Catfish are exciting to catch and great to eat. Their value as a game fish is immeasurable, as they are one of the most popular fish in the country. A lot of this has to do with their widespread availability. They’re found in farm ponds, lakes, reservoirs, creeks and rivers. Somewhere close to you is a good catfishing hole.
It’s hard to find a rural restaurant worth dining at that doesn’t offer fried catfish with a side of slaw. These restaurant meals can be mighty good, but if you’ve ever had fresh caught fried catfish at an outside picnic, you know these fish can bring folks together. The fact they are such great table fare helps drive interest in fishing for them. From youngsters sitting on the end of the dock watching a big red and white bobber, to hardcore big river catfishing experts, “whisker fish” are a fishing favorite.
Catfishing is an enjoyable experience and is pretty simple to do. You don’t need a lot of fancy gear. You can be successful with nothing more than a rod, reel, line, hook, sinker and bait. If you’re targeting large fish, you need a heavy rod with a reel that has a strong drag. You also want your rod to have a sensitive tip, so you can feel subtle bites. Your line needs to be stout. Use at least 25 lb. test line. The weight of your sinker is determined by the current. In a lake, you don’t need a giant sinker. In a big river, you might. The faster it is the heavier your sinker needs to be. In big rivers a three ounce sinker is a common choice. Hooks need to be big and strong enough for big fish. A 3/0 hook is a good all-around catfish hook.
There are plenty of favorite baits out there for catfishing, but for big catfish, you should plan to use either live or dead baitfish. Flatheads, which many regard as the best tasting catfish, prefer to eat live fish. Blue catfish, which grow the largest, are usually targeted with cut bait. Shad is often used, and the smellier it is the better. For smaller fish and targeting them in ponds, good old nightcrawlers and stink baits work great.
Catfish come in many sizes, but the giants regularly come from our biggest rivers. There are dozens of large rivers coursing through the heart of America that standout as catfish destinations. The first to come to mind are the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio. Other large notables are the Wabash, Kankakee and Illinois. These are big river catfish waters. Chances are there is a big river within easy driving distance of your house that produces monster cats.
There are many different types of structure big catfish are drawn to in big rivers. Rocky banks, bridge pilings, snags, log jams, sand bars, and break walls are prime areas. The mouths of tributaries are also key locations. Look for seams in the current, eddies, and drop-offs. Find the bait fish, and you should find big catfish. If you are in a boat, a good sonar unit will help you locate under water flats and deep holes. If bank fishing, focus on visible structure.
On big rivers, whether you are fishing from a boat or from shore, you have the chance of catching a monster catfish. Once you land a couple of these hard fighting, slick skinned, whisker fish, you’ll be hooked for years to come.
See you down the trail…
Pic: Large catfish from big river is a summer fishing favorite.
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