Archive for the ‘Flathead Catfish’ Tag


Often thought of as a fish of summer, Flathead Catfish can provide some great angling in the fall.  From their lair on the bottom of our lakes and rivers, they await the presentation of bait fish and bluegills the current presents.

Flatheads are flat between the eyes and the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper one.  They are a fish designed to attack their meals from below.  Their small beady eyes are constantly looking up for food.  Flathead catfish frequently reach sizes in the 20- to 40-pounds in size.  Some exceptional fish can get into the 100-pound class.

They feed primarily on live or freshly killed bait with Bluegills being a particular favorite.  They occasionally hit artificial lures or cut bait if it is moving.  Catching a Flathead on crankbait, salt craw, spinner or a jig and grub combination can be a real ball.  One can cast a salt craw and then doing a fast retrieve can cause a fish to take it just like live bait.

Most of the river systems of Illinois and Missouri contain these aquatic monsters.  They prefer clean fresh water with a current.  During the day they lay up in holes washed out by the river current.  They will be found in the upstream side of the hole waiting for food to wash down to them.  On the downstream side of a dam, they will be found in the tailwaters.  They like the water around snags and wing dams.

Tackle for this type of fishing is usually pretty heavy.  A Muskie type rod with 20-plus pound line is recommended.  Hooks are usually 3/0 to 4/0 in size and are rigged with egg or slip sinkers up to 5 ounces in size.  Worm or circle hooks work well.

The basic rig is a large hook on an 18-inch leader.  Wire leaders are good as the line can be worn on the mouth of the fish as it twists in the water.  Above the leader is a metal swivel, a bead and a large egg sinker.  The bead prevents the sinker from fraying the knot at the swivel.

Here are some tips for catching a trophy Flathead this fall.

1.  Fish the evenings or early mornings when the water is warm.  That is between 70 and 80 degrees.

2.  Fishing is best during the dark of the moon when the fish will leave their hiding places and cruise the flats in search of food.  Gravel points work well at this time.

3.  The best Flathead fishing is on large bodies of water with current.  In lakes, the area near where feeder creeks enter is often good.  In rivers the outside bend is recommended.  Any area where baitfish can be washed toward the waiting predator is one to be explored.

4.  Invest in good heavy tackle.  Level wind reels and stiff rods make good Flathead catchers.

5.  Be a night owl.  Fish during the time of low light conditions.  Late evening or very early in the morning is when most big fish are taken by anglers.  One theory is that the low light times present the catfish with an advantage.  That is, the low light does not give away the Flathead’s presence in the deeper water but does silhouette the baitfish in the upper portion of the water.

6.  When baiting the hook use only live fish for bait.  Do not bury the entire hook in the bait.  Slip the hook once through the baitfish’s lips leaving the end of the hook exposed.  The same is true if hooking the bait through the tail.  It makes for better hook sets.

7.  Once a fish is hooked do not try to horse him into the boat or up on shore.  Play him by holding the tip of the rod high and letting it tire out the fish.  Be patient and land the subdued fish with a landing net.  A big strong one is mandatory.

Flathead Catfish will never win a beauty contest but they are one of the most fun game fish to be found in Midwestern waters.  With patience and persistence they can be taken all year around.  But they are the most fun in the fall.

PASS THE JUG   Leave a comment

Jug fishing is a staple of southern angling.  It is an opportunity for family and friends to enjoy a relaxing time of the water and still experience the excitement of fishing.  Jug fishing is a hoot! 

Jugging requires reading the structure and forage conditions on a body of water as well as current conditions.  It is often done by parties of several anglers floating on pontoon boats.  It is a great way to view a sunset and enjoy a picnic dinner on the water. 

One sits back relaxing until the action begins.  Then it is a mad scramble to retrieve the jugs and hand line the fish on to the deck.  The fish are usually rather complacent until they realize you are pulling them out of the water.  Jug fishing often yields larger fish.  For instance in large reservoirs the number of large flathead catfish taken by rod and reel is low.  The number taken jug fishing is much higher.

