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri river basins. They can be found from North Dakota to Lake Erie as well as from Florida on over into Mexico. They regularly get up to around 100 to 120 pounds. They are easy to spot with their long body and square flattened head that they are named after.
Largest Flat Head Catfish Ever Caught
The biggest world record sized Flathead Catfish ever caught, as per the International Game Fish Association, was caught in Elk City Reservoir, Independence, Kansas. Was caught in 1998, and it weighed in at 123 lb 0 oz.
Best Time to Catch Catfish
Most people will tell you that you have to fish for catfish at night, and most people do fish for catfish at night. It’s not true, you can catch catfish any time of day. In fact, most of my catfish are caught about an hour before dark, and in the first hour of sunlight. Though I do fish all night for them, and have caught them nearly every hour of the day. My largest catfish was caught in the middle of a hot day. But, fishing at night for catfish is half the fun. Some catfish live a more nocturnal life, and come out of their deep cover or hiding hole at night, but if you fish for them during the day you just have to target their hiding spots. They will still eat your bait if you can get it in front of them. Blue Catfish and Channel Catfish tend to feed on their own schedule, regardless of the time of day. Large blue catfish are more active during the day if they are in a strong current to hunt in, but in slow moving waters they tend to hunt mainly at night.
Fishing for Catfish at Night
People that fish for catfish at night like to do it because it’s a lot cooler at night, and the fish will tend to come in closer to shore in shallow waters to feed. It’s also fun at night to fish in the darkness, listening to the frogs and other lake creatures, adding to the fun of fishing. Catfish tend to follow the forage, and with the heat on a hot summer’s day the top water will get too warm for bait fish, so the bait fish will go deeper, and the catfish will too. As day turns to night, the bait fish will be back in the top water and travel in closer to shore to eat the bugs that come out at night, and the catfish will swoop into the shallow water to feed and forage.
Fishing for Catfish in the Daytime
It is a lot easier to catch catfish from a boat during they day so that you can get out into deeper waters. You can still catch them from shore, but you will need to try to cast out into the deeper waters. But, don’t eliminate the shallow coves and good hiding spots of catfish, as you really can find them anywhere. I typically like to fish the points and areas that are closest to the deep water or deep drop offs. Once you find the right depth and where they are hiding. If I am not getting any action, I will move my way towards shallower water and coves, in an effort to find them. Once you find them, remember that spot as I typically fish the same spots that have been productive in the past and they usually don’t let me down. A good spot is a good spot.
Best Season for Catfishing
Most people only fish for catfish in the summer months, but that leaves the rest of the year for you. Catfish eat year round, and can be caught year round. Some people even catch channel catfish while ice fishing. The typical catfish likes deep and slow moving water in the winter months, and shallower, faster water in the summer.
Best Catfishing Rig
A catfishing setup starts with a nice sturdy rod, a high quality reel, some strong good quality fishing line, and high quality terminal tackle. It’s always important to buy good high quality gear so that you don’t lose a trophy. Nothing more disappointing than losing the fish of a lifetime. For a catfishing rod, I go with a sturdy spinning rod big enough to cast the baits I am using, and strong enough to pull in the size catfish I expect to catch in the area. For a catfishing reel, I prefer the baitcasting reels because they cast further, and are more durable. Though it takes a little bit of practice to cast a baitcasting reel and not have your line spider up. But once you master casting a baitcaster it is a really great reel. But a good spinning reel works great too. It’s all a matter of preference. If you would like a well matched setup a spinning combo would be the best bet.
For fishing line, I typically go with a 12 pound test, good quality line for smaller catfish, and will go with a braided line of 30 to 40 pound test if I am targeting big catfish.
Best Catfish Fishing Bait
As for bait, there are lots of choices. For shorter trips, or to soak a bait while I’m bass fishing on the side, I will throw out the Berkley Gulp catfish chunks or any type of catfish dough bait. This is a clean option that does pretty well. For an all night catfishing trip, I will typically go with chicken livers, or some stinky bait fish. Minnows will work as well. There are also a lot of different dough baits on the market that will also work. A nightcrawler will work, but they put less scent in the water. If you are allowed to fish with the fish you can catch from the same lake, that is also a good option. But, check the regulations before doing that as some states, and some bodies of water, won’t allow that. The Best Homemade Catfish Dough Bait RecipeAbout The Author Mike Mendenhall is the the founder of Mendenhall Outdoors. This website is an extension of the Mendenhall family’s lifestyle and passion for the great outdoors. Everything that they learn, and experience, along the way that they find may be valuable to our website visitors is on the site for you to enjoy. We highlight products and services that you might find interesting. We frequently receive free products from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we might receive a commission – at no extra cost to you, and does not impact the purchase price of any products that you may purchase. The Best Catfish Fishing Experience Awaits!