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Do you want to learn how to catch more catfish? Do you know that catfish is one of the most popular fish in the U.S.? They are plentiful, can grow to be very large, and are delicious. If you want to take more catfish home, we discuss catfishing tips to help you be more successful with fishing for catfish.

Catfishing Tips
Catfishing Tips

How to Catch Catfish

1. Trolling

Trolling is a versatile fishing method that can be effectively used to target catfish in various freshwater environments. Anglers typically employ trolling techniques from a moving boat equipped with specialized trolling rods and reels. They use this method to cover large areas of water while dragging bait or lures behind the boat at varying depths and speeds.

Trolling allows anglers to explore different depths and areas of the water column where catfish may be actively feeding or patrolling for prey. Anglers often use a variety of trolling rigs, such as planer boards or downriggers, to present their baits or lures at different depths and distances from the boat.

By experimenting with different trolling speeds and adjusting the depth of their presentations, anglers can effectively locate and entice catfish to strike. Trolling for catfish can be particularly productive in open water areas such as reservoirs, lakes, and large rivers, making it a popular technique among anglers seeking to catch trophy-sized catfish.

2. Casting

Casting is a popular and effective fishing method for targeting catfish in various freshwater environments. Anglers typically use baitcasting or spinning reels to cast their lines equipped with bait or lures into likely catfish habitats such as riverbanks, shorelines, submerged structures, and deeper holes.

This technique allows anglers to cover a wide area of water and present their bait in areas where catfish are known to congregate. By casting their lines strategically and varying the retrieval speed, anglers can entice catfish to strike.

Whether using natural baits like live or cut bait, or artificial lures designed to mimic the prey of catfish, casting provides anglers with the versatility to adapt to different fishing conditions and effectively target catfish species such as channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish.

3. Fly Fishing

While fly fishing is not typically associated with catfish angling, it can be a rewarding and exciting method for targeting these freshwater giants. Fly fishing for catfish involves using specialized fly rods, reels, and lines to cast large, weighted flies designed to imitate natural prey such as baitfish, crayfish, or insects.

Anglers often target catfish in shallow water areas with slow-moving currents, such as rivers, streams, or shallow flats, where these fish may be actively feeding. To effectively fly fish for catfish, anglers must use heavy-duty fly rods and lines capable of casting large, weighted flies and handling the powerful strikes and fights of big catfish.

It requires patience, skill, and careful presentation to entice catfish to strike a fly, but the challenge and thrill of hooking into a trophy-sized catfish on a fly rod can be incredibly rewarding for fly anglers. While fly fishing for catfish may not be as common or traditional as other methods, it offers a unique and exciting way to pursue these formidable freshwater gamefish.

4. Still Fishing

Still fishing, also known as bottom fishing or bait fishing, is a popular and effective method for targeting catfish. It involves casting or dropping baited rigs to the bottom of a body of water and allowing the bait to sit motionless until a catfish takes the bait. Anglers typically use a variety of bait options for still fishing, including live bait such as nightcrawlers, and minnows, or cut bait such as shad, herring, or chicken liver.

Additionally, prepared baits such as dough baits or stink baits can also be effective for enticing catfish. Still fishing can be done from shore, a dock, or a boat, and anglers often target areas with structure or cover such as submerged logs, brush piles, or drop-offs where catfish are known to congregate. Patience is key when still fishing for catfish, as it may take some time for the scent of the bait to attract catfish to the area and for them to locate and take the bait.

Once a catfish bites, anglers must be ready to set the hook quickly and then carefully play and land the fish, as catfish are known for their powerful runs and fights. Still fishing is a versatile and accessible method that can be enjoyed by anglers of all skill levels, making it a popular choice for targeting catfish in a variety of freshwater environments.

5. Night Fishing

Night fishing for catfish is a time-honored tradition among anglers, as catfish are often more active and feeding during the cover of darkness. Anglers employ various techniques such as still fishing, drifting or anchoring in strategic locations to target catfish after the sun has set. Using bait with strong scents like chicken liver, cut bait, or stink bait can be particularly effective in attracting catfish in low-light conditions.

Additionally, using glow-in-the-dark or light-up bobbers and fishing rods can help anglers detect bites more easily in the dark. Fishing at night requires extra caution and preparation, including ensuring proper lighting on the boat, wearing appropriate clothing for cooler temperatures, and being mindful of potential hazards on the water.

Despite the challenges, night fishing for catfish can be incredibly rewarding, offering anglers the chance to connect with nature and experience the thrill of battling these nocturnal predators under the starlit sky.

6. Drift Fishing

Drift fishing is a versatile and effective method for targeting catfish in rivers and large bodies of water. Anglers use this technique by allowing their bait to drift naturally with the current while covering a wide area in search of actively feeding catfish.

Typically, anglers deploy bait rigs consisting of a sinker, swivel, leader, and hook, baited with natural or artificial baits such as cut bait, shrimp, or prepared stink baits. By adjusting the weight of the sinker and the length of the leader, anglers can control the depth at which their bait drifts, targeting catfish at various levels of the water column.