Large rivers and lakes are conducive to jug fishing. Southern Illinois has an abundance of such waters that provide anglers a relaxing way of fishing on hot summer evenings.  Jug fishermen are allowed up to 50 jugs.  They must be attended at all times.  They cannot be left overnight or for any extended period of time.  Your name, address and phone number must be displayed on the jugs. 

Jug fishing rigs consist of a milk, or other plastic jug, tethered with three to six feet of monofilament line, and a 5/0 hook or 3/0 treble hook.  Forty- or 50-pond mono or braided line works well.  Some prefer the two-liter soft drink bottles.  Regardless the jug must be sealed so that it does not take on water and sink. 

When storing or transporting the bottles the line can be wrapped around the neck of the bottle or stored inside. 

A good lake or river map comes in handy as one can see the contours of the bottom.  You should place jugs about 100-yards on the upwind side of a targeted structure and about 10-feet apart. 

On large rivers structure tends to be more obvious.  Sandbars, wing dams, bends, and drift piles of wood all produce fish.  The jugs are allowed to drift toward the structure with the fisherman drifting along behind. 

On a clear body of water night fishing is probably the most productive.  If fishing in daylight the hook should be suspended about two or three feet off the bottom.  At night the hook is suspended about two feet below the surface.  The shallow pattern can be used on shallow water with in a lake with a river channel winding through it. 

Jug fishing is most often done in the late afternoon into the evening. 

In deep water a jug can be rigged with braided nylon line that is either brown or green.  At the end of the line is attached a brass swivel.  Six feet of 50-pound monofilament line is attached to the other end of the swivel with a 2/0 hook and a 1/4-ounce bell sinker about a foot above the hook.  The swivel aids in keeping a twisting catfish from breaking off line.  The rig is adjusted to keep the bait a foot or so off the bottom. 

Bait for jug fishing is most often a nightcrawler threaded on a hook leaving the ends hanging free.  Pieces of several nightcrawlers can be strung on a hook so the juices act as an attractant. 

Once baited up and released the jugs have to be watched like an unruly flock of sheep.  In a current they tend to get lost behind wing dams and other structure.  Often one knows that a fish is on the hook when the jug takes a totally different tack from the other jugs. 

Some anglers paint the jugs bright colors for visibility.  It is fun to watch three or four jugs dancing at once with a fish on the hook of each.  A long sturdy pole with a strong hook on the end will aid in releasing an entangled jug or capture one rapidly trailing along behind a fish. 

Jug fishing is a calming way of catching a nice mess of fish for a late dinner.  One just sits back and enjoys a soft drink while keeping an eye on the jugs.  Once the action begins it becomes a matter of going all directions at once in trying to retrieve all the fish.


Night fishing for catfish is a relaxing and peaceful pursuit. The whine of the reel as line pays out to a spot in the structure or vegetation. It seems so much louder in the night. It is a beautiful sound as the bait hits the water with a muffled splash. Placing the rod in the rod holder the angler sits down to enjoy the experience.

Y-e-o-o-w! comes a cry across the water. Sitting on fishhook can bring home to one that organization is also important in nighttime angling.

Night fishing becomes important this time of year for two basic reasons: weather and recreational pressure. The heat of the day is often oppressive and the cooler temperatures of evening bring out feeding fish and angles looking for relief. Recreational boating pressure from non-anglers makes the daylight hours less productive for the angler.

A fish’s metabolism during summer is at a high point and he feeds frequently. The weather may be hot but there is a distinct lack of fronts going through to upset his lifestyle. Lush vegetation provides ambush points for the catfish to lay in wait and allow the hapless minnows come to him. Competition for the food source from other fish is less.  Weeds tend to scatter the fish of all species.

The water near the surface is warm and tends to be uncomfortable for the catfish. Smaller fish as they try to escape the big guys who are trying to eat them generally inhabit it. The larger fish are deeper in the comfort zone that is best of them.

