How to catch a record catfish in Utah

Catching large catfish is, like most other things, a function of knowledge. You need to understand your prey, their habits and idiosyncrasies. You also need to understand their environment.
Let%u2019s start with the species. If you want large fish, then only three species are worth consideration in the U.S. in freshwater. I They are the Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus). the Channel Catfish (Ictalurus puntatus), and the Flathead Catfish (Pylodictus olivaris). All other species are either too small to bother with, or their range is too limited. In Utah, for good-sized catfish, your choices are limited to just one species; the Channel catfish. But you still need to understand the habits of catfish in general, and the different species to be able to target them successfully. Catching large catfish is, like most other things, a function of knowledge. You need to understand your prey, their habits and idiosyncrasies. You also also need to understand their environment.
The Blue Catfish is a true %u2018giant%u2019, and throughout it%u2019s range it is the largest sportfish available. Blues are a fish of large reservoirs and rivers, and especially beneath tail races in swift current. These bruisers can top 100 pounds, and 50 pounders are not uncommon. Blue Catfish are native to the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi River Basins, but their range has been expanded through various stocking programs. Like the Channel Catfish, they are opportunistic feeders with a varied diet, but the large ones are always caught on whole live fish, such as large shad and bluegills (where legal).
The Channel Catfish is very similar to the Blue Cat, being slightly smaller and with a greater range and tolerance for more environments. Their ranges overlap, and they often interbreed, as their spawning habits are nearly identical. Channel Cats can in excess of 50 pounds, with 20 pounders common. They also are fond of tailraces, but can live in smaller lakes, rivers and even farm ponds. Channel Cats are native to the Eastern US from southern Canada south to northern Mexico, east of the Rockies and the Appalachians. Their range has been expanded to almost everywhere in the US through stocking. They are also raised commercially. Both the Blue and Channel Catfish spawn in early late spring when water temperatures approach 75 degrees. Like the Blue Cat, the largest specimens are always caught on live fish.
The Flathead Catfish is another behemoth, growing to over 4 feet long and 100 pounds. They prefer deep pools in creeks, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, with slow current and cloudy water. They will seldom be caught directly below tailraces. Their range is from the Great Lakes south along the Mississippi River Basin to the Gulf States. Flatheads are strictly predators and only eat live food, mainly fish. They tend to be moody, and become inactive in cold water.
The largest catfish are almost always caught on either jug lines or trot lines. Suitable rods and reels for large catfish are heavy freshwater action rods from 7-12 feet long, with powerful baitcasting reels. Your line should be no less than 20 pound test, as you will be using baits weighing in excess of 1 ounce in fast waters.
Jug lines are simply plastic sealed jugs with lines attached. They can be allowed to drift free, or anchrored to the bottom. Usually, 6-12 jug lines will be baited with live bait, using 2/0 or larger hooks, dropped from a boat and allowed to drift. The fisherman will follow them, and when one bobs, or takes off in an unexpected direction, the line is pulled in, usually with a large, protesting catfish on the end.
A trotline is a heavy line strung between town trees, or anchored on the bottom at one end, with 25-50 dropper lines with 2/0 hooks and live bait. The lines are left unattended and %u2018run%u2019 periodically to re-bait and remove fish. Both juglines and trotlines are great ways to catch a lot of fish in a relatively short time. A variation of the trot line is the rubber band line, where the deep end is anchored with a rubber sling on the end, and the other end is attached to a tree or other anchor point on shore. They can be run by pulling in the line, which stretched the rubber band on the other end, re-baiting and removing fish, then slowly allowing the contracting rubber sling to pull the line back out. They are a bit more dangerous to use, because if you let the line slip while running it, you run the very real danger of having a multitude of large, sharp hooks impaling you, and possibly dragging you into the water. You should always have another person with you when using these types of lines.
If you want to go one-on-one with these organic attack submarines, the best place is in the fast waters below tailraces. You need a heavy rod, large hooks, and heavy weights to hold the live bait against the current. Toss your bait into eddies near the gates and HOLD ON. Tailraces can be dangerous. Stay aware of your surroundings, and be prepared to move quickly should the water start to rise.
No discussion of catfishing would be complete without a mention of the dubious practice of %u2018noodling%u2019. Noodling is simply wading along rip-raps and other structure, sticking your hand in and physically pulling large catfish from their lairs, or allowing them to bite you, and pulling them out. This is cave-man fishing at its best, but not for the faint of heart. A large catfish can hurt you, especially when you are in its element, ie; the water. It is legal in many states.
