Catfish are the easiest fish to catch. They eat just about everything. They are not fussy about line size and just about any size hook will work. However, if you follow this recommended method, you can catch even more.
It all starts with fishing in the right type of area. So how do you find catfish? In Summer you will find them in shallow water, less than 10 feet deep. Look for submerged or downed trees, cattails, or rocky areas because during the day, catfish like to hide. During the day you need to move your bait often because catfish won’t move very far, but if you run it by their nose they’ll eat it. If you are fishing at night they will use their great taste buds (whiskers) to find your bait so you don’t have to move it. Winter is a different story. Look for the deepest part of the lake with rocky areas. People don’t think that you can catch cats in cold water, but they’re just looking in the wrong areas.
The recommended rig to use is incredibly simple. First tie a # 2 or a # 4 bait holder hook to 6 – 20 lb. test line. Don’t use any weight – the weight of the bait is enough. Cut a 2 inch piece of mackerel and put the hook through the skin. The skin helps keep the bait on the hook. Don’t worry about hiding the hook because catfish are used to eating things that have bones sticking out. You can also use anchovies, chicken livers and hot dogs. Contrary to popular belief, fresh bait is best. Not week old, rotten bait.
Cast the bait out, leaving the bail open. It is important to leave the bail open because when a catfish picks up your bait, it will take off like a freight train. If your bail is closed he will take your rod and reel with him. It happens all the time here at Lake Jennings. Rangers from the other lakes will tell you that they also hear stories from people who describe how their rod was pulled in before they could react. 99.9% of the time, a catfish was the culprit. When a catfish picks up your bait and begins to run, count to 25 seconds and then set the hook. If you don’t hook it, cast back out to the same spot because they will come back. When setting the hook – yank the rod as hard as you can.
I have been fishing for over 30 years and my biggest trout was 6-8 and my biggest bass was 12-8 but I have caught a whole bunch of catfish over 20 pounds. Local lakes regularly have catfish in the 40 – 50 pound range, so your chance for a truly BIG fish is better when you go for the cats.