Drift fishing can be done from boats or from the shore, depending on the location and preferences of the angler. It requires careful attention to rod positioning and line management to ensure proper bait presentation and to detect subtle bites from catfish. With practice and patience, drift fishing can yield rewarding catches of catfish while allowing anglers to enjoy the dynamic and ever-changing environment of the water.

Catfish Fishing Tackle

A 7-foot or longer fishing rod with a 20-pound test line will work for fishing for catfish. When choosing a fishing rod, you want one that will allow you to cast the bait at a good distance, is strong for the fight, and is sensitive to pick up a faint bite. A bait-casting reel or a spin-casting reel will work.

Types of Catfish

There are four different types of catfish in the United States. They are the Channel catfish, flathead, blue, and bullheads.

1. Channel Catfish

Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) are one of the most popular and widely distributed species of catfish in North America. They are known for their distinctive forked tail and deeply forked anal fin, which distinguishes them from other catfish species.

Channel catfish typically inhabit freshwater environments such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and ponds with moderate to slow-moving water currents. They are opportunistic feeders and will consume a variety of food sources, including fish, insects, crustaceans, and plant matter.

Channel catfish are prized by anglers for their fighting ability and excellent taste, making them a popular target for recreational fishing. They are often caught using a variety of techniques, including bottom fishing with bait such as nightcrawlers, chicken liver, or commercial stink baits.

Channel catfish can grow to impressive sizes, with specimens exceeding 30 pounds not uncommon in some waters, providing anglers with exciting opportunities for trophy catches. Whether pursued for sport or table fare, channel catfish offer anglers of all skill levels an enjoyable and rewarding fishing experience.

2. Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) are a species of catfish native to North America, primarily found in large rivers and reservoirs across the central and southern United States. They are characterized by their wide, flat head and broad mouth, which gives them their name.

Flatheads are also known as “mudcats” due to their preference for muddy bottoms and submerged cover such as logs, brush piles, and rock ledges. These nocturnal predators are opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of live baits including fish, crayfish, and large insects. Flathead catfish are highly sought after by anglers for their impressive size and powerful fighting ability. They are known to grow to massive proportions, with individuals weighing over 100 pounds not uncommon in some waters.

Catching flathead catfish often requires specialized techniques such as fishing with live bait or using large, sturdy tackle to handle their formidable strength. Despite their elusive nature, the thrill of hooking into a trophy-sized flathead catfish makes them a prized catch among freshwater anglers.

Tips For Catfishing
Tips For Catfishing

3. Blue Catfish

Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) are one of the largest species of catfish found in North America, inhabiting rivers, reservoirs, and large freshwater systems throughout the central and southern United States. Known for their distinctive blue-gray coloration and deeply forked tail, these fish can grow to impressive sizes, with individuals exceeding 100 pounds in weight.

Blue catfish are highly prized by anglers for their size, strength, and delicious flesh, making them a popular target for both recreational and commercial fishing. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide variety of prey including fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects. Blue catfish are often targeted using a variety of fishing techniques such as drift fishing with cut bait or live bait, bottom fishing with stink bait or chicken liver, and trolling with large lures or jigs.

Due to their size and powerful fighting ability, landing a trophy-sized blue catfish can provide an exhilarating challenge for anglers of all skill levels. However, conservation efforts are important to ensure sustainable populations of these iconic freshwater fish for future generations of anglers to enjoy.

4. Bullhead

Bullhead catfish, belonging to the genus Ameiurus, are a group of small to medium-sized catfish species found in freshwater bodies across North America. They are known for their stout bodies, rounded heads, and distinctive barbels surrounding their mouths, which they use to locate food in murky waters.

Bullheads typically prefer slow-moving or stagnant waters such as ponds, lakes, and sluggish streams with muddy or sandy bottoms. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide variety of prey including insects, crustaceans, small fish, and organic detritus. Bullhead catfish are popular among anglers, especially beginners, due to their abundance, willingness to take bait, and relatively small size, making them an ideal target for recreational fishing outings.

They can be caught using a variety of fishing techniques such as bottom fishing with worms, cut bait, or prepared stink baits. While not as large or sought after as some other catfish species, bullheads provide an accessible and enjoyable fishing experience for anglers of all ages and skill levels.

Ideas For Catfishing
Ideas For Catfishing

Catfishing Tips

1.  Live bait is what blues and flatheads like especially fish. This is one of the best catfishing tips to implement.

2. Blues, channels, and flatheads are low-light predators and they depend on smell more than sight.

3. Always use the right line for catching catfish. They can put up a serious fight when on the hook. Therefore, make sure you have a quality line. Most of the time, you will learn this from experience. It is one of the catfishing tips that you will know but not realize its importance until you experience it firsthand.

Catfishing Tricks
Catfishing Tricks

4.  Be sure that your hooks are strong and sharp to catch and hold big catfish. They should also be the right sizes. Quality hooks will also make you more successful when fishing and this is one of the best catfishing tips to remember.