Flathead Catfishing is a separate activity. Most are caught on trotlines set in slow moving rivers. Again, heavy tackle is required, but rather than the active procedures used to the other species, a more passive method is used. Simply cast your line out near suitable structure, with a live fish on it, and let it sit, and sit, and sit%u2026%u2026 Flatheads are moody and take their time to bite. Patience pays off when fishing for these monsters.

The Blue Catfish is a true %u2018giant%u2019, and throughout it%u2019s range it is the largest sportfish available. Blues are a fish of large reservoirs and rivers, and especially beneath tail races in swift current. These bruisers can top 100 pounds, and 50 pounders are not uncommon. Blue Catfish are native to the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi River Basins, but their range has been expanded through various stocking programs. Like the Channel Catfish, they are opportunistic feeders with a varied diet, but the large ones are always caught on whole live fish, such as large shad and bluegills (where legal).
The Channel Catfish is very similar to the Blue Cat, being slightly smaller and with a greater range and tolerance for more environments. Their ranges overlap, and they often interbreed, as their spawning habits are nearly identical. Channel Cats can in excess of 50 pounds, with 20 pounders common. They also are fond of tailraces, but can live in smaller lakes, rivers and even farm ponds. Channel Cats are native to the Eastern US from southern Canada south to northern Mexico, east of the Rockies and the Appalachians. Their range has been expanded to almost everywhere in the US through stocking. They are also raised commercially. Both the Blue and Channel Catfish spawn in early late spring when water temperatures approach 75 degrees. Like the Blue Cat, the largest specimens are always caught on live fish.
The Flathead Catfish is another behemoth, growing to over 4 feet long and 100 pounds. They prefer deep pools in creeks, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, with slow current and cloudy water. They will seldom be caught directly below tailraces. Their range is from the Great Lakes south along the Mississippi River Basin to the Gulf States. Flatheads are strictly predators and only eat live food, mainly fish. They tend to be moody, and become inactive in cold water.
The largest catfish are almost always caught on either jug lines or trot lines. Suitable rods and reels for large catfish are heavy freshwater action rods from 7-12 feet long, with powerful baitcasting reels. Your line should be no less than 20 pound test, as you will be using baits weighing in excess of 1 ounce in fast waters.
Jug lines are simply plastic sealed jugs with lines attached. They can be allowed to drift free, or anchrored to the bottom. Usually, 6-12 jug lines will be baited with live bait, using 2/0 or larger hooks, dropped from a boat and allowed to drift. The fisherman will follow them, and when one bobs, or takes off in an unexpected direction, the line is pulled in, usually with a large, protesting catfish on the end.
A trotline is a heavy line strung between town trees, or anchored on the bottom at one end, with 25-50 dropper lines with 2/0 hooks and live bait. The lines are left unattended and %u2018run%u2019 periodically to re-bait and remove fish. Both juglines and trotlines are great ways to catch a lot of fish in a relatively short time. A variation of the trot line is the rubber band line, where the deep end is anchored with a rubber sling on the end, and the other end is attached to a tree or other anchor point on shore. They can be run by pulling in the line, which stretched the rubber band on the other end, re-baiting and removing fish, then slowly allowing the contracting rubber sling to pull the line back out. They are a bit more dangerous to use, because if you let the line slip while running it, you run the very real danger of having a multitude of large, sharp hooks impaling you, and possibly dragging you into the water. You should always have another person with you when using these types of lines.
If you want to go one-on-one with these organic attack submarines, the best place is in the fast waters below tailraces. You need a heavy rod, large hooks, and heavy weights to hold the live bait against the current. Toss your bait into eddies near the gates and HOLD ON. Tailraces can be dangerous. Stay aware of your surroundings, and be prepared to move quickly should the water start to rise.
No discussion of catfishing would be complete without a mention of the dubious practice of %u2018noodling%u2019. Noodling is simply wading along rip-raps and other structure, sticking your hand in and physically pulling large catfish from their lairs, or allowing them to bite you, and pulling them out. This is cave-man fishing at its best, but not for the faint of heart. A large catfish can hurt you, especially when you are in its element, ie; the water. It is legal in many states.
Flathead Catfishing is a separate activity. Most are caught on trotlines set in slow moving rivers. Again, heavy tackle is required, but rather than the active procedures used to the other species, a more passive method is used. Simply cast your line out near suitable structure, with a live fish on it, and let it sit, and sit, and sit%u2026%u2026 Flatheads are moody and take their time to bite. Patience pays off when fishing for these monsters.

