The definitive guide to fishing catfish

The beginners guide to fishing catfish

Catfish is found in almost every state so there’s plenty of them to go around. No matter in what region you live, there are catfish waiting to be caught.

Fishing for catfish is a lot of fun, mainly because of their size and how well they tend to fight back. But the reward is worth it, because they taste very good on the dinner table and there are plenty of really good catfish recipes out there.

While there are a variety of different catfish, such as blue, channel or flathead ones, you need to prepare yourself before heading out to the water.

Fishing for catfish during spring

As the weather starts to warm things up and the days are getting longer this will trigger the catfish’s biological senses and they will begin to move out from their wintering holes. They first thing on their agenda when they’ve left the wintering holes is food. They will want to feed heavily before they spawn.

Catfish moves upstream in rivers for the spawn in the springtime. There is great opportunity in catching catfish by using this annual migratory pattern to your advantage.

The catfish will begin to move up stream in the rivers and as they do they tend to swim in areas they can move relatively fast in, such as channel ledges or deep-water impressions. But they do go into the more shallow areas in their way upstream, because the will have to eat. And the shallow water means food for them.

Fishing with a fishing rod from a boat

It can easily be 4-9 degrees warmer in shallow water then in other, deeper parts on sunny days and the catfish loves to pool in the shallow, muddy waters hunting for food.

Good areas where you can cut them off at the pass as they travel upstream are the shallow flats that’s adjacent the deep water, inside bends and tributary mouths or in north facing shallow banks.

In lakes as reservoirs, the catfish will move into the warmer parts in order to feed. The warmer water will draw the baitfish which in turn draw predator fish such as the catfish as well.

Mid lake flats, humps and feeder creeks are other good examples of where to find catfish. With spring comes the rain, and when rain starts pouring down it brings loads of insects and other small bugs into the lake with it. The catfish have learned this and they know it’s an easy meal for them.

Although the flats are featureless, with little or no structure to them, they still attract catfish. These flats produce warmth since it’s so shallow, and this leads to a large amount of algae from the suns energy. The algae in turn attracts baitfish, shads and other smaller fish which feed on it.

Again, the catfish knows this and it’s like an open buffet for them and other predator fishes.

Wing dikes on rivers is a great place to fish for catfish

Wing dikes are built on rivers to reduce damage from erosion by directing the current from the side of the river into its center. Behind these wing dikes the current is very slow which makes it perfect for catfish to pool in. They can stay here and wait for the food to come to them instead of chasing it down themselves.

If you’re not very used to fish from a boat, making use of these man-made barriers are really smart. The current is not as strong behind them and there’s also not as easy for e.g. tree trunks that float down the river to tangle your anchor line or worse.

If you want learn more about the nitty-gritty details of how to master the art of wing dikes fishing, Michael at Bigmuddyfishing has a really good guide on it.

Fishing from the bank, without a boat

There are of course a lot of bank bound anglers out there as well, and there’s absolutely ways for you to catch catfish as well.

It’s relatively easy for you to take advantage of the springtime awakening of the catfish as well, with some minor changes to the approach. Luckily, the catfish doesn’t know you’re bound to the bank and they are still going to pool in these shallow areas of the water.

Man fishing from the bank of a river

Start out by doing some research and finding areas in the water you’re going to fish in where smaller fish hang. These flats are usually a very good spot if you can reach them from the bank. We know that smaller fish is there, and where there are small pray there are going to be predators such as the catfish.

No matter the size of lake or river, the catfish will have the same internal urges to complete spawn. In early spring their first move is always going to be food, so they will for these zones first.

If you are fishing in a lake, look for the shallow north banks first, since they will be the first to be warmed up in the spring. Look especially near any shallow cove you find on the north banks.

The warm water in these lakes will definitely be a place where you can catch some nice catfish, but other areas as well, such as shallow ditches and the mouths of feeder creeks usually works very well too.

Should you catch catfish during the day or night?

No matter the season, you should always look for catfish in muddy water areas, such as a tributary, where one river flows into another larger one. Other good places to find catfish during the day is river bends, the base of drop-offs or other areas with deep structures.

By HarpersFerryNPS – Aerial Photo of Harpers Ferry, CC BY 2.0

As already mentioned, they also like to pool up behind wing dikes and other similar areas.

If you to venture off during the night it can bring out some excellent fishing. Catfish use their whiskers to locate food in the dark together with their heightened senses of smell and taste. Makes them a predator to watch out for during the dark hours. Common places to find catfish during night is close to flats, points, shorelines and generally weedy areas.

Do you have any favourite spots when it come to finding catfish? Let us know in the comments below.

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