CATFISH

Ready to learn how to catch channel United States is the sleek and tasty channel catfish.  Channel catfish are available in nearly all of our catfish using the best bait with great tips and techniques. The most popular and plentiful game fish in the wetlands and are, without question, the most substantial sport fish found in our waterways. Lakes, ponds, and rivers produce exceptional catfishing, which makes it in these marine environments that the biggest specimens are found. The big flood-control reservoirs contain natural populations of channel catfish; however, annual stockings of hatchery-reared fish are needed to sustain the populations in smaller lakes and ponds.

Enough said of the general background of channel catfish; it is time to talk about the most effective methods utilized by fishermen to hook catfish.

Baits

Utilizing the correct bait is one of the most confusing element of channel catfish fishing, and you will discover nearly as many concoctions as there are catfishermen. Bait selection ranges from nightcrawlers, leeches, chicken blood, chicken liver, chicken or fish guts, crawdads, grasshoppers, water dogs, live and lifeless minnows, cut bait, and a multitude of prepared “stink” baits like this highly recommended Danny King Catfish Punch Bait, 14-Ounce . The prepared baits frequently have one thing in common — cheese. Any of these bait preparations and many others are perfect for catfish, and all will catch fish. Choice of a bait from this lengthy list may seem difficult but in actual experience choosing bait for catfish can be made into a rather effortless process.

The most important points to consider when choosing catfish bait are to figure out the size of fish sought and the water temp of the lake or river which will be fished. The rule of thumb is to make use of cut-bait or dead minnows for the best good luck in late winter and spring-time just after ice-out. This bait consists of half-rotten fish and should be fished when the water temp is less than 60 degrees F. Catfish actively feed on fish flesh and other animals that die during winter and sink to the bottom level. The stronger the rotten odor of bait at this point of time of the year, the better the results. Fish in deeper portions of the lake or stream prior to ice melt; then shift your efforts to shallow water afterwards. The shallow water warms quicker and draws in catfish into the near-shore reaches. Catfish could possibly be caught under ice conditions, but eating begins in earnest after the water temp reaches forty deg F.

The heightened sense of smell possessed by channel catfish help it become one of the few species of sport fish that can be readily caught during high stream flows in the spring, summer, and early fall. During these conditions the bona-fide catfishermen likes to fish during periods of rising water levels. Rising water levels frequently provide a lot more food for channel catfish to feed on by flooding terrestrial places along the river and meals being washed in from runoff. Fish surely become much more active within this time; however, the converse is true for falling water levels. Catfish usually become less active during falling levels as they are less vulnerable to the angler. During periods of stable or rising water levels most baits will produce good catches of catfish. Utilize those baits which are most available under natural conditions.

One of the most popular catfish baits that is easy to store is prepared bait. As water temperatures warm to seventy deg F and above, many catfish anglers switch to one of the prepared baits. This bait is most effective for pan-sized catfish during mid-summer — June, July and August. Summer season is the normal time period of low stream flow, and smaller streams may be fished more effectively by wading. A pair of cut-off jeans and old tennis shoes will help you to walk openly in the stream. Catfishermen seeking larger fish within this period use large-sized baits such as dead bluegill, live chubs, water dogs, crayfish and frogs. Large catfish love a good-sized meal therefore the movement of these creatures will attract their attention.

1947 Fishing

Tackle Selection

Gear used to catch catfish is almost as varied as the baits. Lake anglers utilize fairly short rods, but stream anglers appear to have the best results when using longer rods from six to eight ft in length. Many even use a fly rod. The benefit to the longer rods, when stream fishing, is the reach they have for a better placement of the bait. This enables the angler to fish many good holes without casting. Simply drop the line near a likely spot with no more line out than the rod length. This offers exceptional control of the bait to improve placement and increase the chances of hooking a fish after a natural-like presentation. Ten-pound test line is recommended over lighter weight line because the bait is fished on the bottom part and often near underwater snags. One of the best at a good price is  the Zebco CAF60802MH Medium-Heavy Cat Spin Combo, 7-Foot Length, Black Finish.  Gets the job done without breaking the bank.  

The kind of reel used makes little difference, but it is essential that it be in good working condition. If you happen to be fishing for big fish, make sure to match the reel to the fish. Light duty reels are meant to catch small fish and heavy duty reels have the power to catch lunkers. Light tackle will catch more smaller fish but might not handle one of record class size. The thing to remember is that catfish might possibly be in snags or heavy cover in the river and after the hit the fish may need to be “horsed” a bit.