5.  Use baitfish like shad and perch for blues and flathead. Don’t use stinky baits. 

6. Be aware of the laws in your state concerning fishing and what is legal to use as bait. There are many catfishing tips to catch more fish but you want to not do anything illegal. It is not worth it.

Flathead Catfish
Flathead Catfish

7.  You can use stink bait on channel catfish. Sponge baits or dip bait worms on a treble hook can also be used for fishing for channels.

8. Make sure you are using the right bait. Catfish weighing in excess of 10 pounds eat fish. Hence, use fish baits like minnows, goldfish, shad, herring, carp, chubs, goldeyes, and sunfish.

Catfishing Ideas
Catfishing Ideas

9. Use stink baits like dough baits, dip baits, sponge baits, and tube baits for small catfish.

10. Whisker fish weighing a few pounds can be targeted using night crawlers, minnows, and crayfish.

11. A treble hook may be better for holding bait such as liver or cheese, but a circle hook is effective for practicing catch and release.

Catfish Ideas
Catfish Ideas

12.  Channel catfish are very active at night. But that should not stop you from daytime fishing. They have a ferocious appetite and if you find where they are in the day, you can get them.

13.  Use Google Earth to locate deep creek channels, deep holes, and flats. Then you can focus on these areas to catch some of them. Catfishing tips like this will make it easier to find fish.

14. Catfish feed by smell and touch in murky and muddy waters. This makes it ideal for stinky baits. Try to get your bait off the bottom. Try floating jig heads, inline floats, or bobbers.

15. If you are not getting much response from catfish in one area, don’t remain there until you get a bite. Move to other areas when the fish are not biting. Many inexperienced anglers make this mistake all too often. If you don’t remember any of the catfishing tips, this is one to always remember and observe how long you spend in one location without any bite.

How To Catch Catfish In Lakes

There are many ways to catch catfish on lakes. Trolling, fly fishing, still fishing, and drift fishing are some of the best ways to target catfish on a lake. One of the most effective ways to catch catfish on a lake is drift fishing with your baits under a bobber.

Drift fishing is when the boat moves with the water current and your baits drift along. Drift fishing allows you to cover a lot of water in a short period of time. Additionally, with drift fishing, you can catch a variety of fish as you cover different habitats.

How To Catch Catfish In A Pond

When fishing for catfish in a pond, you can use many different fishing methods, such as baitcasting, fly fishing, bottom fishing, and night fishing. Many anglers prefer to go catfish fishing at night when they are more active and in a feeding mindset.

How To Catch Catfish From Shore

When fishing for catfish from the shore, you can use fishing methods such as baitcasting, fly fishing, and bottom fishing. Use baits and lures that are similar to the hatch and work your way to cover the body of water. Divide it into three parts and cover each part. If you are not getting bites in one area, move to the next one.

How To Catch Catfish In A River

There are many fishing methods that you can use when fishing for catfish in a river. Trolling, drift fishing, baitcasting, bottom fishing, night fishing, and still fishing are some of the fishing methods anglers use for catching catfish in a river. They use bait and lures to catch catfish. However, still fishing and drift fishing are two of the most effective fishing methods when fishing for catfish.

Catfishing Tips For Winter

During winter catfish will be found deeper in the water column as they like deep, slow-moving water in winter. When fishing for catfish in winter, anglers will use bottom fishing to get their bait down in the water column to the catfish. Trolling and drift fishing are also used to target catfish during the winter.

Catfishing Tips For Spring

During early spring, you can target catfish in many different baits and lures. You can use fishing methods such as baitcasting, bottom fishing, drift fishing, and trolling to catch catfish.

Catfish Tips
Catfish Tips
How deep should you fish for catfish?
You should fish for catfish between 15 and 20 feet in lakes.
What size hooks for catfish?
The standard size of hooks for catching catfish is 1X gauge while you can use 2X gauge for large blues.
What is the best time of day to fish for catfish?
The best time of the day to catch catfish is early morning up to 10:00 am.
Where do catfish hide?
Catfish can be found during the day in muddy waters. You can also find them in river bends, deep holes, humps, deep weed edges, drop-offs, etc.
How far should you cast for catfish?
You should cast about 100 yards or more.
How do you find a catfish hole?
Holes on big rivers are usually below dams, near river bends, and near tributary mouths. For smaller rivers, you can find holes below shoals where the current washes away the bottom substrate.
Are circle hooks better for catfish?
Circle hooks are not the best hooks to use. They result in more hook-ups.

The Bottom Line

Catfish are found in almost every state in the United States. Most of them grow to be very large and they are tasteful. In this guide, we discussed some of the best catfishing tips that you can learn to help you catch more catfish.

Unlike bass fishing, fishing for catfish involves some fighting when they are on the hook. You must have quality hooks and lines to withstand the onslaught. You can read this article on fly fishing tips to be a better flyfish angler if you also fly fish. You can also read bass fishing tips, how to catch blue catfish, trout fishing tips for beginners, redfish fishing tips, pike fishing tips, and bluegill fishing tips.