I need any catfishing tips you can share? what baits? Which gear do you use?
There is a skill you must master if you are to be consistently successful. Trout anglers call it ‘Reading The Water’, and it is just as important for catfish. There are certain features you should look for to locate catfish.
1. Bottom Slope-the slope of the bottom determines the current speed and bottom composition. A sharp slope indicates a fast current with a hard or rocky bottom. A mild slope indicates slow current with a bottom of silt, and or mud. Most rivers and streams contain the entire spectrum between these two extremes. Look for Flatheads and Blue Cats near mild slopes with deep holes. Look for Channel Cats off steep slopes with holes, riffles and eddies.
2. Rapids-Rapids indicate fast, shallow water, or a shoal. At the downstream end of all rapids, there are deeper Pools, with slower current, which contain even deeper Holes. Channel Cats will be in the holes of the pools, usually on the downstream end, waiting to grab anything that drifts by, because it will usually sink in the slower water. The current here will contain dazed baitfish, wayward insects trapped in the current, organic trash, invertebrates, and all kinds of things Channel Cats consider yummy. Toss your bait in at the end of rapids and allow it to drift into the holes?%u20AC?and hang on! Most of the time, the strikes will be savage.
3. Current Seams-This is a junction where fast water and slow water meet and run parallel to each other. Usually it is where an inlet comes in, or the water has changed direction due to and obstacle such as a bend in the river, where the outside water is faster than the inside. Channel Cats will find a place to patrol along the slow water and wait for something to pop out of the faster water. Or, if it is a particularly appealing morsel, they will rush in, grab it and move back to the slower water. Toss your bait right between the two currents and let it drift. Strikes will be hard and fast, and with the Fish Finder Rig, it is not uncommon to hook two catfish at once.
4. Eddies-Eddies are where the water has reversed direction and created vortexes (whirlpools) at the point of the change and to either side. This is most commonly seen at sharp bends in the river, or near Tailraces close to the dam, where the river becomes restricted in width. This is sometimes referred to as ‘back-flow’. Eddies are great! They usually contain some catfish. Look for eddies, especially along the walls of dams, where the current is stopped and has to go somewhere. Toss your bait right in the middle of the eddy and let it spin. Strikes will be hard and fast.
5. Other features to look for are fallen trees, large rocks, undercut banks, and anything that breaks the current. Catfish will be found on the downstream side of these obstacles and will usually attack anything possibly edible that drifts by.
In lakes, especially in fall and winter, a boat and depth-finder are almost a necessity. Look for catfish along shelves, drop-offs, old streambeds, off coves, along ripraps and around docks and piers. Under bridges is a particularly good place to search. If you can find schools of shad, catfish will usually be near. Look for diving flocks of birds. This is a good indicator of a school of baitfish near the surface.
Flatheads and Blue Cats are mostly fish eaters, so the best baits for them are live fish, for Yellow Cats, and live or cut fish for Blues. The standard bait for Channel Cats is chicken livers, but they are messy and do not stay on the hook very well. You can wrap them in pantyhose pieces before hooking them and they will stay on the hook, but it is difficult to remove the pantyhose from the barb later. Alternatively, you can use the livers frozen. My solution is this: Take a cup of chicken livers and add ½ cup of salt and a few drops of vanilla extract. Refrigerate them overnight. The salt toughens the liver so they stay on the hook well, and the vanilla makes the catfish homicidal. Shrimp is also good bait, but turtles love shrimp as well. You might be having turtle soup for supper instead of catfish fillets when using this. Of course, Channel Cats love live, cut and rotten fish, so these can work. I have used left over minnows from bass trips for catfish on many occasions. If they die, just freeze them until you need them. You don’t even have to thaw them out. Channel Cats will eat them frozen as well. Another bait I use with good results is to cut up a package of cheap weenies into ½” cylinders and put them in a jar. Cover them with malt or apple cider vinegar and refrigerate overnight. Medium-sized catfish love them. Here is another one: Mix raw hamburger meat with Wearies and just enough Big Red soda to make a ball. Place it in a plastic bag and pinch off what you need for the hook. Carp like this one, too. Cheese, dog food, soap, catalpa worms, night crawlers, grasshoppers and crawfish have all been used with some success from time to time, as well as commercially prepared ‘stink’ baits. Experiment and find what works best for you in your particular location.
Your equipment needs to be equal to the fish your are catching. If you plan to hook a few smaller cats from a farm pond (but beware…some of these small ponds can contain surprisingly large catfish), a medium action rod with medium spinning or spincasting reel would be just fine. If you plan to fish large impediments, or tailraces, you need a long, heavy-action rod, and a serious bait-casting reel. On the up-side, there are many suitable rigs available for a nominal cost that are tailor made for catfishing, such as Shakespeare’s Tiger Outfit, and Zebco’s Hawg set-up. They can both be had for under $40.00. I especially like the new Zebco Bite-Alert set-ups. These are great for night fishing.