Sitting on bait is not the only reason for organization in night fishing. Safety is another. It is important that the angler know the body of water well. If not already familiar with it, perhaps one should spend a day or two scouting during the daytime hours.

Learn where navigational dangers are located. This can be things like abandoned bridge or dock pilings. It also should include shallow water areas and submerged logs.

Once back at night, it is important that the angler is sure his night vision is in working order. Do not look at any bright lights, as that will temporarily spoil the night vision for several minutes.

It is important to close tackle boxes and stow unused rods out of the way. The fewer objects you have around the deck, the better for safety. Any tackle or coolers are best located about an arms length from the angler. This lessens the need to get up and walk around. You do not want something that could lead to trips and injuries in your area. It is a good idea to wear a PFD (personal floatation device) in case of an accidental fall into the darkness.

Night fishing is not all that productive right after sunset. One can use those hours to get into position for the nights action. That way one can be sure of finding just the right location for the evening’s activities.

Night fishing is more comfortable from an angler’s point of view. It also is a time when his senses become more alert and fine-tuned to the environment. Try it you will like it!


Most Midwestern and southeastern anglers begin their fishing careers by catching one of the catfish species from the lowly bullhead to the larger flathead, channel or blue cats. It is truly America’s fish. Catfish inhabit large rivers, impoundments, creeks, salt water or fresh. They are everywhere!

I began with bullheads in a creek near my home in northern Iowa. It has become a life long love affair with the whiskered wonders.

Channel catfish are probably the most popular single species of fish for eating and catching. Almost every angler with whom one speaks has a theory on how to fix catfish bait and where to find the big ones.

Catfish anglers are probably the most laid back and comfortable anglers. They tend to like a leisurely time. The rigs are simple with a weight and hook on a line cast into the probable location.

A long slender fish, the channel catfish is a pale blue or greenish above and whitish or silver below. Although similar in size and shape to other catfish, the forked tail and black spots on the side identifies the channel cat. Popular with aqua culturists, they are very suitable for fish farming operations.

Channel catfish reach a keeper size of 12 to 14 inches by their third or fourth years. This age class is generally the best eating fish. The largest fish reach at length of 40 inches and a weight of 30 pounds. Larger ones do exist but they are rare and usually constitute record class.

Channel catfish tend to seek out clean water with sand, gravel or rock bottom. A nocturnal feeder, channel catfish spend most of the year hidden in cavities or lying in deeper pools during the day. They move to shallower water to feed during the nighttime.

The external taste buds of the catfish are located in the four pairs of barbels or whiskers of the animal. These bottom-feeding senses of taste and touch are more important than its sight. While moving across the bottom, they feed on fish, insects, crawfish, mollusks and some plant material.

Cast the line, and then prop the rod up on a forked stick sunk into the bank. Other variations on this theme work from boats or on shore. The basic technique is common to all fishing for channel catfish.

Bait used for catfish is either live or dead and can range from minnows to leeches, crayfish, catalpa worms, leaf worms, red worms, frogs and cut bait. Some people will use chicken or turkey livers.

For the most sophisticated catfish angler there are patterns to fish. One of these is especially popular on small rivers and streams during summer.

Ground pounders wade and fishes live bait. The pattern involves fishing the bait below a slip float and allowing it to drift downstream over the larger holes, washouts, undercut banks, beneath brush piles and other dark hideouts.

The idea is to present a natural presentation of the bait by allowing the current to drift the bait in a natural manner. The bait is set so that it floats just a few inches off the bottom. Good baits for this kind of fishing include minnows, grasshoppers, crayfish and nightcrawlers. These are natural forage for the catfish usually swept away into the current during rain or flooding.

During periods of overcast or drizzle, channel cats cruise the flats in search of food much as they do at night. Fishing in such conditions calls for a 3-way rig. One of the swivels attaches to the line that goes to the rod. The second swivel attaches to a drop line of about 8 inches that has a heavy sinker on it. The third swivel goes to a line of about three-feet in length and has a hook on the end. The bait on the hook floats off the bottom and present either a minnow or leech in a natural looking presentation.

