One of the most common misconceptions is that catfish are difficult to catch, but the
truth is they’re really no different from other types of fish. Provided you have the right
equipment and strategy, it won’t be too difficult.
Catfish are freshwater fish, so you can always find them outside river bends, wing
dikes, river holes and the mouths of tributaries. You’ll also catch more than a few in
bottom channels, inundated ponds and lakes, windswept shores and log rafts.
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Our Top 5 Tips to Catching Catfish
Tip 1: Use the Right Rod and Line
You start by getting the right equipment, specifically the fishing rod and line. For catfish
below 20 lbs., a 6 ft. rod with a 10 lb. test line will suffice.
If you’re going after bigger catfish, 20 lbs. and above, you’ll need a 7 ft. rod and a test
line of at least 20 lbs. Remember that longer rods are much better suited for fishing
near banks rather than when you’re on a boat.
Aside from the rod and line, you’ll need some bobblers, fishhooks, as well as coolers
and buckets. If you’re going to go after catfish at night, you’ll need to buy glow in the
dark bobblers. However, don’t overdo it or bring too much gear with you because it
might slow you down.
Tip 2: Use the Right Bait
Some catfish anglers use specific types of bait, but the truth is the fish eats a lot of
different things so experiment. You may want to try goldeye, herring or shad as they’re
quite good. Bits and pieces of these fish are especially good for channel catfish, many
of which can be found in North America.
You can also try nightcrawlers or crawfish as they’re widely available. There are
also those who swear by artificial bait, pieces of corn or chicken liver. While most
enthusiasts prefer cut bait, uncut live bait might also work since some catfish seem to
The point is there are a lot of different baits and lures available and you should feel
free to experiment with them. Some catfish prefer one over the other so you’ll need
to figure out what bait the catfish in your area likes. If you’re not sure, bring along
different kinds so you’ll have options.
Tip 3: Springtime is Best
Timing is always important when fishing, and for catfish that means you should do it in
spring when the waters warm up and get to about 50 degrees. Catfish don’t like to go
out when the water’s cold, so keep that in mind as you go fishing.
However, note that the temperature can vary by region, so if it warms up in your area
a little earlier than spring, check if the catfish are already active. In other places, the
catfish don’t become active until it is near summer.
Figuring this out isn’t as difficult as it seems since your local wildlife or nature guide can
supply you with information regarding the water temperature in the area you’re going
to fish in. Note however, that blue catfish in the southern US are active during winter.
Tip 4: Fish in the Mornings
You’ll find most catfish during the early morning hours, so you need to go fishing
at least an hour before sunrise. You might also find quite a few of them during the
evening if you’re into night fishing.
You will also find some catfish throughout the day if it is overcast or rainy. However,
they won’t be as abundant compared to morning, and they hide when the sun is out.
While you’re out fishing in the morning, look for the currents that meet a hard area,
because that’s where they take a respite without going against the current.
You can also look for catfish in small rivers and streams with eddies, or if you’re fishing
in a reservoir or pond, try the areas close to fallen logs, deep spots or close to feeder
Tip 5: Reeling the Fish In
Regardless of the size of the catfish, the way they’re reeled in is pretty much the
same. When the catfish bites your bait, allow the line to go back a little before you
begin reeling it in. For this to work though you need to be in a good position and well-
balanced if you’re standing.
Make sure that you reel in quick and without hesitation. If you’re just starting out, it’s
best to fish for small catfish first so you’ll get used to reeling. If you’re going after some
big catfish, you’ll need to have a strong grip so you don’t fall off the boat.
What to Watch Out For
Fishing for catfish is pretty straightforward and certainly different to catching crappie, but there are a couple of things you need to look out to make sure there are no problems. The first is the sting, because yes, catfish can sting and it comes from the pectoral and dorsal fins, but it won’t kill you. It will hurt a little but the pain will subside in a while.
The best way to avoid getting stung is to go under the pectoral fin with your hands touching the white belly, all the while keeping your fingers off the dorsal.
The other thing you need to remember is catfish are very slippery, much more so than
other fish and can get loose if you’re not careful. To prevent an escape, use a towel
when you grab hold of the fish.
If you try and take out the hook from its mouth, the catfish will try and bite you.
However, this isn’t a cause for concern since their teeth are small. You’ll feel some
pressure but that’s it.
If you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll be primed for some prized catfish catches, whether you are new to fishing or not. As you can see, these tips cover all the major aspects of fishing for catfish, so you’ll be ready for whatever happens and you will no longer be wondering how to catch catfish.
If you are trying to catch catfish on a boat, you may want to consider a fish finder. If so you can find out more by going to our homepage here.