The Blue Catfish is a true %u2018giant%u2019, and throughout it%u2019s range it is the largest sportfish available. Blues are a fish of large reservoirs and rivers, and especially beneath tail races in swift current. These bruisers can top 100 pounds, and 50 pounders are not uncommon. Blue Catfish are native to the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi River Basins, but their range has been expanded through various stocking programs. Like the Channel Catfish, they are opportunistic feeders with a varied diet, but the large ones are always caught on whole live fish, such as large shad and bluegills (where legal). Unfortunately, the State of Utah has no Blue catfish (contrary to popular opinion). The so called “Blue Cats” that are caught in the state are actually just large channel catfish.
The Channel Catfish is very similar to the Blue Cat, being slightly smaller and with a greater range and tolerance for more environments. Their ranges overlap, and they often interbreed, as their spawning habits are nearly identical. Channel Cats can in excess of 50 pounds, with 20 pounders common. They also are fond of tailraces, but can live in smaller lakes, rivers and even farm ponds. Channel Cats are native to the Eastern US from southern Canada south to northern Mexico, east of the Rockies and the Appalachians. Their range has been expanded to almost everywhere in the US through stocking. They are also raised commercially. Both the Blue and Channel Catfish spawn in early late spring when water temperatures approach 75 degrees. Like the Blue Cat, the largest specimens are always caught on live fish.
The Flathead Catfish is another behemoth, growing to over 4 feet long and 100 pounds. They prefer deep pools in creeks, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, with slow current and cloudy water. They will seldom be caught directly below tailraces. Their range is from the Great Lakes south along the Mississippi River Basin to the Gulf States. Flatheads are strictly predators and only eat live food, mainly fish. They tend to be moody, and become inactive in cold water. Again, unfortunately for Utah anglers, athough there are Flatheads in the Snake River and Brownlee Reservior, the State does not allow the use of live minnows, so your chances of catching Flatheads are very slim.
The largest catfish are almost always caught on either jug lines or trot lines. Suitable rods and reels for large catfish are heavy freshwater action rods from 7-12 feet long, with powerful baitcasting reels. Your line should be no less than 20 pound test, as you will be using baits weighing in excess of 1 ounce in fast waters.
Jug lines are simply plastic sealed jugs with lines attached. They can be allowed to drift free, or anchrored to the bottom. Usually, 6-12 jug lines will be baited with live bait, using 2/0 or larger hooks, dropped from a boat and allowed to drift. The fisherman will follow them, and when one bobs, or takes off in an unexpected direction, the line is pulled in, usually with a large, protesting catfish on the end.
A trotline is a heavy line strung between town trees, or anchored on the bottom at one end, with 25-50 dropper lines with 2/0 hooks and live bait. The lines are left unattended and %u2018run%u2019 periodically to re-bait and remove fish. Both juglines and trotlines are great ways to catch a lot of fish in a relatively short time. A variation of the trot line is the rubber band line, where the deep end is anchored with a rubber sling on the end, and the other end is attached to a tree or other anchor point on shore. They can be run by pulling in the line, which stretched the rubber band on the other end, re-baiting and removing fish, then slowly allowing the contracting rubber sling to pull the line back out. They are a bit more dangerous to use, because if you let the line slip while running it, you run the very real danger of having a multitude of large, sharp hooks impaling you, and possibly dragging you into the water. You should always have another person with you when using these types of lines.
If you want to go one-on-one with these organic attack submarines, the best place is in the fast waters below tailraces. You need a heavy rod, large hooks, and heavy weights to hold the live bait against the current. Toss your bait into eddies near the gates and HOLD ON. Tailraces can be dangerous. Stay aware of your surroundings, and be prepared to move quickly should the water start to rise.
No discussion of catfishing would be complete without a mention of the dubious practice of %u2018noodling%u2019. Noodling is simply wading along rip-raps and other structure, sticking your hand in and physically pulling large catfish from their lairs, or allowing them to bite you, and pulling them out. This is cave-man fishing at its best, but not for the faint of heart. A large catfish can hurt you, especially when you are in its element, ie; the water. It is legal in many states.
Flathead Catfishing is a separate activity. Most are caught on trotlines set in slow moving rivers. Again, heavy tackle is required, but rather than the active procedures used to the other species, a more passive method is used. Simply cast your line out near suitable structure, with a live fish on it, and let it sit, and sit, and sit%u2026%u2026 Flatheads are moody and take their time to bite. Patience pays off when fishing for these monsters.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

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