Catfishing Basics: What You Need to Know Before Going to the Lake
Catfishing is a relaxing, challenging and rewarding activity all at the same time. Spending the day catfishing is the perfect outdoor activity for people of any age, and with the right equipment, there is almost nothing that can go wrong during your fishing adventure. With a solid rod, reel, some hooks and the right baits you can be on your way to becoming an expert at fishing for catfish. Now that you have your equipment, here are some catfishing basics to help you get started catching the big one!
Different Species and Where to Find Them
First things first…not all catfish are the same. There are three main species of catfish throughout the United States. The majority of reservoirs and lakes in the U.S. have populations of at least one species of these catfish and they are typically available in large numbers. The three primary species of catfish include, blue, channel and flathead.
Blue catfish, also known as high finned blues, hump-backed blues and blues, is one of the largest species of catfish in North America. Their upper sides and back is slate gray in color, while their belly is white and they usually have about 30-35 rays on the anal fin. Hump-backed blues live in lakes, rivers and reservoirs that usually have clear and swift water. They are fast growers with an estimated lifespan of 20-30 years and they can be found on rocky bottoms, gravel or sand. This species of catfish is one of the most sought after species because of their size as well as the fight they put up.
Channel catfish are the second most popular fish species in the U.S., coming in second to bass in many states. One of the main reasons channel catfish are so popular is because they are abundantly available and they are excellent for eating. Channel catfish are found in rivers, large streams, reservoirs and lakes that have a low to moderate current. This species can be identified by its deeply forked tail, a protruding upper jaw and are usually olive brown to slate blue in color (sometimes grey and blue on the sides) with a white to silvery white belly. Channel catfish also typically have small black spots, but they may not be present on the larger ones. This species usually spawns in the late spring to early summer and can often be found under logs, rock piles and other dark, secluded areas.
Flathead catfish, also known as shovelhead cat, yellow cat and Appaloosa catfish, are well known for their trophy class sizes (the world record weighed 123 lbs). They have a flathead (often looks like a shovel), smooth skin (no scales), long sharp spines on the sides and back and whiskers around their mouth. This species can often reach 3-4 feet in length and weigh in excess of 100 pounds. They are usually pale yellow to light brown on the sides and back with an underside that is usually a pale cream or yellow color. They are a solitary fish and usually live in cloudy water with a slow current and they can be found under a tree, a log or bank.
Best Bait for Each Species
When it comes to bait, everyone has their preference, but here are the most popular baits used to catch catfish:
- Blue catfish are opportunistic predators which mean they will eat live or dead bait. In most situations, the best bait for this species is fresh caught shad or skipjack herring as well as freshly caught fish, such as carp, drum, perch and bluegill.
- Channel catfish are scavengers; they will feed on live or fresh dead bait. The best baits for channel catfish is prepared bait, such as dip and punch baits. Big channel catfish will also bite fresh or dead bluegill, shad, perch and minnows.
- Flathead catfish primarily feed on live baits, such as bluegill, perch, goldfish or sunfish. However, you can also usually catch flatheads with a mixture of cut bait and live bait.
Knowing the basic features of the different catfish species is most of the battle in understanding how to catch them. So, now that you are armed with information, it’s time to get out on the water and start catfishing.
Get out and fish! At Norton Sporting Goods, we have the gear you need to catch those trophy winners! Stop by our showroom today to stock up before your next fishing trip.