Terminal gear is an important consideration when setting out after “old whiskers.” The primary part of the terminal tackle is the sinker and hook. Catfisherman do not need to show concern about the sizes, shapes, and color of high-priced lures, but hooks and sinkers, economical as they are, are essential. Always use the lightest weight necessary, and continually use a slip sinker. The slip sinker rig allows a catfish to pick up the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker. With any resistance on the line whatsoever, a respectable channel cat will leave the yummy bait morsel in search of an alternate. Habitually use a sharp hook. Hooks with bait holders on the shank are preferred by most anglers. Utilize sponges or plastic worms when fishing with one of the soft, prepared cheese baits. Whichever hook and bait you select, present it to the fish in the best natural manner, which always requires the utilization of a minimum quantity of sinker or weight.

Circle hooks are getting to be a preferred option for many catfish anglers particularly when using live bait or cut bait. With circle hooks, there is no need to “set the hook” because they are designed to hook the fish themselves. Simply slowly pull back on the rod when it starts to double over as the fish is taking the bait. Quick hooksets will commonly result in missed fish. Circle hooks when utilized properly reduce the possibility of the fish swallowing the bait as they are frequently caught in the corner area of the mouth. A really good one is the Gamakatsu Catfish Assortment Hook-Pack of 20 (Black, 8/0, 6/0, 4/0, and 1/0)

Habitat

First, before entering the actual angling methods, it might be useful to take a look at the normal feeding behavior of this species. Catfish, by and large, are omnivorous feeders with a well developed sense of smell. Meaning to say they consume a wide variety of food items, and the fish is quite often drawn to odoriferous or “smelly” morsels of food. The single greatest determinant of catfish food preference is body size. Smaller catfish, those less than 14 inches, feed mainly on bottom-dwelling creatures, like aquatic insect larvae and other invertebrates. When catfish grow, their eating habits changes and a broader variety of food items are eaten. Fish, however, either living or dead, make up the overwhelming majority of their forage once they attain 16 inches.

The diet of channel catfish also varies with the different seasons. Certain food items are more available at one time of the year compared to another, and, being an opportunistic forager, channel catfish seize what meals are prone to predation at that time. In the time of late winter and at the beginning spring the the majority of abundant food is a wide selection of organisms, such as fish which have succumbed to the harsh winter. These morsels, in various levels of decomposition, are consumed in big amounts by catfish. It is not unusual to discover catfish stomachs gorged with decaying species of fish shortly after ice-out. As the water warms into latter part of the spring and summer the diet of catfish changes constantly to foods that are again most accessible and vulnerable. The most common food items at this time of the year are aquatic and terrestrial worms, fish, frogs, crayfish, mulberries, bugs and their larvae forms, elm seeds and algae. Many other food are consumed but usually make up only a small portion of the menu. Catfish food habits in the fall again change as the water cools. More fish is consumed in addition to aquatic invertebrates and terrestrial insects. Frogs become increasingly essential for food as they move into streams before the onset of winter. Under the ice cover catfish feeding is reduced to a low amount and consists mostly of deceased fish that are picked up from the bottom.

River and Stream Fishing

The United States is blessed with waterways loaded with channel catfish. These waterways include the majority of under-utilized fisheries in the United States. Low fishing pressure on these rivers is due mostly to the relatively poor access provided by public facilities along with the more difficult and challenging fishing problems offered in flowing water. For all those fishermen that keep at it, these streams offer some of our most exclusive outdoor possibilities. Whether bank fishing, wading, or angling from a boat, U.S.  rivers and their stream corridors provide an unexcelled wildlife adventure. With not many exceptions, a visit to the “old fishing hole” at any major river will usually be coupled with solitude.

Inland Streams

Stream habitats that congregate fish are riffle areas just above pools, cut-banks, snags, rocks, and other submerged structures that are found in the stream. The outside edge of river bends typically carries a cut-bank and deep water which contain large catfish populations. These outside bends often have snags or log jams that provide cover for catfish. It is best to fish upstream of the snags and log jams and cast the bait coming back in direction of it. This allows the smell of the bait to be carried downstream into the structure by the current drawing the catfish out. However, the inside part of river bends usually includes shallow water and sand bars with minimal habitat variety, which in pairing create inferior fishing.

The deepest holes in the river will be the best place to look for channel catfish in the later fall and early winter. Channel catfish move into this type of water over-winter. Fish won’t be so overly aggressive when compared to in the spring and summer on account of the cooler temps close to the bottom.

