12 Channel Catfish Fishing Tips You Should Know

One of the very first fish I pulled out of the water as a kid, was a catfish. Widely available, relatively aggressive, and good to eat, the channel catfish is one of America’s most popular fish species. Here are twelve top channel catfish fishing tips, with emphasis on finding these cats in lakes. (A side note: your fishing license allows you to fish for any catfish species, but make sure to check on size and bag limits for channel cats, because they may differ from those of other catfish species.)

Channel Catfish Characteristics

Channel catfish possess very keen senses of smell and taste. At the pits of their nostrils (nares) are very sensitive odor-sensing organs with a very high concentration of olfactory receptors. In channel catfish, these organs are sensitive enough to detect several amino acids at about one part per 100 million in water. In addition, the channel catfish has taste buds distributed over the surface of its entire body. These buds are especially concentrated on the fish’s four pair of barbels (whiskers) surrounding the mouth — about 25 buds per square millimeter. This combination of exceptional senses of taste and smell allows the channel catfish to find food in dark, stained, or muddy water with relative ease. They also possess a Weberian apparatus, which amplifies sound waves that would otherwise not be perceivable.

[dropcap color=”color” ]1[/dropcap] While a few channel catfish are caught at mid depths or near the surface, focus your efforts on the bottom, whether you fish in a lake, reservoir, pond, or flowing water. This is mentioned first among channel catfish fishing tips because it is that important to remember.



[dropcap color=”color” ]2[/dropcap] Still fishing and drift fishing are generally the preferred methods of catfishing in all of their habitats.



[dropcap color=”color” ]3[/dropcap] For the most part, fishing on or close to the bottom with some form of bait is the most reliable way to hook this (as well as other catfish) species.



[dropcap color=”color” ]4[/dropcap] Dead natural baits, cut baits, and smelly bait concoctions are preferred for attracting these scent-oriented fish, but live bait is also a good option, particularly for larger specimens.



[dropcap color=”color” ]5[/dropcap] While some channel cats are caught by casting with lures, especially diving plugs or jigs, this is generally an ineffective method of deliberately angling for this species.



[dropcap color=”color” ]6[/dropcap] If you do fish for channel catfish with a jig, try tipping the jig hook with a live minnow or live worm.



[dropcap color=”color” ]7[/dropcap] In big impoundments, look for channel cats in the tailrace water below the dam, and in rivers that feed the reservoir.



[dropcap color=”color” ]8[/dropcap] Also in big impoundments, channel catfish lake fishing tips include looking for channel cats along old riverbeds and channels and concentrating on the curves, bends, deepest holes, and the junction of channels.



[dropcap color=”color” ]9[/dropcap] Other lake places to focus include ledges, or any place where the lake bottom drops off to deep water out in the main lake; humps or shoals that drop fairly abruptly to deep water; and areas with a soft bottom.



[dropcap color=”color” ]10[/dropcap] Early in the season when the water is warming, try big-lake flats, as well as the area near the dam, particularly the riprap and boulders along the face of it.



[dropcap color=”color” ]11[/dropcap] Fishing for channel cats after dark is often as, or more, productive than fishing for them during the day.



[dropcap color=”color” ]12[/dropcap] If the chances of catching large specimens are slim, use lighter gear to get a more enjoyable tussle with channel cats. Heavy tackle overwhelms smaller fish.

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