How would I go about catching catfish in rivers?

What is the best approach to catching catfish (any species) in rivers?

River fishing for catfish can be both a simple and a complex activity, as there are several ways to go about it, depending on the seriousness of your intentions to bag fish, and your desire to be present during the catch. By this, we’re talking unmanned fishing rigs, such as trotlines, limblines, setlines and jug fishing rigs. Otherwise, it’s down to you and your rod, line and reel.

Rivers, specifically, tend to have a higher current than lakes or reservoirs, which makes them great for finding catfish, which love current, but tough to fish in, if you are constantly fighting the current. So, the trick is, harmony, Grasshopper. Fish with the current, rather than in spite of it. This may mean drift fishing (following your bait by floating behind it in a boat), casting upstream and drifting the bait down, or, probably the best bet, setting a tightline or a slipweight rig, and leaving it where it is, until you get a hit. Chumming the water in advance, upstream of your intended fishing spot, is another great way to increase the number of finny friends in the neighbourhood, especially if this step is repeated for a couple of days, before you actually go fishing.

If you intend to use an unmanned rig, jug fishing comes to mind as a top way to cover a great deal of river area and depth, from many simultaneously-fished rigs. Jugs have the advantage of floating freely downstream, and can be set up with two or more hook gangs per drop line, so several depths can be covered, as well as the fact that the jugs can float over a wide area in the water, making a catch almost a certainty. Be sure to check your local regulations, regarding jug fishing.


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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