Mississippi River

The Mississippi River has many different kinds of habitats that contain channel catfish such as snags and log jams along the primary channel and side channels, primary channel wing dams, rip-rapped (stone armored) shorelines, and shallow stump areas in the backwaters.

Fishing typically begins in the springtime as the ice pack goes out and channel catfish begin to feed upon winterkilled shad. Many of the backwaters and shallow mudflats will typically have dead shad that perished that winter season. Fish the mouths of these backwaters and shallow mudflats with cutbait or shad on the bottom level.

As June approaches, catfish are starting to spawn. Male channel catfish will find a cavity in a rocky shoreline, snags, or stump to make a nest to protect their eggs. The male channel catfish is going to protect the nest against some other fish from raiding the nest. Anglers could take advantage of the fish’s nature by floating live fish, crawlers, or even leeches under a bobber along rip rap shorelines, stumps, snags, or any other structure that may provide a cavity for the catfish. Riprap shoreline with large boulders is best because of the larger cavities that it creates. Allow the bobber rig drift in the current or with the wind near the structure to attract the catfish out. Hits are typically fairly aggressive and anglers will need to set the hook immediately before the fish releases the bait.

The majority of the midsummer fishing is performed anchoring above snags along the primary channel and side channels or above the wingdams in the main channel. Most anglers will probably be using slip sinker rigs fished on the bottom with stinkbait.  However, shad guts and nightcrawlers do the job as well. Walleye anglers will often catch channel catfish casting or trolling crankbaits on the wingdams in the summer months.

Lakes

Lakes also generate great channel catfish fishing, and the opportunity for this kind of catfish angling continues to develop in our public waters due to a professional stocking program with large fingerling fish. Stocked fish grow rapidly and to a big size. In fact, the largest catfish caught in the state each year are invariably taken from lakes and ponds. Fish caught in our man-made lakes above 10 lbs are quite typical.

Like catfish that inhabit rivers, lake-dwelling catfish are not equally disseminated but congregate into certain locations. The main reason of this concentration is the thermal and chemical stratification which is in place in lakes during the summer season. Most ponds and fishing lakes stratify into 3 distinct thermal layers 10 to 15 ft below the surface, and water in the lower strata contains no oxygen — coupled with no fish. Because of this, it really is a waste of time and effort to fish in the deeper water during summer time. Confine your angling to depths above this stratification level. Or if you would like, a temperature report at the deepest point will give the definite answer of where you should fish. Using a fish finder such as the recommended can be extremely helpful for locating them. Streams that inflow into the upper ends of lakes possess the tendency to congregate catfish, just like does submerged structure such as timber, stone protected shorelines and drop-offs. The best advice is to search for varied habitat — the more diversified the habitat, the more appealing it is to catfish.

Throughout the spawn in early June, anglers can target channel catfish around stone structure that presents cavities for nesting. Many of our smaller lakes have rip-rap (rock) positioned along the shoreline to shield the banks from erosion. Large rock is also placed on the dams of man-made lakes or impoundments to protect the dam from erosion. This large stone provides big cavities for channel catfish to make their nests. Experiment with drifting minnows, nightcrawlers, or leeches with the wind under a bobber along the rock.

Large Reservoirs

Bigger reservoirs often makes some outstanding channel catfishing throughout the open water season. In these systems channel catfishing seems to revolve around the gizzard shad that makes up a large part of their food intake.

Angling usually begins in the springtime at ice out as channel catfish begin to eat gizzard shad that perished over the wintertime. Many anglers will focus fishing efforts towards the higher ends of the reservoirs fishing the shallower and hotter mudflats. The main point this time of year would be to fish the windblown shorelines and points where the dead shad have been blown into to find actively feeding fish. This time of season most anglers will be using cut shad or shad pieces fished on the bottom level.

As June arrives, channel catfish begin to spawn. Look for channel catfish along rocky shorelines that provide cavities for nesting. Large stone along the shoreline is ideal because it provides better cavities for nesting. Many anglers will float bobber rigs along these kind of rockbound shorelines with live green sunfish, minnows, crawlers, or leeches.