Cast upstream, allowing the bait to wash along the bottom and fall off the edge into any holes. Catfish will often be waiting in ambush.

Another pattern for the ground pounder is looking for a point of land or a large tree that has fallen into the water and is blocking current. Often fish are in the eddy hole behind the current break.

It is a good idea to remember that catfish love cover. They will hold around rocks and stumps in rough areas. Once one sets the hook, the fish will do his best to break the line. It is a good idea to use a tough line of at least 12-pound test and the same color as the water. If seeking larger fish, try one of the braided lines with more strength.

Tough line helps prevent the sandpaper-like teeth of the catfish from wearing or weakening the line. That can cause a beak at the most inopportune time. A high quality tough line will allow the angler to fish around rocky, stumpy underwater terrain.

Catfishing is a great way to spend the day or to introduce someone new to the sport. It provides action and good chance of success with a great dinner in the evening. With some of these tips, anglers can fish more rivers and streams closer to home. It will increase quality time on the water for young and old.


May is a time for catfishing from the banks of Rend Lake.  Spawning cats prowl the shoreline of this 18,000-acre reservoir in search of bedding areas, mates and later in protection of the fry.  It is an excellent time for anglers to also prowl the shoreline in search of a mess of fish for a family meal. 

Rend Lake is found in Franklin and Jefferson Counties just off Interstate 57.  It contains some 162-miles of shoreline much of which contains prime habitat for spawning catfish.  Especially productive are the coves near campgrounds and rip rap at boat ramps. 

The “11th Commandment” for catfish anglers is “Know Thy Water.”  Life beneath the surface is dependant upon the plant nutrients, both mineral and organic, dissolved the water.  The nutrients enter the food chain from both wind and water runoff that happens each spring.  They contribute to the plant growth which contributes to forage fish growth.  In turn that leads to the catfish population that is so healthy in this lake. 

Mike Hoe, IDNR Fisheries Biologist for Rend Lake, reports that both the channel and flathead catfish populations of the lake are in good shape.  Fishing prospects for several years has been excellent and he sees no reason to change his prognosis for this year.  

There is a strong natural reproduction in the lake.  Hooe’s most recent surveys of the catfishery find that the Channel cats ranged in the 1 to l 1/2 pound range.  He did find fish up to seven pounds in his survey nets.  The Flathead populations ranged up to 20 pounds with some fish even larger. 

Most of the flatheads are taken by jug fishermen at night.  A few are taken by hook and line anglers.  The latter take mainly channel catfish the basic staple of the lake. 

Shore fishing is permitted virtually all over the lake.  However, anglers should stop by the Corps of Engineers office to obtain a parking permit for the lots that are owned by them.  Parking in the state park areas is free. 

Tackle for shore fishing catfish is pretty basic.  It consists of a rod and reel with monofilament line of about 12-pound test.  The terminal tackle is usually a 1/0 hook suspended about 18-inches below a small float.  Bait is generally a night crawler but other baits such as chicken liver, cut shad, and dough balls are sometimes used.  For those using dip baits (cheese bait) the plastic dip worms are used instead of the bait hook.  Some people prefer treble hooks but those wanting to release their fish are advised to use a single hook as it is easier to remove. 

For those who really like shore fishing, a lawn chair, cooler, and grill might be a welcome addition.  There is nothing like the comforts of home when fishing for catfish. 

Catfish are a basic fish for teaching kids and other novices to enjoy the sport of fishing.  They are easy to catch and pull hard providing and exciting experience.  With the big Memorial Day holiday weekend coming up soon, it might be a good time to plan a trip to Rend Lake for a catfishing excursion.


Usually when one talks about Illinois catfish lakes, they are Channel Catfish waters. BaldwinLake, in St. Clair and Randolph counties, does have a channel catfish population it is not the one producing large fish.  The competition for food is too great in this lake.  Catfish action here is with the Blues and Flatheads.

