It’s cold outside….but there is still catfish

They are seldom caught on stink bait. In winter, they will eat cut-bait from the bottom, and once again, this is your best bait for winter. Look for them below tail-races and in rivers with good current, along channels with a rocky, gravel or hard sand bottom. Heavy weights are needed to hold the bait against the current, but you can cast upstream and let the bait drift with the current.

Your tackle should be appropriate for large, strong fish.Flathead Catfish (Pyloditctus olivaris) are true behemoths, approaching 100 pounds and over 5 feet in length. They are fish of large rivers, but prefer slower moving currents and more turbid water than other species. They do well in large lakes. They are yellowish/olive on the back with large dark brown splotches along the sides, fading to a yellowish-white on the belly. They have a flat, shovel-shaped tail and a protruding lower jaw, giving them a particularly pugnacious appearance. They are moody, sulky and solitary, making them more of a challenge to catch than other species. They will be in mid-depth water near some structure such as fallen trees, large rocks, holes or overhangs. They move to shallow water at night in search of prey. In winter, they may move to slightly deeper water, but their habits remain consistent. They are often found downstream of tail-races in deeper holes.

Flatheads are strictly predators and will refuse rotting or anything less than fresh bait. They prefer crawfish, mollusks, bass, bream, other catfish, large minnows and shad. They can be caught on fresh cut-bait, but live-bait is better. The best winter method for these leviathans is to slowly drift along and cast a live minnow, bream or large crawfish (sans claws is better), near likely structure,..and HANG ON. They are one of the strongest and most pugnacious freshwater fish in the U.S. Patience is the key here. Work likely spots several times. Flatheads can get moody and may take a bit of teasing to make them strike, but when they do, it is explosive and incredibly violent. There is nothing subtle about these fish.

All that are left are the smaller Bullhead species and the tiny White Catfish. These species are not very important and are seldom targeted by fisherman, except as a last resort, or to introduce newcomers to the sport.. Bullheads resemble smaller versions of flatheads, except for the protruding lower jaw.

They seldom exceed 1 or 2 pounds. There are many different species, but their habits are similar. They prefer small ponds, streams, rivers and lakes with muddy bottoms and slow to still water. They are usually cruising shallows looking for things to eat. They are avid scavengers and will happily eat anything on the bottom that smells. They also like insects, worms, mollusks, and cut-bait. In winter, they will be in slightly deeper water, near structure, but still active. Just throw any thing that smells into 10 feet of water and if they are present, they will cooperate. White Catfish resemble a small albino channel catfish. Their habits are similar to bullheads, They are more likely to attack small minnows than bullheads. You don’t have to hang up your rods just because it’s cold outside. Catfish can provide ample sport to get you through the winter.

Happy Fishing!

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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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