When summer season approaches channel catfish re-locate along the channel edges of the reservoir and follow groups of shad to feed on. With today’s advancements in sonar technology a lot of anglers will boat around until they discover schools of shad. Usually there will be larger arcs on the sonar under the school of shad indicating the presence of channel catfish or different predatory fish. Anglers will then float through the school of shad from the upwind side utilizing lindy rigs/three-way rigs with cutbait fished on the bottom part. Anglers may have to move around a little bit of as the groups of shad and channel catfish relocate. Bends in the creek pattern or drop offs near shallower stump fields tend to be good places also. The catfish may also migrate up into these shallower stump areas or mudflats to eat after dark.

Winter Time Fishing

Possibly even the hardiest fishermen often neglect catfish throughout winter months, but ice fishermen angling for panfish in many cases are surprised by the huge weight of a big catfish on light tackle. This is not an uncommon incidence during winter time in lakes with sound catfish populations. For the best luck fish near the bottom with minnows, small insect larvae, or cut bait and you should not move the bait. However, catfish are also available suspended high in the water column, especially if shad populations are present. In this case, minnows, jigs, or spoons could be fished for suspended catfish. A reel and heavier than usual ice fishing tackle is needed to consistently catch catfish through a small panfish hole in the ice.

Tackle Selection

Gear used to catch catfish is almost as varied as the baits. Lake anglers utilize fairly short rods, but stream anglers appear to have the best results when using longer rods from six to eight ft in length. Many even use a fly rod. The benefit to the longer rods, when stream fishing, is the reach they have for a better placement of the bait. This enables the angler to fish many good holes without casting. Simply drop the line near a likely spot with no more line out than the rod length. This offers exceptional control of the bait to improve placement and increase the chances of hooking a fish after a natural-like presentation. Ten-pound test line is recommended over lighter weight line because the bait is fished on the bottom part and often near underwater snags. One of the best at a good price is  the Zebco CAF60802MH Medium-Heavy Cat Spin Combo, 7-Foot Length, Black Finish.  Gets the job done without breaking the bank.  

The kind of reel used makes little difference, but it is essential that it be in good working condition. If you happen to be fishing for big fish, make sure to match the reel to the fish. Light duty reels are meant to catch small fish and heavy duty reels have the power to catch lunkers. Light tackle will catch more smaller fish but might not handle one of record class size. The thing to remember is that catfish might possibly be in snags or heavy cover in the river and after the hit the fish may need to be “horsed” a bit.

Terminal gear is an important consideration when setting out after “old whiskers.” The primary part of the terminal tackle is the sinker and hook. Catfisherman do not need to show concern about the sizes, shapes, and color of high-priced lures, but hooks and sinkers, economical as they are, are essential. Always use the lightest weight necessary, and continually use a slip sinker. The slip sinker rig allows a catfish to pick up the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker. With any resistance on the line whatsoever, a respectable channel cat will leave the yummy bait morsel in search of an alternate. Habitually use a sharp hook. Hooks with bait holders on the shank are preferred by most anglers. Utilize sponges or plastic worms when fishing with one of the soft, prepared cheese baits. Whichever hook and bait you select, present it to the fish in the best natural manner, which always requires the utilization of a minimum quantity of sinker or weight.

Circle hooks are getting to be a preferred option for many catfish anglers particularly when using live bait or cut bait. With circle hooks, there is no need to “set the hook” because they are designed to hook the fish themselves. Simply slowly pull back on the rod when it starts to double over as the fish is taking the bait. Quick hooksets will commonly result in missed fish. Circle hooks when utilized properly reduce the possibility of the fish swallowing the bait as they are frequently caught in the corner area of the mouth.

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Tips  for Catching and Fishing Channel Catfish

■Catfish, like all fish, are not randomly dispersed, but are concentrated in certain areas. Fishing results will depend on your capability to find these schools of fish.
■Light tackle catches more fish, but heavy gear is required in snags and structure when catching big fish.
■Catfish can be caught year around.
■Use dead minnows or cut-bait in the latter part of the winter season and early springtime when the water temp is between 35-60 degrees F.
■Use prepared cheese/stink baits  in the summertime once the water temp is above 70 deg F(Danny King Catfish Punch Bait, 14-Ounce ).
■Cheese/stink baits are most beneficial on fish ten to sixteen inches in size.
■Live bait is best for larger fish, those above 3 lbs.

Hopefully you have learned some good information about how to catch channel catfish with the best bait.  There is always something new to learn about the sport, so stay posted for follow-ups.

Resources for catching channel catfish:

Catfish on Wikipedia – Learn detailed information about channel catfish on wikepedia.

Cabelas – Get some secrets to catching channel catfish from Phil King at Cabelas

A video on tips and secrets for catching catfish:

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