 Blue catfish in this lake run from 8 to 60 pounds in weight.  Sixty-three pound fish have been caught.  Flatheads tend to be from seven to 30 pounds with 63-pounds being the largest caught.  It is believed that 70-pound plus fish live in the lake. 

The blue catfish feed on the extensive shad forage base and are most often taken by anglers using shad for bait.  There both Gizzard Shad and Threadfin Shad are present.  Both populations do well in the warm water of this cooling lake.  Threadfin shad die in other lakes when the water temperatures reach 47-degrees and lower.  As a result, some IDNR fisheries managers from other parts of the state will capture threadfin at Baldwin and transfer them to lakes in their areas.

 The Flatheads also like the shad but will feed just as well on bluegills.  Because of the flathead consumption of bluegills the bluegill population is just OK.  No real large fish are caught.  However, another sunfish is doing very well. 

Redear sunfish have flourished since being reintroduced into the lake. They are about 10-inches in length at this time which has surprised biologists.  The Longear sunfish and Bluegills are not doing as well.

 Largemouth bass in the 3 to 5-pound range are present but they are not caught by anglers in any great numbers.  Hybrid bass, a cross between white bass and stripers, were once a great species in this lake but they have not been stocked in the lake for a number of years and do not reproduce.  Some hybrids are caught each year but not in large numbers.

 Smallmouth bass were introduced to the lake and have adapted well.  Today they are found all over the lake.  When water is being pumped into the lake on the south end from the Kaskaskia River smallmouth tend to be attracted.  If smallmouths are not present in that area you can check at the hot water discharge area.  It is where water is pumped out of the plant in the north end of the lake.

 The smallmouths are up to 5 pounds in size and 22-inches in length.  Most are in the three to five pound class. 

Most people tend to fish the north end of the lake near the levy at the hot water discharge in the fall and winter.  Most of the south half of the lake is closed then as a refuge for migrating waterfowl.

 Parking for levy anglers can be found in the northwest portion of the lake area.  The boat launch is just south of the parking area.

 BaldwinLake is found in the Baldwin Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area.  The 2,018-acre perched cooling lake is owned by the Illinois Power Company but is leased to the IDNR to manage for recreational use.  Illinois Route 154 runs through the town of Baldwin.  In Baldwin, anglers can turn north on 5th Street and travel 4 miles to the intersection of 5th and Risdon School Road just past the power station.  Turn west and the park entrance is about a mile.


Carlyle is the largest inland lake in Illinois. Located about 50 miles east of St. Louis in Clinton, Bond and Fayette Counties, it is accessible via Interstate 64 and U.S. Route 50. The lake is a reservoir formed by the damming of the Kaskaskia River near Carlyle, Illinois in 1966. This Corps of Engineers lake is 24,580 acres in size with a shoreline of about 85 miles.

Rectangular in shape it is 15 miles long and 2 to 3 miles wide. Maximum depth is 35 feet with an average depth of 11 feet. During August the lake becomes chemically and thermally stratified and the dissolved oxygen level is low below 12 feet. This causes fish to be concentrated above that level. The area north of the railroad tracks that bisects the lake is shallower with an average depth of about three feet. It can be as deep as eight feet. Most of the better catfishing habitat is found there.

Good baits for this lake include: cheese baits, leeches, crickets, cut shad, shad guts and nightcrawlers. Good locations are the main lake points were creeks meet the main lake. If water is flowing past the dam, then the tailwater below the dam can yield good results.

Channel catfish from this lake tend to average 2 to 5 pounds with most being in the 1 to 3 ½ pound sizes. During some of the annual surveys taken by the IDNR 13 pound fish are found. Net catches done by the IDNR indicate that the abundance of channel and flathead catfish is at or above the mean for the last 10 years. Flatheads in the 3 to 7 pound class dominate the fall surveys. Flatheads up to 20 pounds are collected by biologists.

The flatheads in the lake tend to be 5 to 10 pounds in weight and the current State Record flathead catfish was 78 pounds was caught in this lake. It is mounted and on display in the Information Center at Eldon Hazlet State Park. Big catfish can be found in the spillway area from the dam to the swinging bridge.

