Georgia’s Catfish Bonanza
Where and how can I catch catfish in Georgia?
If you want variety in your fishing, go for catfish. They are in all our waters so you have a wide choice of places to fish. You can try for small eating size channel cats or you can go for a huge flatheads that approach 100 pounds. And you can use just about any method you want to catch them, from jugs to rod and reel.
The following offer a place to catch cats in a wide variety of waters around our state. Check them out for some fun this summer.
McDuffie Public Fishing Area
Located about eight miles east of Thomson and a couple of miles off Highway 278, McDuffie PFA offers seven ponds ranging in size from five to 37 acres. Six of the ponds are stocked with channel catfish. Bank fishing is good and you can use a boat with an electric motor. In most cases you will need a Wildlife Management Stamp as well as your fishing license.
The ponds are maintained for easy bank access and offer bank anglers good fishing. Some of the ponds have fishing platforms on the water that are handicapped accessible. Concrete boat ramps make loading and unloading your boat easy. Restrooms on the PFA as well as hiking trails and picnic tables make this a good place for a family outing. Camping is available on-site but fishing is limited to sunrise to sunset.
Channel cats are the only cats you are likely to catch here and most will be eating size in the one to two pound range. There are cats up to 20 pounds in some of the ponds so be prepared for a strong fight at any time. You can not use live baits like minnows so stick with earthworms, chicken liver, stink baits and crickets.
I grew up less than three miles from the McDuffie PFA and spent many happy hours there. My best luck for catfish came late in the afternoon although cats will bite all during the day. Warmer months were best so right now through the end of September is a good time to go.
Find a sandy spot on the bank near the pond dam and drive a forked stick or rod holder in the ground. Cast out a cricket, earthworm or piece of liver on a #4 hook and a light split shot, let it hit bottom, tighten up your line and place the rod in the holder. Watch your line for bites but wait to pick up your rod when the cat starts swimming off with the bait. Channel cats often bite slowly and you can pull the bait away from them if you try to hook them too quickly.
High Falls State Park
This 660 acre lake in a state park is just a few miles east of I-75 north of Forsyth. There is limited bank access at the dam and at the park and boat ramp on the Buck Creek arm, but most fishing is from a boat. Motors are limited to 10 horsepower and two concrete ramps offer easy loading and unloading. You can be on the water only from sunrise to sunset each day.
Some big flatheads are caught each year with fish in the 30 pound range showing up fairly often. There are tales of much bigger flatheads, too. I took a picture of a 35 pounds flathead from High Falls that was the state record for a short time many years ago so there can be some huge fish in the lake.
But your best bet will be for channel cats. In 2008 there was an exceptional spawn and survival rate and those fish have now grown to a good size for eating. Almost half the channel cats will be in the 12 to 18 inch size and weigh an average of about two pounds. You will have a good chance at a five pound channel cat.
The best fishing for all cats will be in the deepest water in the area this time of year. The old channels at High Falls are silted in badly but the depressions formed by them are still the deepest water. A depthfinder helps find this deeper water to concentrate your fishing and the lower lake will be best.
If fishing for flatheads a live bream or shad is best, and bigger channel cats will hit them, too. For smaller fish go with cut bait. You are more likely to catch channel cats if you use earthworms or stink bait.
Rig up a sinker heavy enough to keep your bait near the bottom and tie your hook on a short leader. Put the bait on a #2 to #4 hook for smaller cats and slowly drift the bait right on the bottom. There is a lot of slimy “moss” on much of the bottom at High Falls and the leader will allow your sinker to stay on the bottom without getting the gunk on your bait.
I-20 crosses the upper end of Lake Oconee west of Greensboro and the lake extends south, covering 19,000 acres and 374 miles of shoreline. Access is good for boat anglers at several marinas and public boat ramps, and bank fishermen can fish around bridges and in the parks. The lake is so big a boat is definitely the way to fish.
There are lots of channel and white cats and bullheads in Oconee but the population of big flatheads and blues is increasing. Oconee may be the sleeper lake in the state for big catfish. I landed a 20 pound blue cat on a spinnerbait three years ago in Double Branches and a 35 pound flathead on a jig and pig last summer in Lick Creek while bass fishing. If you target cats there is no telling what size you might catch!
