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Guide To Fishing for Catfish

All about catfish tactics and baits.

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Catfish Fishing

Catfish is a broad category, covering multiple species. Adults range in size from less than a pound to hundreds of pounds. They can be found in all types of water including ponds, streams, lakes and rivers. There are even species which spend a limited amount of time on dry land.

Primary Catfish Species

  • Channel Catfish
  • Flathead Catfish
  • Blue Catfish
  • White Catfish

Click here to see the top five catfish baits of all time.

Channel Catfish

Ictalurus punctatus

Channel Catfish

Prefers slightly stained to murky water with mild current and sand or rock bottom. Ideal water temperature: 65° to 90°

World record: 58 pounds, 0 ounces

Channel cats can be caught most any time of year except in extreme cold water conditions. The best time of year tends to be spring and fall followed by summer and lastly winter. They favor crawfish and small fish, so look for them at varying depths where there is rock or gravel that attracts the crawfish or other forms of cover that attracts baitfish and other small fish. In the warmer summer months they can be found in areas with moss, which they feed on.

Flathead Catfish

Pylodictis olivaris

Flathead Catfish

Prefers streams or large bodies of slightly stained to murky water with moderate current and hard bottom. Ideal water temperature: 75° to 84°

World record: 123 pounds, 9 ounces

Flatheads are caught primarily on bait like live shiners and chubs and only occasionally on cut or prepared baits. They are the second largest of the catfishes and lie in cover of submerged logs or other large structures. Prime fishing time for catching them is after dark.

Blue Catfish

Ictalurus furcatus

Blue Catfish

Found primarily in large river systems with deep current and swift channels. Ideal water temperature: 68° to 80°

World record: 143 pounds, 0 ounces

Look for these big blues on major rivers or in impoundments fed by large tributaries. They feed on fish frogs, mollusks, crayfish and large invertebrates. They find food more by use of their keen sense of smell. Look for them to be hiding in hollowed out logs or undercuts in structures. Use anything from live shiners to cut bait and stink baits to catch these big blue cats.

White Catfish

Ameiurus catus

White Catfish

Prefers rivers and streams with slow moving current over muddy, sandy or even slightly silted bottoms. Ideal water temperature: 70° to 85°

World record: 22 pounds, 0 ounces

Whites will typically found in slower meandering creeks, streams, canals and small rivers. They are occasionally found in brackish waters which drain into and mix with saltwater. Their primary diet is fish, however they also feed on aquatic insects, fish eggs, small crustaceans and even aquatic plants. Try live minnows or worms and focus on daylight hours as these are not as nocturnal as some of their relatives.

Preferred Baits

If it resembles food in any way and emits an odor it is likely to attract the interest of these cats. Most ardent experts have their own secret recipe. The ingredients range from natural prey of fish and fowl, to non-food items like soap and chemicals. Chicken, shrimp, liver and stink baits are some of the most common ingredients.

Learning to Fish for Cats

The purpose of the page is to provide specific detailed information about fishing for catfish. Learn the secret techniques and baits used by the experts. Visit the videos section for additional information. Look here for tips, recommended tackle, techniques and more. Knowledge can make your next trip more successful. Use the navigation on the left to locate specific information for your state.


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