There are four marinas on the lake. One is at the north end, just south of the railroad tracks. Two others are at Keyesport on the west and Boulder on the east. They all provide access to the main lake and the best fishing areas of the north end. For access to the southern tip of the lake, there is a marina at the Dam West Recreation Area. The Visitor Center is also located in this area.

The Corps maintains some 800 campsites in eight public campgrounds. Motel accommodations are available in nearby towns. Advance reservations are a good idea due to the popularity of the lake in late summer. Contact the Carlyle Lake Management Office, R.R. 1, Carlyle, Illinois 62231 618-594-2484 for information.

There are daily use fees in place on this lake. They are payable for use of the 14 parking and launch facilities. Self-deposit boxes are located in the fee areas and additional information can be obtained from the Visitor Center at 618-594-LAKE. Camping and cottage rental information is available at Eldon Hazlet State Park 618-594-3015.


Jugging requires one to read the structure, current and forage conditions. Southern Illinois has an abundance of habitats that are fished by juggers in the hot summer evenings

A jugging rig is composed of an airtight plastic jug or bottle tethered with three to six feet of monofilament line and a 5/0 hook or 3/0 treble hook. Forty or 50 pound mono or braided line is recommended.

Two liter soft drink bottles make good jugs. Any plastic bottle will work.

For storing or transport the nylon cord can be wrapped around the bottle. The single hook can be neatly tucked into the plastic base cup.

Before taking to the water check local site regulations to make sure no laws will be violated. Most lakes allow jug fishing but some have site specific conditions.

In fishing a reservoir or lake it is a good idea to get a map showing the bottom contours. Begin by placing jugs about 100 yards on the upwind side of the target structure and about 10 feet apart. This broad coverage increases the odd of finding fish.

In a clear water body situation night fishing is probably the most productive. During the daytime the hook should be about two or three feet off the bottom. At night, in summer, the hooks can be suspended about two feet below the surface. The shallower pattern can be used during the daylight hours on shallow lakes with river channels winding through them.

Jugs can be used either day or night with some degree of success. Many anglers will put out the jugs at dusk and return to collect them in the morning. Such a pattern works better on small bodies of water since sometimes catfish will travel long distances with the jug.

For those very deep areas you can try a deep water rig. This rig consists of Number 18 braided nylon line in brown or green. At the end of the nylon line attach a brass swivel. Then 6 feet of 50 pound monofilament line. Finish the rig with a 2/0 hook and 1/4 ounce bell sinker a foot above the hook. Then adjust to keep the bait a foot or so off the bottom.

On large rivers structure tends to be more obvious. Sandbars, wing dams, bends, and drift piles of wood all produce fish. Jugs are allowed to drift down stream toward the structure with you drifting along behind them.

Baits for jug fishing tend to be worm, minnows, cut bait or catalpa worms. No single type of bait seems to outclass the others.

Once baited up and released, jugs have to be watched like an unruly flock of sheep. On rivers they seem to like to run behind wing dams and hide or get lost from each other.

Some anglers like to paint the jugs orange for visibility. It is fun to watch 3 or 4 jugs dancing at once with fish on the hook. A long sturdy pole with a strong hook on the end will help to release an entangled jug or capture one rapidly leaving behind a fish.


Anglers with long poles and smelly baits prowl the banks of southern Illinois rivers, lakes and ponds to find Mr. Whiskers. Found throughout the Mississippi River drainage, catfish are a favorite with southern Illinois anglers. The forked-tailed channel is the most commonly found, but blue and flathead catfish can also be located.

Along the shorelines of most bodies of water, catfishermen can be seen carefully watching their long poles or rods. Catfish rods vary from a cane pole to more sophisticated graphite or fiberglass rods.

Rods must be sensitive enough to detect a bite, yet stout enough to horse in those big ones. Most are 7 feet or more in length. They usually have stiff center sections with flexible tip. The attached reels must cast well; have a smooth drag, and a clicker mode.

