Three fishing techniques for PA channel catfish – best places, local baits

Pennsylvania is an excellent place to go fishing for catfish. There are thirteen types of catfish found in this state and the channel catfish is one of the most popular. You can distinguish catfish by their barbels, which are the fleshy appendages that resemble whiskers along the upper jaw and chin. Instead of scales, skin covers the body of this fish.
You can catch channel catfish from the shore or a boat so anyone can seek them out. You can often find them around docks, piers, rocks, ledges and any other type of underwater structures or overgrowth. There are several methods that can be used when fishing for this species but the main thing to remember is that they do stay near the bottom. Therefore, the technique you use needs to be something that will get the bait on the bottom where they’re located.
Here are 3 fishing techniques for PA channel catfish that can be used in any type of water:
1. Casting
2. Drift fishing
3. Still Fishing
All three of these techniques can be done from a boat or the shore and either one of them will get results. It’s a good idea to switch around and try different methods each time you go fishing. Sometimes, drift fishing will get the best results and other times it may be casting or still fishing. It just depends on when and where you’re fishing in PA.
If you’re new to PA, here are a few places where you can go fishing for the channel catfish:
* Lehigh Canal
* Tamarack Lake
* Blue Marsh Lake
* Lake Arthur
* Ohio River
* High Point Reservoir
* Lake Wallpaupack
* Monongahela River
* Lake Erie
* Skippack Creek
* Shenango River
* Allegheny River
* Yellow Creek Lake
* Raystown Lake
The state record channel catfish was caught in Lehigh Canal and you can find this species in all types of streams and ponds throughout the state, too.
When fishing for channel catfish, the bait you use can determine your success. Live bait is the best when fishing for the channel cat because they’re naturally attracted to it. However, not everyone can use live bait and it’s not always practical. If you prefer not to use live baits, then give artificial lures a try. These will usually yield good results, too.
Plastic minnows and night crawlers are often a big hit along with jigs and spinners. Try a few different ones until you find what works best for the area where you’re fishing. Chicken and beef livers seem to be at the top of everyone’s list of favorite baits when seeking out this species. However, processed baits do not seem to work very well for the channel catfish in this state.
PA has different laws regarding catfish that you should be aware of before going fishing. In the eastern half of the state, you can catch and keep all the catfish you want. This is encouraged due to the state of Pennsylvania not wanting catfish to populate these areas. On the western half, there are laws on how many catfish you can take home. Check the laws in your area before you hit the water to avoid breaking the rules and being fined.
Channel cats can weigh anywhere between 3 to 50 pounds. Unless you know the area well you don’t know what size will be in the water so it’s a good idea to get prepared for the larger fish before you head out and you won’t be disappointed if you hook one. Not being prepared will most likely cost you your catch. You may end up watching it swim away after snapping your line into because it was too heavy for the fishing line. A good set-up is the heavy action rod combined with a spinning or casting reel and heavyweight fishing line.
Circle hooks work very well because they will pierce the tough mouth of the catfish much easier and they seem to work deeper in the mouth when you’re trying to reel in the fish instead of working out. This helps to improve the odds of getting your fish to shore.
Be careful when handling catfish and avoid being stuck by their fins. Use a hook remover or a pair of pliers when removing the hook and this will make it easier to get it out without being stuck. It’s also a good idea to wear a good pair of thick gloves when seeking out this species.
Remember that safety should always be your number one concern so follow all of the safety rules for being on the water. Dress in layers, take along some snacks and beverages to stay hydrated and always wear your life vest. Following these tips and suggestions can help to make your channel catfish fishing trip in PA a fun and productive one.


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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