There are a lot of 15 pound plus blues and flatheads in the lake so use stout tackle if you are fishing for them. Live shad or bluegill are best for the bigger fish but cut bait also works well. For smaller channel cats and bullheads live earthworms are good.
Both big cats I caught hit in the middle of the day but late afternoon to early morning is the best time for catfish. On a big lake like Oconee it pays to bait up a hole for them. Pick out a small cove that drops off to deep water and throw out sinking catfish food for several days. Although cats like the standing timber on Oconee, make sure you pick a cove a good ways from it or any big cat you hook will likely wrap you up.
Come back late in the afternoon and anchor, cast out several rods baited with live bait, cut bait and earthworms and wait for the action. Offer a variety of kinds of baits and sizes of baits since you may draw in smaller channels or trophy size flatheads and blues. You can fish all night during the summer and catch fish.
Although Andrews Lake offers good cat fishing, the best area of it is just below the Walter F. George dam. The bigger cats tend to move up the lake to the fast water in the tailrace just below the dam on the Chattahoochee River and feed there. There is some bank access but a boat is a better way to fish. The dam at Walter F. George is near Fort Gaines.
You can catch a lot of ten pound plus flatheads and blue cats here and a real trophy is possible. The state record blue was held for a short time by a 67 pound, 8 ounce monster caught just below the dam in 2006. Then in February, 2010 an 80 pound, 4 ounce monster caught here set the new state record. There are good numbers of 40 pound plus blues in the area. Channel cats are also abundant and will average from two to four pounds.
For smaller blue and channel cats try earthworms and blood baits fished on the bottom. Bigger fish are used to eating shad injured or killed at the dam so live or cut gizzard or threadfin shad are excellent baits here. Bream and live shad or suckers are best for flatheads but will also catch big blues.
During the day fish your bait on the bottom in the deepest water near the Walter F. George dam. At night you can anchor and cast your bait up onto flats and sandbars near the deeper water. The big cats hold in deep water during the day and move up into the shallows to feed at night.
Use heavy tackle and a one ounce sinker will often be needed to hold your bait on the bottom in the current. Try to find eddies or slack water where the current washes injured baitfish and let your bait soak on the bottom in those places.
Be careful of water release at the dam when fishing from a boat or the bank. Water can rise quickly and become very strong when power is being generated so be aware of the changes. Don’t get caught by rising water and strong currents.
Most fishermen think of spotted bass when the Coosa River in northwest Georgia is mentioned, but it is a quality catfish river, too. From its start north of Rome to where it crosses the state line into Lake Weiss, big cats are caught in this river. Boat fishing is the best way to find the fish here since you need to seek out the places they hide.
One thing may help to make this river a trophy catfish hole is the restriction on eating big cats from it. The Georgia DNR says you should not eat blue cats over 32 inches long from the Coosa and should limit eating smaller cats, so many of the cats here get released to fight again. If you want a fight the Coosa is a good place to head but if you want catfish to eat you would be better fishing another spot.
You can catch blue, channel and flathead cats of all sizes in the Coosa and 50 pound blues are not uncommon. For smaller fish use stink baits, earthworms and liver. For the bigger trophy size cats the best baits are live bream and shad, or cut bream and shad.
The Coosa is full of log jams on the bank and big blues and flatheads love to hide in them. Drift a live bream or shad into eddies created by brush and log jams and be ready for a strong fight. Use very heavy tackle to get the fish away from the wood and out into the main river to have a chance of landing it.
Deep outside bends in the river where the current creates slack water can be excellent, too. You can anchor on the inside part of the bend and fish your bait on the bottom toward deeper water. Drifting it with the current will also take it to where the catfish hold, rather than waiting for them to come to your bait. But they are going to be harder to get out of the place they are holding since it is likely to be in heavy cover.
Also look for current breaks in the middle of the river. Bridge pilings, logs and deeper holes will hold fish. Let your live bream or shad or cut bait drift into those areas and the current will take it right to where the catfish is waiting. Use the current to move your bait in a natural way.
These spots offer you examples of the wide variety of cat fishing hole we have in Georgia. Check them out for some fun fishing and, in most of them, good eating. There are many similar lakes, rivers, state parks and Public Fishing Areas around the state to try if one of these is not near you. The same methods that work on these should work on one closer to you.