The strong odor of catfish baits are a staple of the sport. The basic theory is to entice the catfish to seek out, mouth and then eat the bait.

Topping the strong odor category are the dip baits. These cheese based mixtures are sold commercially at local bait shops. They are often called “stink bait” for a reason. Many shops stock several different flavors and brands. Water current helps spread the news of easy meals to fish well down steam. The system is composed of a plastic “dip” worm that is submerged in the mixture until a glob is formed. The worm and mix is cast upstream of a likely catfish haunt and the odor spreads downstream with the current. Fish follow the scent back to the bait and hopefully gobble it down.

A little more pleasant to work with are the natural baits used in catfishing. Nightcrawlers, crayfish and minnows yield good catches. These baits do produce an odor that attracts catfish but it is more subtle than the dip baits.

Cut baits are often used by the catfish angler. Bait fish such as suckers, chubs, or shad are steaked and the pieces are threaded on a hook. Some anglers will fillet the bait fish and thread it on the hook.

Rigs for catfishing are uncomplicated. Regardless of the bait being used, catfish rigs come in four styles. The first is a swivel tied to the line and a 12 inch leader down to the bait. Second is a variation of that with a snap that is attached to a short leader of 6 inches or less. These are popular with dip bait anglers who like to frequently change dip bait worms.

The third rig is composed of a three way swivel tied to the main line. A six inch drop line holds a heavy lead sinker. The third part of the swivel is tied to a 12 inch leader holding the bait.

The final rig is composed of a slip float that is held in place by a bead and stop knot. The moveable stop knot allows the float to be adjusted allowing the bait to be suspended at a desired depth. The line continues to a swivel, weight and bait is held near the bottom of slow water areas.

In all of these cases the swivel is used to prevent a twisting catfish from tangling the line in an attempt to get away.

Finding good catfish water is not difficult. The most popular are the tailwaters below a dam. The astute angler fishes the grooves. As water flows over a dam the slower current areas are called grooves. A heavy weight on a three way swivel gets the bait down deep. The bait suspends as the weight sits right on the bottom.

Once the weight is reaches the bottom anglers lift the rod tip slightly. The current moves the weight down stream. Allowing the current to carry the bait and weight along a little and then bringing it back presents it to catfish holding in the grove.

Catfish like current blocks. Shore anglers look for a point of land or a large tree that has fallen into the water and is blocking current. Often fish will be found behind that current break. The water washes will out a hole that attracts catfish.

Another tactic for tailwaters is to cast upstream using enough lead to allow the bait to wash along the bottom. As the bait moves in front of a wing dam or other rock obstruction it is pulled into the eddy behind where fish hold.

Early in the day it is a good idea to fish any water where fast moving water meets still water. Catfish feed along slack water borders.

Down stream, rocks that break the current in fast moving water are good locations for finding fish. Behind them can be an eddy where fish stack up. The angler casts upstream and lets the bait wash around the rock and into the hole. Actively feeding fish are usually found on the upstream edge.

Regardless of the water being fished it is a good idea to remember that channel catfish prefer cover. They are bottom feeders that hold around rocks and stumps.

A hooked catfish it will do its best to break off the line. For that reason it is a good idea to use line exceeding 12 pound test. The heavier line helps prevent the sand paper like teeth of the catfish from weakening the line. Weak lines lead to break offs. With a high quality tough line the catfish angler can fish around rocky or stumpy underwater terrain.

Catfishing small lakes and ponds also requires moving around. Catfish cruise these small currentless bodies of water. Fish need to move as they cannot rely on the current to bring food to them.

Catfish will stay in the deepest part of the water near some structure leaving only to feed. During warm water periods they do not usually feed actively. They will move up to feed in shallow flats late in the day and during the night. In the morning they move under any existing vegetation.

Catfish remain there until the water warms and they become uncomfortable. Then it is back to the depths.


Every once in a while an angler comes up with a non traditional ways of luring catfish. Some are effective and others are not. Both are interesting.

