Every type of fishing has its own unique methods and times. But, for me, fishing for catfish is a whole new game. Fishing for catfish takes a whole new approach, and often, a whole new set of tackle.
First, let’s address the perfect time for catfish. Surely, you can catch catfish at just about anytime of the day. The largest catfish I caught was in the middle of the day in an Alabama farm pond. The temperature was quite hot, and I didn’t get many bites even though I knew the water was full of good sized cats. The truth is, night time is far better for catfish. Since catfish are scavengers, they will lay up in their beds all day, and then come out and feed actively at night. Most of the time, if you catch catfish during the day, you have happened to find a bed of them, and dropped the bait right in the middle of them. At night, they will be very active, and you can catch them cruising the channels of a river, or lake bottom. So, if you want to be successful on catfish, plan on spending the night on the river bank, or boat.
Next, let’s talk about methods for catching catfish. In reality, the method is pretty simple. Most species of catfish can be caught on any number of baits. There are a lot of commercial baits available, any one of which will do the job in most areas. Some of these baits can be very hard to handle, and very messy. Dip baits, especially, are difficult to deal with, and can be quite messy. If you get them on you, you will certainly smell bad for the rest of the night! Many times, homemade baits are used for catfish. Anything from cheese to Kool-Aid is used to make a paste, or dough, for fishing for these ravenous eaters. Most fishermen will swear by their own concoctions, and will keep them as secret as the perfect location for fishing them. Another bait that is used quite extensively for catfish is hotdogs. They are cheap to purchase, and stay on the hook well. Cheap hotdogs may catch as many or more cats as the most expensive of dip baits. Again, since the catfish are scavengers, they are looking for something with a strong smell. Often times, the cheapest of hotdogs have the strongest smell, and therefore are the best baits. Finally, my favorite catfish bait is raw chicken livers. This has been the most productive bait for me, especially on the channel catfish that are prevalent in my locale. A couple of cartons of liver, usually very cheap at any grocery store, will last all night long, and catch many fish. The greatest problem with using liver is that it easily falls off of a single hook. This can be solved by fishing with a treble hook, in a size that is compatible with the size of fish you are trying to catch.
Finally, let’s consider the method of catching catfish. The best method is to put plenty of weight on your line, in the form of lead or lead alternative sinkers. You want your bait to sit close to the bottom, without catching it on any structure that may be on the bottom. Finding the perfect depth will put you “in the zone”, and allow you to catch more fish. Some try putting a float on their line, which will work if you are not fishing in water that is too deep. Often, however, in lakes, you have to get your line too far down to put a bobber on the line. If you are fishing in 20 or 30 feet of water, it is impossible to rely on a bobber. Therefore, you must stay alert and feel for the gentle tug of a cat on the end of your line. With catfish, it is important to let them take the bait and run briefly before setting the hook to make sure that they have the bait in their mouth, allowing for a secure hook up.
Catfishing, especially at night, is a great experience. Given the right spot, and sufficient fish numbers, you can catch more fish than on your typical panfish outing. In fact, I have caught more than 100 fish in a single night using the baits and methods outlined in this article! One word of warning: remember those sharp fins when fishing at night. The wrong grip can cause you to be in pain for the rest of the night!