One such way is practiced in small rivers with a light current. Dip baits are popular and the commercial dip bait lures are often used. However, some anglers have turned to walleye baits instead of the dip worm.

Using the walleye angler presentation of pre rigged plastic worms with and without a spinner rig harness you make a presentation that resembles a more natural motion of a worm. The spinning rotation of the blade creates sound waves. The eye loop knot is readily attached to a ball bearing swivel. A trailer hook located within the tail ensures catching short strikes.

Some of these lures even have a dip worm type of body that will hold more dip bait.

Anchor in current, dip the worm in your favorite cheese bait and gently drop it over the side. A one ounce egg sinker placed on the line above the worm provides weight that controls the bait in current.

Once the sinker reaches the bottom let out more line until the worm moves freely in the current just off the bottom. A disadvantage of this rig is that it must be brought up ever ten minutes or so to be re baited. The current has a tendency to wash away the cheese.

Before re-dipping the bait into the cheese mix it helps to dry the plastic with a soft cloth. Cheese mixtures do not stick well to wet plastic.

The multi hooks of the pre rigged plastic worm insure that a catfish grabbing it stays hooked. It is an off beat way to fish that is very productive.

In big rivers you can turn to crankbaits for catching catfish. The technique works best from the first part of May to the first part of August. The water conditions need to be perfect. It must be clear slowly flowing water. The pattern does not work in tailwater conditions.

The best crankbaits usually are small crayfish imitations. They have a dark back and a bright color underside.

Troll rather than cast to keep the bait in the strike zone of the catfish. Only a trolling motor is used and it is used in combination with the boats larger motor turned toward the shore. It kicks the bow out just the right amount to allow the use of more than one line.

The trolling motor allows the boat to move slightly faster than the current to keep the lure bouncing along the rocks. The pattern is run in 8 to 12 feet of water or occasionally shallower.

If the conditions are right this pattern produces non stop action. It works pre spawn on through the post spawn. All species of catfish take the lure.

Bank fishing is probably the most popular method of taking catfish. Whether one is fishing with dip bait or nightcrawler there are some varieties of techniques for the bank fishing angler.

You have to move around a lot during the summer. Catfish move up to feed at night in the shallow flats. During the day they tend to be in the deeper water. In the early morning they will stay under vegetation in the shade until the water warms. They then move back to the deep holes in search of water temperatures more to their liking.

If you move around in search of stumps it yields larger fish. Cast toward stumps, trees or islands. If hung up cast just short of that location the next time.

On windy days wave action causes mud to be turned up downwind of the near shoreline. The wave action stirs up crayfish and insects upon which catfish feed. It is a kind of natural chumming. Cast into such water and enjoy good action.

Speaking of chumming dip bait is that kind of bait. Dip worms with a hollow core and holes allow the cheese bait to seep out. There are a number of cheese and other flavored baits on the market. Most will do an effective job if presented properly.

At the end of the line place a metal swivel with a one ounce sliding weight above it. A plastic bead placed between the swivel and the weight protects the knot. The worm rig is attached to the swivel. Dip worms come with a monofilament leader of 18 to 22 inches length.

Once cast, the reel should be set in free spool to allow the dip bait to settle quickly to the bottom. If there is no bite in 15 minutes, retrieve and clean the worm. After drying the worm with a towel, re-bait and cast again.

Repeat this process three times. If no fish takes the bait it is time to move to another location and repeat the process. Keep repeating the pattern until fish are located. In still water you one can use a float. The best ones are the cigar floats. Fish the bottom of any deep hole first. If no bites, attach the float and fish in the upper water of the same hole until the right depth is found. Generally fish are either in the bottom area or about a foot from the surface.

One more crankbait technique for some tailwater areas consists of moving the boat up into an eddy off the fast water. Cast a floating crankbait into the edge of the fast water. The flow of the water provides the action to the bait. It becomes a waiting game.

The catching of catfish has moved from just a hook and worm suspended below a big old bobber. In the years to come as catfishing gets more sophisticated other techniques will be developed. In the interim these are some for consideration.

%d bloggers like this: