Category Archives: Catfish and Bullhead Fishing

Where In Georgia Can I Catch Giant Catfish?

Peach State Giant Catfish Waters

There is something special about catching a big fish, but big is relative. Crappie fishermen want a three pounder and bass fishermen dream of ten pounders. But catfishing is a whole different world, with fish over sixty pounds a reasonable goal.

We are blessed here in Georgia with many waters, from rivers and big reservoirs to small public lakes, where you can catch huge catfish. And there are three different species that have state records weighing over 44 pounds, and two of them break eighty pounds.

Channel cats are in all our rivers and lakes and big ones can be found many of them. Huge blue cats roam lakes and rivers and flatheads, introduced into the state years ago, grow to monster size where they were illegally introduced.

Try these waters and tactics to catch a catfish that will test your equipment and skills fighting them.

Lake Andrews

Lake Andrews is a small 1540 acre Corps of Engineers lake just downstream of Walter F. George. It backs up to the George dam and the tailrace there produces some big catfish. The state record blue cat, an amazing 80 pound, 4 ounce fish, was caught in Andrews in 2010. And a 67 pound, eight ounce blue was landed there in 2006.

There is a good population of cats of all species and sizes in Andrews and your chance of catching a big fish is excellent. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division, blue cat populations are expanding and there are good numbers in the 40 pound range. And flatheads are growing fast, with many fish over ten pounds, so huge fish are not many years away.

For the big blues use cut gizzard shad and whole threadfin shad. Bigger flatheads like live bream, suckers, crayfish or shad. Blues will take live bait, too, but try both cut and live bait by putting several rods out. When the current is strong from power generation at the George dam both species bite better.

Fishing at night this summer is a good bet but when current is strong big ones will bite during the day, too. A boat will greatly improve your chances. Drift your cut bait just below the George dam from the buoy line downstream. You can use a motor to slowly ease down the river with the current or anchor and drift your bait.

Use a depthfinder to find holes in the river bottom and anchor just above them and use a sinker heavy enough to get your bait to the bottom and hold it. Let it sit in one place so the current carries the scent down to fish in the hole.

Further down the river find eddies and holes and fish them the same way. Undercut banks are favorites of big flatheads so anchor above deep water right against the bank, especially on outside bends, and let your bait drift into the hole.

Use heavy tackle for the big fish you want to catch. Light saltwater spinning or baitcasting tackle will give you a better chance of landing a monster fish. Eighty pound braid and a big, strong hook are needed to pull the fish out of holes and fight them against the current.

Altamaha River

For river fishing the Altamaha has a well earned reputation of producing huge fish. The Wayne County Board of Tourism hosts a catfish tournament in Jesup each summer and some huge fish are caught each year.

The state record for flatheads is shared by two 83 pounders caught from the Altamaha, the first in 2006 and the second in 2010. Bigger fish have been reported taken on set hooks and trotlines that don’t qualify for the record, so you have a change of setting a new record there this summer.

The state record channel cat is a 44 pound, 12 ounce fish landed in the Altamaha River in 1972. Although the flatheads in the river have eclipsed the channel cat fishing, you still have a good chance of catching a huge channel cat there.

Live and cut bait work well for channel cats and flatheads prefer live bait. Use big bream or shad and remember bigger baits usually catch bigger fish. And eight-inch shad or bream is not too big for bragging size catfish.

Find deep holes on the outside bends of the river and anchor above them. Drift your bait down into the holes and use a sinker big enough to hold it in place in the current. You will need heavy tackle for these big fish.

Also try setting up camp on a sandbar on the river and putting rods out. The sandbars are usually on the inside bends of the river so use tackle that will allow you to cast to the edge of the hole on the outside of the sandbar. Set out several rods and relax while waiting on a bite.

Big flatheads are caught all along the Altamaha but the best area for big blues is from Jesup downstream.

Lake Thurmond

Usually called Clarks Hill, Thurmond is our biggest lake located on the Georgia/South Carolina border. It produces big flatheads and blues, and there are big channel cats in the lake, too. Flatheads have been in the lake for about 30 years but they have grown extremely fast.

In 2010 a 64 pound flathead was landed at Clarks Hill and a 62 pound blue was caught there in 1979. There is not a lot of fishing pressure on cats so the big ones have gotten bigger and bigger. The Little River running from the dam upstream to where it gets shallow near Highway 78 is a good part of the lake to fish.

Use cut bait for blues and live bait for flatheads and heavy tackle. You can get away with 30 pound test line in lakes since there is no current to fight, but heavier line improves your odds. And be sure to use a strong hook so it will not be straightened in the fight.

Above the Highway 43 bridge fish deep outside bends of the river. There is some standing timber along the old river channel in this area and fishing right on the channel lip near it is a good tactic. Also fish the ends of points that drop into the old channel.

Downstream of the Highway 43 bridge find humps beside the river channel. Humps that top out 20 to 30 feet deep and drop into 50 to 60 feet of water are good. Drop your baits down right on the drop but put some on top of the hump, too. Catfish will move on top of the humps to feed, especially at night.

Lake Oconee

Lake Oconee is a Georgia Power lake just south of I-20 in central Georgia. It has been a sleeper lake for big catfish but more and more people are fishing for them and new records for new records for flatheads and blues seem to be set often. It has produced a blue cat weighing over 47 pounds and a flathead over 44 pounds, but bigger fish are in the lake.

Live shad and bluegill are the best baits on Oconee. Since Oconee has turbines at the dam to produce power and also pump back water at night, current moves both ways in the lake and there is usually some current, making fishing much better.

Some big fish are caught right at the buoy line at the dam on points that drop into the old river channel. Humps in this area are good, too, as are points and humps up the Oconee River and in the lower section of Lick Creek.

Anchor so you can let your bait sit on the edge of the drop into the channel on points and humps. Where you anchor will depend on the direction of the current flow. The down current side of the point or hump, where the current flows over the more shallow water into the deeper water creating an eddy is the best place to have your baits.

Put out several rods with different baits on each, and have the bait on the bottom from where the drop first starts to fall on down it to deeper water. There is a lot of standing timber in the lake off these areas so you will need stout tackle to keep a big catfish out of the trees when you hook it.

High Falls Lake

High Falls is a small 660 acre Georgia Power Lake just off I-75 between Jackson and Forsyth. It produces some amazingly big flatheads for its size and held the state record for them for a time, with a 60 pounder the current lake record. It is an old lake with silted in structure and no power generation so current is not much of a factor.

High Falls is a state park and you can be on the water only during the day, from daylight to sunset. Boat motors are limited to 10 horsepower so you won’t be bothered by skiers or jet skis, and two ramps give you easy access to all of the lake.

Fish the lower end of the lake, from Buck Creek to the dam, targeting deeper holes along the old river channel. The outside bend of the old channel is best and it can be somewhat hard to find since most of the channel is silted in, but there will be a drop you can find with a depthfinder.

Slowly drift big live bluegill or shad along the drop, keeping your bait right on the bottom. There are some old stumps on the bottom but not a lot of cover, so lighter tackle will work. Use a sinker just heavy enough to keep your bait on the bottom and move along the drop with your trolling motor very slowly, giving the catfish a chance to bite.

Lake Nottely

Located right at the Georgia/North Carolina line near Blairsville, Nottely is a 4180 acre Tennessee Valley Authority lake that is very fertile and it has produced a 51 pound flathead. It is one of our best north Georgia lakes to land a bragging size flathead.

The best cat fishing in early summer is on the upper end of Nottely where it narrows down into the river. For flatheads fish points that drop into the river channel with big live bream and shad. Slowly drift the ends of the points with your bait right on the bottom.

As the water warms during the summer flatheads can be caught on the lower lake on deep points and humps. Anchor and fish your bait on the bottom where the hump or point drops into the old channel. Fishing at night will be best.

Coosa River

The Coosa River from Rome to the state line where Lake Weiss starts holds some big blue and flathead cats. It has produced a blue over 60 pounds and a flathead over 40 pounds and bigger fish are there.

Fish the mouths of smaller creeks and ditches that empty into the river with live bluegill and shad or cut bait. The eddy formed by the points on both sides of the mouth of the creek are good places for big cats to hold and feed. In most of the creeks you can anchor in the mouth of them and put baits out on both sides, from the top of the point down into the old creek channel.

Also try outside bends where the current has cut deeper holes and undercut the bank. Let your bait drift into the holes and under the bank. Use heavy tackle to pull the big fish from the cover in the undercut banks and wood that has washed into the deeper holes.

Oostanaula River

The Oostanaula River runs from Calhoun to Rome where it joins the Etowah River to form the Coosa. It is a fairly small river and you will need a smaller boat to fish it and will have to take care watching for shallows and wood in the water.

Some big cats are caught here and the river has produced blues and flatheads in the 40 pound range. There is a lot of cover in the river so you will need heavy tackle to land bigger cats. Live bluegill or shad are the best baits for the big fish.

As on other rivers, find undercut banks and holes on the outside bends of the river to fish. Use the current to take your baits to where the fish hold or let it sit on the bottom upstream of the holes to pull the fish to it.

All these waters have produced big catfish and will continue to be good this summer. Flatheads grow fast and you can expect new records to be landed as the earlier spawns of the introduced fish grow bigger and bigger. Blues have been around longer and there are some old, big fish in all these waters.

Let big cats go so you have a chance of catching them again when they are even bigger. Flatheads, unlike big blues and channel cats, are good to eat no matter what size but give them a chance to reach record weight.

Choose a place to fish near you or take a summer trip to one further away. Use the right baits in the right places and you may get your name in the record books for a new lake or river record, or for a new Georgia state record.

Does the Ohio River Have Trophy Catfish?

Catfish from the Ohio River

Catfish from the Ohio River

New Study Launched to Track Trophy Catfish in the Ohio River

Ohio Division of Wildlife
from The Fishing Wire

The popularity of catfish angling has increased tremendously in recent years and the large sizes that catfishes can attain make them especially popular with anglers seeking trophy-sized fish. Trophy-sized catfishes can be found in many lakes, rivers, and reservoirs throughout Ohio, as evidenced by the state records for flathead catfish (76.5 pounds from, Clendening Lake) and channel catfish (37.6lbs from LaDue Reservoir). However, the Ohio River is the premier destination for Buckeye State catfish anglers pursuing some of Ohio’s biggest fish. The state record blue catfish (92lbs) was caught in the Markland Pool of the Ohio River in 2009. In recent years, however, anglers have reported decreasing catches of large flathead and blue catfishes in the Ohio River, particularly in the Markland and Meldahl pools.

Large Ohio River catfishes present some unique challenges for state agencies responsible for managing the fishery (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois). The Ohio River is a massive system, spanning 981 miles and having 19 lock and dam complexes from its origin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the confluence with the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois. The size and complexity of the Ohio River makes it difficult for biologists to estimate how many large catfish are present and the sizes available for anglers. Also, fishing regulations vary among some Ohio River states for anglers and commercial fishers. In fact, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois permit the commercial harvest of Ohio River catfishes, but Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania do not. In addition, little is known about how commonly large catfishes move between Ohio River pools and between state jurisdictions and move into, or out of, the commercial harvest zone.

In 2014 the Ohio Division of Wildlife initiated a 5-year study with the goal of learning about the movements of large (>25″) catfishes in the Ohio River. Specifically, the study aims to determine how much these large fish travel between pools and how widely they wander within the river and its tributaries. Information for this study will be collected through angler reports and through the use of specialized telemetry equipment and results will help agencies along the river better manage the catfish fishery.

Large flathead and blue catfish will be marked with an external tag inserted near the dorsal spine and released back into the Ohio River. Each of these tags will be imprinted with a toll-free “1-800” number that anglers can call to report catching one of these fish. Catch reports should provide a location of where the fish was caught and the unique identification number on the tag. Anglers that report catching one of these fish will receive a reward (valued at $10-100 and will be entered into a drawing for a $1,000 cash prize at the end of the study. This information will be used to estimate the catch and harvest of large flathead and blue catfish by anglers and commercial fishers.

A subset of these tagged fish will also be implanted with a transmitter (picture) that emits an ultrasonic signal that can only be detected by specialized equipment, called hydrophones. Hydrophones are underwater microphones specifically designed to “listen” for these tags. Each time a hydrophone detects a signal from one of these transmitters, it records the date, time, and the identification number of the tag. So each time a fish with a transmitter swims by one of these hydrophones, we will know when that particular fish was in the vicinity of that hydrophone. Biologists will use the detection history for each fish to track the movements of these large catfish over the next few years. For example, when the same fish is repeatedly detected by a single receiver, we will know that it remained in that area over that time. Conversely, if the same fish is subsequently detected by a receiver in another area of the river, we will know that the fish was moving upstream or downstream at that time.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), West Virginia Division of Wildlife (WVDNR) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have been working together over the last year to deploy dozens of these hydrophones throughout the Ohio River and the primary tributaries to study movements of invasive Asian carp. This hydrophone “array” will also benefit this catfish research as well.

In addition to identifying the areas most frequently used by large catfishes and measuring their movements throughout the Ohio River, this study is anticipated to provide information on catch and harvest rates for these fish. This information will help biologist better understand the dynamics of large flathead and blue catfishes in the Ohio River and potentially identify the need for new strategies to more effectively manage these fishes.

Are Blue Catfish An Invasive Species?

Chesapeake Task Force Looking for Ways to Control Invasive Blue Catfish

Today’s feature comes to us from Bay Journal editor Karl Blankenship; blue and flathead catfish, desirable species in the heartland, are causing issues on the Mid-Atlantic Coast these days.

Action needed to prevent irreversible harm to Bay’s ecosystem.

By Karl Blankenship, Bay Journal,
from The Fishing Wire

People may not learn to love blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay, but perhaps they will learn to love them on their plate.

Big blue cat

Big blue cat

Maryland DNR biologist Branson Williams has to use an extra ruler to measure a blue catfish too big for the standard measuring board. The fish, collected in the Potomac River near Fort Washington, MD, was 44 inches long. (Dave Harp)

A draft report from a task force that spent more than a year looking for ways to deal with the large, voracious – and rapidly expanding – blue catfish population acknowledges that the invasive species has likely become a permanent resident of the Bay, and says action is needed to prevent “irreversible” harm to the ecosystem.

Chief among its recommendations is an expanded commercial fishery that might control the population and create a new product for watermen.

The task force’s draft report recommends a range of actions, such as identifying sensitive areas, such as high-quality spawning grounds, where extra efforts against the predators might protect high priority species such as shad.

It questioned whether states should continue to promote catfish trophy fisheries, and said efforts should be ramped up to warn the public about the ecological impacts of invasive catfish and dissuade anglers from moving them into new areas.

The report was completed by the Invasive Catfish Task Force – a group of state, federal and university biologists assembled by the state-federal Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team to identify actions to control blue and flathead catfish, neither of which are Bay watershed natives.

Most of the report’s focus is on blue catfish, which tolerate moderate salinities and are more numerous and widespread in tidal Bay tributaries. Flatheads are more restricted to freshwater areas.

Nonetheless, flatheads – which are already the most abundant predator in the Susquehanna River – are likely to get more management attention in the future, said Bruce Vogt, acting deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Office, and task force chair. “There is already pretty significant concern about flatheads in Maryland and Pennsylvania,” Vogt said.

The report will likely be updated as new information is gained. The report and its recommendations are now under review by the Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, which could result in some changes later this year.

The report warns that if left unchecked, invasive catfish could cause substantial ecological and economic harm to the Bay.

Two Blue Cats

Two Blue Cats

Maryland DNR biologists Branson Williams, left, and Tim Groves handle two large blue catfish near the Woodrow Wilson bridge on the Potomac River. The fish were collected using an electroshocking rig. (Dave Harp)

Recent studies suggest that growing numbers of blue catfish could threaten efforts to restore species such as river herring and shad, and they may also eat substantial numbers of economically important blue crabs. They could also outcompete native white catfish in some areas, and threaten native mussel populations.

They have become so numerous in some places that they interfere with watermen targeting other species, such as striped bass.

“The expanding range and increasing populations, particularly of blue catfish, have resource managers concerned that without management intervention, the damage to Chesapeake Bay resources may be irreversible,” the task force report said.

Blue catfish were introduced into Virginia Bay tributaries by state biologists beginning in the early 1970s in an effort to boost the recreational freshwater fisheries – a common practice at the time.

Over the last decade, their population has increased dramatically and spread to most tributaries on the Western Shore. They have begun turning up in Eastern Shore rivers as well.

Although they generally avoid salinities higher than 14 parts per thousand, years with high river flows and reduced salinities allow them to enter new areas. In addition, biologists believe anglers have intentionally introduced blue catfish into some tributaries because they want more opportunities to catch large fish.

In parts of the James River, blue catfish are thought to be the most abundant fish, and their numbers are rapidly growing in other systems, such as the Potomac. They are top predators, and will eat most other fish – and shellfish – in the rivers. And, they can reach huge sizes – the Virginia tidal record is 102 pounds.

“In the aquatic system, there is nothing that gets bigger than them – unless it’s another blue catfish,” Vogt said. The task force report warns that blue catfish could double their current range in the Bay watershed.

It noted that eradication of an invasive species is “rarely feasible or cost-effective once a species has become widely dispersed in an open aquatic system like Chesapeake Bay.” As a result, the report focused its recommendations on actions that would help control the population and limit its expansion.

The primary control method it proposes is to promote a commercial blue catfish fishery that would give watermen a new product to market while removing invasive fish. While this is already under way, the report says it may require new investments, such as new or expanded processing facilities, to maximize harvest.

Promoting a fishery, though, tacitly acknowledges that the goal is not to rid the Bay of an invasive fish, but to manage it, especially if fishermen begin buying gear to target catfish, and seafood processors invest in new facilities to handle a wave of new fish.

“Once you open a fishery like that, you are probably in it for the long haul,” Vogt said. “Then the challenge is to come up with a framework that gets fishing pressure where we are reducing the ecological impact, but also sustains this new economy that has developed around the catfish. That’s a tough one.”

In fact, overfishing the population could cause problems. If the catfish were to become too hard to catch, fishing pressure would drop – and the population could mushroom again.

“If you are using a commercial fishery as a way to manage a thing like blue catfish, you don’t want the fishery to crash,” said Matt Ogburn, a researcher with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center who works with blue catfish and is a member of the task force.

The bigger immediate issue, though, is whether a fishery can actually make a dent in the booming population. That will depend in large part on whether markets can be grown to increase demand. Fishery agencies have been promoting catfish, and a nonprofit group, the Wide Net Project, is also working to increase demand for the fish, including touting it as a healthy food to hunger-relief organizations.

While consumer demand is growing, Wendy Stuart, co-founder of Wide Net, said markets for blue catfish ultimately need to be developed beyond the Bay watershed to stimulate enough fishing demand to curb the population.

The group recently reached an agreement with a Boston-based processor to begin marketing blue catfish from the Bay. “Local food is good, but it doesn’t always solve the problem,” Stuart said.

Electroshocking Blue Cats

Electroshocking Blue Cats

Maryland DNR biologist Branson Williams brings in a blue catfish that was electroshocked during a survey of the Potomac River. (Dave Harp)

The Bay region isn’t alone in this approach. A fishery for lionfish is being promoted in the Gulf of Mexico to reduce impacts from that invasive fish. “Harvest pressure is making a difference in that fishery,” said Stephen Vilnit, fisheries marketing director with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and a member of the task force.

“You may not be able to catch the last fish, but you might be able to knock them to a level where they’re not having the huge ecological impact they are currently having,” Vilnit said.

In addition to promoting a commercial fishery, the report suggests that states consider incentives that would increase harvests, such as allowing boat captains to use electrofishing gear that targets blue catfish, which are stunned by a specific frequency that doesn’t affect other fish. Electrofishing has proven to be a highly effective way to collect them. But more studies would be needed to assess the feasibility of commercial electrofishing and potential safety concerns.

The report also calls for states to identify areas with populations of native species that could be threatened by blue catfish and to target those areas for additional removal efforts, possibly by sending out crews with electrofishing gear.

Such areas might include spawning areas for shad, river herring and other anadromous fish species, as well as habitats for shellfish and species with important ecological value.

While blue catfish likely wouldn’t be eradicated from those areas, the goal would be to keep numbers low so they would not pose a substantial threat to native species.

Protecting targeted areas could prove challenging. Ogburn has been tracking blue catfish movements in the Patuxent River, and has found they are highly mobile and could quickly repopulate areas from which they are removed.

“If you want to remove blue catfish from Jug Bay, you would essentially have to remove blue catfish from the entire Patuxent River,” Ogburn said.

Vogt agreed that “it probably won’t work everywhere,” but said task force members did not want to write off all areas. “People thought it might make sense to try in a few places but we have to be smart about what places we choose,” he said.

In a possiby controversial recommendation, the task force said the benefits of removing dams should be weighed against the potential that such action could open the door for catfish to reach new areas. For instance, a new fishway at Bosher’s Dam outside Richmond allowed blue catfish to colonize the James River as far as Columbia, about 50 miles upstream.

Removing dams and building fish passages to reopen historic habitat used by shad, river herring and eels has been a major Bay Program priority.

In reality, Vogt said he was skeptical that concerns over blue catfish would halt any dam removals or new fish passages. “A lot of people told us that while we are looking at a dam as a barrier, it most likely is not – because people have likely already caught and moved catfish to places on the other side of the barrier,” he said.

The task force recommended that current state fishing policies and regulations be reviewed to identify those that may promote the persistence and expansion of invasive catfish populations, such as trophy fisheries, though the report said both Virginia and Maryland officials seemed to oppose that action in the James or Potomac rivers.

“Managers should discuss the risks associated with maintenance of trophy fisheries,” the report said. “This perpetuates the maintenance of large individuals in the environment for long periods of time.”

Finally, it said improved public education is needed to inform anglers and others about the risks blue catfish pose. That could help discourage anglers from moving fish into new areas, and highlight the concerns to the general public. The public is less informed about blue catfish than snakeheads – the headline grabbing “frankenfish” that invaded the Potomac River a decade ago – even though catfish likely pose a greater threat, Vogt said.

That’s starting to change, as Maryland, supported by the Bay Program, began posting warning signs about catfish earlier this year, and agencies are beginning to post more information on their websites. Still, Vogt said, “awareness is not at the level of the snakehead.”

Information about blue and flathead catfish is available at

About Karl Blankenship

Karl Blankenship is editor of the Bay Journal and Executive Director of Chesapeake Media Service. He has served as editor of the Bay Journal since its inception in 1991.

Catching Catfish After Independnce Day

Classic Catfish

Ichtalurids Beyond Independence Day

By Ted Pilgrim
from The Fishing Wire

Big summer cat

Big summer cat

Captain Brad Durick clutches one of his pets, a dandy 25-pound channel cat.” Photo courtesy of Rippin Lips

Last time the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service took the temperature of licensed anglers, 7-million savvy souls named the catfish their favored species. By comparison, 10-million anglers preferred bass, while a meager million liked walleyes. America’s love affair with catfish dates back decades, even centuries, with reports of 200- and 300-pound blues caught during the early 19th century. Mark Twain revered cats, too, frequently romanticizing the species in print, and once writing of “a Mississippi River catfish that was more than six feet long.”

Rockwellian portraits of Americana commonly depict summertime scenes of kids and crusty characters alike sharing a bank and a bucket of worms in hopes that a catfish might bite. Thank goodness all these years later, a visit to the local river or pond often reveals this same pastoral setting.

Meanwhile, on countless water bodies across the country, hot fishing for great big channel cats awaits any interested angler. Their abundance and potential size are just two among many reasons for the popularity of these barbel-faced fish. One other beautiful basis for a summertime catfish adventure: there are as many ways to catch them as your imagination can concoct. Not only do any of the 7-million anglers stand a fair chance of taking home a catfish dinner, they’re just as likely to land a whale today as during the days of Huck Finn.

Current Thoughts on Catfish

Carolina rig for cats

Carolina rig for cats

Simple three-way or Carolina-style rigging and fresh cutbait are key ingredients to successful catfishin’. Photo by Bill Lindner

Brad Durick, popular catfish guide on the famed Red River of the North, might not wear a straw hat nor clench a corncob pipe, but he’s as comfortable contending with current and catfish as Twain’s historic hero, Huck Finn. The channel cats Durick hunts daily, from May through October, are some of the biggest on the planet. On this crazy good catfish river, current runs bizarrely south to north-rather than dropping toward the Gulf of Mexico-and drains into Lake Winnipeg following a 550-mile northbound run.

Most years, water flows have stabilized by mid July. Catfish have fully finished spawning and patterns become predictable. While most anglers during this time continue focusing on obvious areas, such as visible wood snags, rockpiles, deep holes or dams, Durick has a whole other world of catfish spots to himself.

“Everything I do relates to current,” says the Coast Guard licensed captain. “The best thing catfish anglers can do for themselves is learn to read the water. Every key change in the river bottom is revealed by things happening on the surface.

“Catfish flock to current seams-where two currents come together. On the surface, it’s often a subtle sign. But once you know what it looks like, seams are as obvious as a downed oak tree. Current breaks and their underlying topography are incredibly overlooked, but they have everything a catfish needs-a break from current, oxygen and of course, food.”

Add on scents help

Add on scents help

Powerful new fish attractants like Rippin Lips’ Scent Trail have become increasingly important in the arsenals of many veteran catmen. Photo by Bill Lindner

Durick says that while a big gnarly woodpile might look great, if it lies out of the main flow, anglers will struggle to catch catfish there. Conversely, even a small bush or a subtle hole can gather multiple whopper catfish-if it’s associated with substantial current. One of Durick’s better midsummer spots is a 4 to 10 foot trench cut into the outside of a river bend. His best troughs are often the shallowest ones.

“I really like 3 to 4 foot holes with a trough-like effect. Food is dropping into these spots all the time. And even though there might be strong current flowing into it, there are always areas of reduced water flow where cats can hold and wait for food.”

Associated overlooked summer spots, Durick says, are small holes near a shoreline break, especially those with current seams running along their edges. In higher water years, he’s also had great fishing below dams all through summer.

In each instance, Durick baits with Carolina style rigs-a 2- to 5-ounce No-Roll sinker above a ball bearing swivel and a 10-inch leader of 30-pound test mono snelled to a 4/0 to 8/0 circle hook, depending on bait size and how catfish are striking. He prefers circle hooks by Rippin Lips and Bottom Dwellers Tackle. In heavier current, Durick says big cats routinely grab a bait and run aggressively, necessitating wider gap (larger size) hooks and shorter snells.

Use cut bait

Use cut bait

“Most of the time, I use suckers cut into small ‘steaks’,” offers Durick. “They’re abundant, inexpensive and catfish gobble ’em up.” When available, Durick also uses wild goldeye, fresh from the river. In wetter years, particularly during August and September, leopard frogs emerge en masse. The late summer frog bite can be exceptional, but prevailing dry weather sometimes eliminates this amphibious pattern.

Durick adds another observation about extra warm water. “In the hottest summer weather, for whatever reason, catfish often prefer to bite frozen bait over fresh cut specimens. I think maybe warmer water pulls the blood and oils out of fresh bait faster than frozen stuff. Regardless, I’ve found that marinating or dousing my cutbaits in an attractant called Scent Trail has significantly increased my bites. It’s powerful stuff.”

Catch big catfish

Catch big catfish

In most spots, Durick employs a special 20-pound Cat River Anchor, which he says holds in any type of bottom. He very rarely sits in a single spot for more than 15 minutes, unless he’s fishing after a front, or after a drop in water temperature, which slows catfish activity.

Still, most days produce electrifying action, with channel catfish in sizes you just can’t find anywhere else. If you’re in need of a serious string stretching, you might want to head to the Minnesota-North Dakota border right now, or for a quick fix, beeline straight for your neighborhood catfish river. Fun and big kitties await.

How Do I Catch Marinated Catfish

Juicy New “Meat” Methods Reinvigorate Bait for Catfish

By Ted Pilgrim
from The Fishing Wirw

Mar • i • nate (v) – to put meat or fish in a sauce for a period of time to add flavor or to make the meat or fish more juicy and flavorful.

Which steak would you take? An unseasoned slab of meat, or the same steak slathered with juicy flavors just before slapping it onto a sizzling grill?

On this point, it appears, catfish and humans agree. Among those whiskery Ictalurids, scent and taste are powerful enticements. So it stands to reason why catfish often prefer their meals pre- seasoned and spiced, as opposed to bites of bland and flavorless flesh.

Monster Catfish

Monster Catfish

Whopper catfish like this one are easier to come by if you add “seasoning” like Scent Trail, which puts an added chum slick in the water.

At the recent Cabela’s King Kat national catfish tournament on the Missouri River near Jefferson City, elite catmen John Jamison and Mark Thompson registered a winning weight of blue catfish, employing creative bait methods not unlike those of master chefs.

The theory and practice of adding scent to baits is, of course, nearly as old as fishing itself. In the early days, anglers doused lures with such oddities as anise oil, Preparation-H and WD-40, plus volumes of fishy formulas meant to play on a gamefish’s olfactory abilities.

If you think bass, panfish and trout can smell well, consider catfish, the aquatic equivalent of a truffle-sniffing pig. For fish, the difference lies in “olfactory folds,” the mechanism used to detect underwater aromas. While a big adult largemouth has just thirteen of these structures, a small 2-pound catfish has 142.

Playing on this powerful sense, Jamison-a legendary figure on the national catfish tournament trail-has during the past year made some keen discoveries regarding the scent and taste preferences of goliath blues. “I’m not quite ready to discuss some of our findings,” Jamison admitted following his tournament win. “What I can tell you is at this last King Kat event, marinated baits worked almost like magic. Cutbaits soaked in Scent Trail were the only things we found that consistently triggered bites during the tough tournament conditions.”

At the major one-day event, Jamison and Thompson employed a variety of different baits, including filleted carp, shad and skipjack herring. But bait species itself, Jamison said, proved “almost irrelevant.”

Rather, to induce reluctant cats to grab their baits, the Kansas-based anglers placed pre-filleted fresh or fresh vacuum-sealed baitfish into Keep Kool bait containers and doused them with large volumes of Scent Trail attractant, effectually marinating them for an hour or more.

Spray Catfish Bait

Spray Catfish Bait

The spray bottle is an easy way to freshen baits that may be starting to wash out and loose their attractiveness.

Jamison added that local weather conditions turned what had been a torrid bite in prefishing into a test of patience during the event. “For years, we’ve sort of kept the scent-marinating deal under our hats. It’s pretty amazing how Scent Trail can invigorate and re-energize baits when catfish get fussy and hesitant about biting. Plenty of folks have seen us do it now in these tournaments, so we just figured it was time to share the secret with folks out there who fish for catfish in everyday situations. It’s going to help add lots of catfish to your stringer.”

A super-concentrated bait additive, Scent Trail has been manufactured by boutique catfish company Rippin Lips for the past several years. “The stuff is nothing but omega-3-rich natural fish oils, blood and amino acids,” Jamison notes. “These are the actual scent and taste compounds catfish hone in on to hunt food and eat; that’s it, no fancy fillers or extra ingredients.

“We use the product to recharge baits on our hooks. Every time we reel in, we’ll give our baits a few squirts of formula, which restores the bait’s natural juices.

“In tournaments, we’ll fillet a bunch of bait-size chunks ahead of time and stash them in the Keep Kool. If things get tough, we’ll sometimes pour in an entire bottle of Scent Trail. Really let the stuff soak in. Put one of these baits in the water and you’re setting up a mini chum line of flavor. You can’t believe how much difference this can make in a tough bite.

“It’s like setting the table at dinnertime. Put a bunch of delicious food out and let the aromas work their magic. Pretty soon, you’ve got people from all over the house gathered around the table, mouths watering. Now imagine if people had the powerful sniffers of catfish. You’d have flocks of folks arriving at your table from all across the neighborhood, ready to gobble up the food on your plate.”

Noodling for Catfish in Georgia

On Friday, July 1, 2004 it became legal to noodle for catfish in Georgia. So if you have an overwhelming desire to go down to the river or a pond and stick your hands under logs and into holes trying to find a catfish, you can do so legally now. Noodling season in Georgia runs from March 1 – July 15 so you have a couple of months left to give it a try this year.

Noodling it a tradition in the south and it is now legal in six states. I have never tried it, but have watched it on TV. That is probably as close as I will get to the real thing. There are way too many critters with teeth, fangs and beaks that like holes in the water for me to want to stick my hands in one.

Can you imagine wading waist deep in water in a creek or river and sticking your hand up into a hole in the bank under the water. You might find a catfish. If you do you grab it in the gills and pull it out for supper. If you find a snapping turtle or snake I guess you ease your hand out slowly and hope your fingers don’t become supper.

Give noodling a try if you want to – but you might want to wear gloves!

Where Can I Catch Catfish In Middle Georgia?

All About Middle Georgia Lake Cats

There is something special about sitting by a small lakeside fire on a hot summer night watching lines set out for catfish. It is very relaxing to cast out a few baited hooks, prop the rods in a holder or forked stick and watch for line movement indicating a bite. And the results of the catch, fried catfish with hushpuppies and slaw, is special, too.

Catfish are in all our lakes and are willing feeders on many kinds of bait. They are easy to catch and excellent cooked in a variety of ways. A bulldog type fighter, they will stretch your string and grow bigger than any other kind of freshwater fish in our waters.

Georgia lakes have populations of blue, channel, white and flathead catfish as well as three kinds of bullheads, often called yellow or mud cats. The most popular are the blue, channel and flatheads and they also get bigger than the other species.

Catfish are known as bottom feeders but they will eat just about anything. Tales of them hitting chunks of Ivory soap are common, but other baits probably work better. Night is the most active feeding time for most catfish but many are caught during daylight. Overall it is hard to go wrong no matter when you go or what you use if a mess of catfish is your goal.

Although it would be hard to find a pond bigger than a puddle or a creek barely too big to jump across without catfish in it, there are better choices for catfishing for most of us. Our big public lakes are excellent places to catch catfish. Everyone can fish them, access is good and catfish often grow huge in them.

You don’t need special equipment to fish for cats although a boat can help. Any kind of rod and reel or cane pole will do, and you don’t even need them to land a bunch of cats. This variety can get confusing but it is fun to try them all and decide which you like best.

Everyone has favorite ways to catch catfish and all of them work. Trotlines are used by many commercial fishermen and recreational fishermen take tons of cats on them each year. Jugs work well and are easy to check. Limb lines are a favorite where shoreline trees and bushes make them possible, and set poles can replace the limbs on clean banks.

All the above methods are fun and provide large numbers of cats, but nothing beats the fun of reeling in a big cat on a rod and reel or fighting an eating size cat on a cane pole. There is no reason not to combine several of these methods, putting out a trotline then sitting on the bank nearby with a rod and reel out for cats, or putting out limb lines then going back to the dock and fishing for cats there while waiting on the set hooks to do their work.

Trotlines are simply a main line with short dropper lines attached every few feet. A hook is tied on the end of the dropper line and baited. The main line can be run across a cove or between two trees out in deeper water, and some, especially commercial lines, are simply anchored at each end with a concrete block. Run them parallel to the bank to fish a set depth or stretch them across the cove to cover different depths.

You can buy commercially made trotlines or make your own. Get a spool of strong cord and another of slightly lighter line. Tie a two or three foot section of the lighter line every four to six feet apart on the main line. Tie them far enough apart so they don’t tangle. If you use a two foot dropper, tie them four feet apart.

A 100 foot line with 25 dropper hooks is a good size to use. You can cover the back end of a cove or the side of one with a line that long. It is also easier to handle than longer lines, and recreational fishermen are limited to 50 hooks or less so you can put out two trotlines that long. The law also says you must sink the trotline at least three feet deep and mark it with visible buoys with your name and address on it.

Commercial fishermen bait their hooks while the trotline is on a rack then put them out. Wrapping the main line around a block of Styrofoam then wrapping each dropper and sticking the hook into the Styrofoam works for recreational fishermen. You can put the line out then go back and bait it.

Run your line across a cove or down the side of a cove, tying it off so you can find it. Make sure it stays down by putting a weighed like a half a brick in the middle. Bait up with pieces of shrimp, pieces of cut fish, live bream, earthworms, liver, commercial stink bait or anything else you like. Tougher baits hold up better to the movement of the line.

Bait up just before dark so bream don’t steal as much of your bait. Check your line in the middle of the night and again at daylight, but don’t bother it too much. Pulling it up too often makes it less effective.

Limb lines are a fun way to fish. Tie a line to any overhanging limb that is strong enough to hold a catfish and make it long enough to go into the water. Tie a hook on the end and bait it with any favorite catfish bait. One trick is to tie the hook so it is just at the water’s surface then hook a live bream in the back so it creates a disturbance on the surface when it tries to swim.

Live bream are legal baits if you catch them legally on the lake you are fishing for catfish. You can not go over the limits on the lake you are fishing. Keep them in a live well or basket in the water until you need them. You can have a lot of fun catching the bait on a light pole or rod and reel. Bream two to three inches long make excellent bait.

It is easy to check limb lines by shining a spotlight on them. You can quickly learn how they move differently when a catfish is pulling rather than the live bait you are using. You have to get closer to the line if you are using other baits to check them and put more bait on if it is missing.

Set poles work the same way, but are easier to set out and check without a boat. Cut some cane poles six to 15 feet long and tie a line to the end with a hook on it. Chose a bank on the lake that drops off fast. The outside bends of the old creek channels are good. Stick the butt end of pole in the ground at a angle so the pole sticks out over the water and the hook is in the water.

It is easier to bait the hook before putting the pole out, and you can use rocks to hold it in place if the ground is real hard. Make sure the angle is steep enough so the fish is pulling against the pole and does not pull it out of the ground. A 45 degree angle is usually about right.

Jugs are an exciting way to fish but you need a boat. Use a quart Clorox jug or similar size plastic bottle for this fishing. Don’t use too big a jug or the wind will move it around too fast and far. Tie a dropper line of three or four feet to the jug and attach your hook. A sinker on the line helps and you can cut cost by using an old spark plug tied to the line a foot above the hook.

Find a cove on the lake protected from the wind, or choose one with the wind blowing into it. If you put the jugs out in open water even a very slight breeze will move them all over the lake by morning. Bait the jugs up with your favorite bait and toss them into the water a few feet apart.

It is fun to watch the jugs and try to find them at night with a spotlight, but you will have to wait till daylight to find most. Spray paint the jug with florescent orange spray paint to make finding them easier. Some fishermen even stick a strip of reflective tape to their jugs.

A big cat will pull the jug under but will pop back up in a few feet. You may have to chase them for a while but that is part of the fun, watching to see where the jug will appear and trying to grab it before it is pulled under again.

Some folks use PVC pipe to make their jugs. One method is to cut 18 inch long sections of four to six inch pipe then cap it on both ends. Attach your line and hook and you are ready to go. Another interesting way is to make them out of one to two inch PVC three feet long with caps on both ends. Attach your line to one end and when a fish is on the hook the pole will stand up, making it easier to spot.

Livewells or ice chests can both be used to hold your catch until time to clean them. Catfish are easy to clean but not like scaled fish. Special catfish skinning pliers help a lot. These pliers have a wide pinching jaw that grabs the skin better than regular pliers.

With small cats, cut through the skin around the head then put your thumb in the fish’s mouth. Hold it by placing a finger under each side fin. Grab the skin a the cut and pull apart, stripping the skin off. Be very careful of the fins since they are sharp and will stick into you easily. It is a good idea to clip off the top fin before starting the cleaning process.

With big cats that you can’t hold in one hand, nail their heads to a tree or a wooden bench you use for cleaning fish. That will hold them in place as you strip off the skin. With real big cats you will need both hands to pull the skin off.

After skinning, cut the head off. It is amazing how much fish you lose. It seems catfish are at least one-third head. After cutting off the head cut out the vent with a notch cut then split the belly open. You can pull the guts out easily then.

With smaller fish you can pan fry the whole fish. You can also filet a catfish but you need a very sharp knife or and electric knife to cut through the tough skin. With really big catfish you can make vertical cuts through the backbone, cutting the fish into steaks an inch thick.

Fried catfish are always good but the mild flesh makes them good for most recipes. Catfish stew is a traditional southern favorite. They are also good baked, broiled and sautéed. It is hard to cook a catfish wrong.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, all of our central Georgia lakes are good for catfish. Each has specific species that are more common and they also offer some tips on catching them on their website in the “Lake Predictions” section.

Lake Andrews is a 1540 acre lake on the Chattahoochee River between Lake Walter F. George and Lake Seminole. There are large numbers of four to six pound channel cats caught there at night during the summer. The area just below the George dam is good for numbers of cats as well as some big ones, including blue cats over 30 pounds. Remember that you are not allowed to put out trotlines within one half mile below any lock or dam.

Lake Walter F. George
has a good population of channel cats but the DNR is seeing and increasing population of blue cats, too. There are a lot of both species in the one to two pound range and the DNR suggest fishing in 15 to 20 feet of water for them. Blue cats up to 30 pounds have been taken there in the past few years.

West Point Lake probably has the best population of channel cats of any lake in middle Georgia, according to the DNR. Dam and bridge riprap is a good place to catch them as are the big flats on the lake. Live or dead threadfin shad are excellent bait for them and you can catch them for your bait with a cast net.

Jackson Lake has good populations of channel and white catfish as well as bullheads, and they are the second most harvested fish there, according to the DNR. The average size of channel cats is two to three pounds but Jackson probably has the highest population of channel cats over 30 inches long in middle Georgia.

Lake Oconee has an excellent population of white and channel cats but recently blues and flatheads have been increasing. That means there are fewer small cats but more bigger ones. Live bait is best for blues and flatheads at Oconee and summer nights are the best time to fish, according to the DNR.

Lake Sinclair has some of the highest catfish populations in middle Georgia, with white and channel catfish and bullheads most common. Recently blue cats were illegally introduced and they will grow fast, reaching 50 pounds or more. Channel cats may reach 30 pounds at Sinclair.

Lake Juliette has a small population of flathead catfish but they grow big. They are hard to land because of the abundant standing timber in the lake. Fishing for smaller cats is not very good, with bullheads making up most of the catch.

Lake Tobesofkee has a good population of channel cats and bass fishermen hook them often. Most are in the half to one and a half pound range but bigger ones are present. Trotlines are not allowed in Tobesofkee.

Lake Thurmond, better known as Clarks Hill, is the lake I grew up on and ran trotlines and limb lines on for years. We caught many eating size blue and channel cats and live bream were my favorite bait. When I fished it back in the 1970s and 80s we never saw a flathead cat, but several over 40 pounds have been taken there during the past 10 years.

Pick any middle Georgia lake. Take your favorite bait, or take several different kinds. Set out some hooks and then cast out your rod and reel. No matter where you go and what you use, you will catch a mess of good eating cats.

Can I Catch Catfish In the Summer?

I hooked this big flathead at Lake Oconee in the summer

I hooked this big flathead at Lake Oconee in the summer

The summer is a good time to go fishing for cats. Within the past few days a new Georgia record flathead catfish was landed in the Altamaha River and a possible new world record blue catfish was landed in the Missouri River. These huge cats might make you want to head for your favorite fishing hole.

On July 20, 2010 Greg Bernal and Janet Momphard landed the 130 pound blue catfish while fishing at night in the Missouri River. It took a very short time to get the fish to the boat, only about 15 minutes, but another 30 minutes to get it into the boat.

The huge blue catfish was 57 inches long and 45 inches in girth. It hit a piece of Asian carp.

This catfish was certified as the new world record by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), and replaced the old record that was a 124 pound catfish caught in the Mississippi River in 2005. That fish took 40 minutes to land. Then, on June 18, 2011 a 143-pound fish, caught in Kerr Dam Reservoir

Closer to my home Jim Dieveney landed an 83-pound flathead catfish in the Altamaha River in Wayne County on Sunday, July 11, 2010. This one also took only 15 to 20 minutes to land. It ties the state flathead catfish record caught in 2006 by Carl Sawyer, also out of the Altamaha River.

This flathead, also called Appaloosa cats, hit a live bream, one of the best baits for flatheads. Dieveney donated the big catfish to the state DNR and said it would have been quite a job to clean it, although big flatheads don’t get tough and muddy tasting like other big cats.

This Georgia flathead is not native to the state. They have been introduced into our rivers and have done extensive damage to native fish, especially redbreast bream. That is the reason no limit is placed on them – you can keep as many as you can catch.

Although it is big, this fish is no-where near the world record. According to the IGFA the world record flathead is a huge 123 pound fish caught in1998 in Kansas. Much bigger catfish, both blue and flathead, have been caught on trotlines and set hooks but they do not qualify for the IGFA record book since the fish has to be caught on rod and reel to be a record.

If you like catching catfish, plan a trip. Got to a pond to catch eating size channel cats or catch a big blue or flathead in our rivers and lakes. Now is the time to go.

How Can I Catch Giant Arizona Catfish?

Phillip Smith caught this big Arizona catfish

Ed caught this big Arizona catfish

The Reel Whiskery Deal
from The Fishing Wire

Today’s feature on giant catfish comes to us from Nick Walters of the Arizona Game & Fish Department, offering tips that will work not only in Arizona but where ever big cats are found nationwide.

The whiskered lake monsters are emerging more and more. A sudden, summer catfish craze.

Said local catfish enthusiast Bobby Wright: “I haven’t seen so many people fishing for catfish since Ed caught his.”

Who’s Ed?

He’s Arizona’s latest fishing legend, the definition of doing your name proud. “Flathead” Ed, he is called. Eddie Wilcoxson carved out a new standard in April with a 76.54-pound flathead catfish from Bartlett Lake, which became the heaviest recorded fish of any species in state history. Forums have been buzzing about the record. Challenges are being tossed like dripping laundry. The record must go, some say.

Some anglers are close to the record, as the following stories from the past week will show.

This weekend is a good as a time as any to escape some of the predicted 118 degree days and hide in the night. Or plan a nighttime catfishing trip for the fourth of July weekend. Because Arizona is showing that some deeply etched memories can be made at any time, with just one chomp from a hungry catfish.

Wright, a Phoenix-based member of the U.S. Catfish Association, said he witnessed a potential state record flathead catfish taken from Lake Pleasant around 9:30 p.m. on June 13. The beast, which he guessed was 60 or 70 pounds and is pictured above, was released, he said.

“Pleasant has been producing some very large catfish the last couple weeks,” Wright said.

Wright said Phillip Smith caught the catfish that measured 50 inches in total length (Flathead Ed’s was 53.5 inches), but Smith could not find a capable scale, and so released the fish in good condition. Smith caught the flathead between 15 and 25 feet of water on 30-pound monofilament line and a 10/0 Big River sickle hook with a live bluegill at 1:30 a.m.

Big Arizona Catfish

Big Arizona Catfish

Kenny Walker, also of Phoenix, caught the largest fish in his 30 years of fishing state waters under a super full moon on June 21 at Bartlett Lake. He said the catfish weighed 41.82 pounds.

Walker’s toad was caught with an 808 Zebco reel on an 8-foot Berkley Big Game fishing rod, 20-pound monofilament line and a 5/0 circle hook.

Like many nighttime catfishers during the summer, Wright targeted the cats near the bank, in 7 feet of water. “I had the rod laying on the edge of the boat,” Wright said. “My wife saw it bend and I actually had to catch the pole.”

Get ready. Big catfish will steal your rod.

And there are kitties out there bigger than any of these.

In 2008, through an electrofishing survey on the lower Colorado River, we weighed one (pictured to the right) at 89.4 pounds. He’s still out there, as far as we know …

Every catfish angler has their own technique. Here are more that have been successful recently.

Like Walker, Wright also uses circle hooks, which allow a fish to be hooked without the angler having to set the hook. The hooks are designed to naturally hook a fish in the corner of its mouth – even if the fish swallows the bait – allowing the angler to easily pull out the hook and increase the odds of releasing the fish in good condition.

“Especially if I’m fishing under a float I’ll use a circle hook, because under a float the catfish have to pull real hard to get the float to go down,” Walker said. “Right now most of the fish are being caught off large bobbers. Suspend bait a couple feet from the bottom and hold on.”

Walker said he likes catfishing because, “it’s not like any other fish. You have to work.”

Walker gets his bait, usually bluegill (carp also are effective), dropshotting a ½-inch piece of nightcrawler. At Pleasant, that’s in 15-20 feet of water against cliff walls. The bluegill can be hooked just under its spine (a bit behind its eye) on an 8/0 or 10/0 hook. Match the size of the fish to the hook so that the hook doesn’t overpower the fish.

(But live bluegill are not allowed as bait in all state waters. Refer to pages 12-13 of the 2012-13 AZGFD Fishing Regulations guidebook for details of legal use of certain species of live baitfish in certain areas. Sunfishes (including bluegill, redear sunfish, green sunfish and hybrid sunfish) are permitted on all waters in La Paz and Yuma counties; the Colorado River south of the Nevada-California boundary downstream to the Southern International Boundary with Mexico, including impounded reservoirs; the Gila Salt and Verde rivers, including impounded rivers; urban waters in Maricopa County; and Lake Pleasant, Alamo Lake and Patagonia Lake.

And fish cannot be transported from one fishery to another.)

Back to the fun stuff. Walker said he has a 16-foot center console boat with a kayak on his kayak rack. Because it’s not easy casting the 100-pound PowerPro main line with 200-pound Dacron leader he likes to use for catfish, Walker will use the kayak to drop the bait in his preferred spot. He likes a 24-inch leader on a 6-foot-6 inch tuna rod with Diawa Sealine 40 reels.

“You’d think we were fishing for tuna out there,” he said.

Catfish also are good eating.

If the thought of tasting blackened catfish street tacos with jalapeno slaw sets your mouth watering, you’ll want to get the next issue of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine. Johnathan O’Dell’s “Dining After Dark” article describes the delights of pursuing those creatures of the shadowy deep known as catfish — and gives a great-tasting recipe to use when you succeed in catching them. Subscribe online or by calling (623) 236-7224.

If you have any luck out there, be sure to send your story and photos to

How and Where To Catch Middle Georgia Catfish

Most People Call Bullheads Catfish

Most People Call Bullheads Catfish

Angling For Middle Georgia Cats

     What could be better this time of year than kicking back under a shade tree with a rod or two set out for catfish?  The bigger lakes are churned with pleasure boats and the sun is hot, but you can go to smaller waters and have a ball catching cats. And it is hard to find a better meal than fried catfish.

If you live in the mid-Eastern part of Georgia you have some great catfish waters near you.  From Public Fishing Areas to rivers to state parks, you won’t have to drive far to catch a mess of cats.  You can fish from the bank or from a boat and enjoy the peace and quiet while filling up the stringer.

The following waters are all good for cats and at least one should be close to you.  Pick one and learn more about it by fishing it often or try them all for a nice variety in your catfishing.

McDuffie PFA 

     McDuffie PFA is a few miles from Highway 278 east of Thomson. There are signs from the highway to the 570 acre site and it is open from sunrise to sunset each day.
With a few exceptions, a Georgia fishing license as well as a Wildlife Management Stamp is required to fish there.

Campsites are available for tents and RVs and they have ADA sites, too. There are restrooms and bath houses and some of the ponds have picnic tables and grills.  You can use the covered picnic pavilion.  You may not fish from sundown to sunrise even if camping there.

You can choose from seven different ponds to catch catfish and they vary in size from five to 37 acres. The ponds are fertilized and each fall harvestable size channel cats are stocked in some of them. The fishing is good year round for channel cats since this stocking raises the numbers in the pond and are not all caught quickly.

All the ponds have boat ramps and most are easily accessible from the bank all the way around the water.  Boats are restricted to electric motors only but can have a gas motor attached as long as you don’t crank it.  Your boat must be registered if it has any kind of motor on it.  The ponds are small enough to cover them by paddling a small boat.

You are allowed to use two poles per person but no live minnows are allowed as bait.  You may keep five channel cats per day and you are unlikely to catch any other species from these ponds.  Watch for closed ponds and any special restrictions posted on a specific pond.

Most cat fishermen target eating size channel cats but some big fish are in all the ponds.  Early and late in the day offers the best time to catch catfish and it is much more comfortable to fish when the hot summer sun is not beaming down.

To catch your limit of cats from the bank, pick a spot near the dam where you can reach deeper water.  Bait a #4 Eagle Claw 100 hook or other short-shanked heavy wire offset hook with liver, earthworms or blood bait and fish it on the bottom.  Use a small split shot to take it down but don’t use more weight than necessary to cast it out and keep it on the bottom.  Eight pound test line will get more bites and give you a better fight than heavier line.

Since you can use two rods have a second rod with heavier line and a bigger hook. Bait it up with a big chunk of gizzard or cut bait and fish it for bigger cats. The tougher, bigger bait won’t be eaten off or swallowed by smaller cats.

Hugh Gillis PFA

Hugh Gillis PFA is ten miles east of East Dublin on Keens Crossing Road off US Highway 80.  The area is open from sunrise to sunset and you will need both a Georgia fishing license and, in most cases, a WMA stamp to fish here. If you buy a one day fishing license or have a honorary license, either senior or disability, or a Sportsman’s or Lifetime licensee you don’t have to have a WMA stamp to fish any state PFA.

There are restrooms and picnic tables available on the site and some are ADA accessible.  The 109 acre lake has a concrete boat ramp and a fishing pier you can use.  You can use any outboard motor here but you must stay at idle speed only.

As on all PFAs you are limited to two poles in use at any one time so you can try for eating size cats with one and bigger cats with the other.  Fishing from the pier is often good and about half of the bank is accessible around the lake.  There are channels, coves and points to fish but you need a boat to fish most of them.

Some standing timber was left when the lake was built and many brush piles have been added.  Cats often hold around this wood cover but sometimes are hard to land. They get tangled up if you wait too long to set the hook and reel them in, but fishing around the wood is often productive.  A boat gives you better access to this kind of cover.

Since cats often bite slowly, a good method is to stick a rod holder or forked stick in the bank, put out your two rods and sit back and watch them.  You can clamp a rod holder on the side of your boat, too.  Bait up with liver, earthworms, stinkbait or cut fish and use bait appropriate for the size of the fish you want to catch. Watch your line for bites and be ready to reel in the fish when it hits. Don’t let it pull your rod in the water.

In the summertime deeper water is usually better for cats so fishing near the dam is best.  Look behind the dam to find the channel and fish around it above the dam for the deepest water. You can also locate channels from a boat with a depthfinder. Cats often hold near the old channel.  Early in the morning or late in the afternoon is best since you can not fish at night.

Evans County PFA

Evans County PFA is off US Highway 280 east of Claxton on Old Sunbury Road and is open from sunrise to sunset each day.  It has the same license requirements as other PFAs and the area consists of three ponds.  You can pick from an 84 acre lake, a 30 acre lake or an 8 acre lake to fish.

The lakes have concrete boat ramps and fishing piers and there are restrooms and picnic tables available.  Primitive camping is offered on the area and some of the facilities are ADA accessible.

The ponds are managed for good fishing and they contain brown bullheads as well as channel cats.  There is good bank access available on the lakes and the fishing piers get you out over deeper water, but a boat will let you cover more of the lakes.

Each year there are two kids fishing events at the PFA and the eight acre lake is stocked with 2,500 eating size channel cats for each one. Fishing is real good after the events when the lake is opened back up to the public. There is a five fish limit on channel cats but there is no limit on bullheads.

Dana Dixon is a fisheries technician at the Evans County PFA and he says chicken liver and shrimp are the best baits for both kinds of cats.  He also said there are some big cats in the lakes.  One has never been drained so it has the potential of a real big cat. The eight acre lake has not been drained in about 15 years so it could have some big ones, too.

Oconee River

Rivers offer a different kind of fishing for cats and more variety in species.  In the Oconee River you can catch flatheads, channel cat and blue cat and some grow to huge sizes.  The lower Oconee, from the Sinclair dam downstream to the junction with the Ocmulgee River where they form the Altamaha River is an excellent catfish river.

Access to the river in this section is very limited. The only state boat ramp is way down stream in Laurens County at Shady Field but it is a long run up the river to fish this section. The only bridge over this section of the river is the Highway 57 Bridge near Toomsboro. You can put a small boat in there and float down or motor upstream.

This section of the river is in the upper coastal plain and you will find undercut sand banks and bluffs, lots of fallen trees and a sand or silt bottom.  The river gets wider and deeper when you get downstream of Dublin. The area between the Sinclair dam and Dublin offers good cat fishing for all three species.  The DNR reports good numbers of 2 to 4 pound channel cats and some big flatheads sighted while doing population studies.

Flatheads grow very big and usually are caught out of the deeper holes in the river.  Big live bream are the best bait for them. Blues and channel cat will hit live bream but cut bait, liver, shrimp and earthworms are best for channel cats.

A lot of big catfish are caught on limb lines and trotlines set in the river but you can catch them on a rod and reel, too. You need a boat to get to the best fishing on the river since shore access is limited.  Find a sandbar on the upstream side or the inside bend of a deep hole and put out several rods in holders. Hard bottoms are best and an eddy in the current offers a resting and feeding spot for the biggest cats.

Use a big hook and heavy sinker to take it to the bottom and hold it in one place. Hook the bream so it will stay alive and move around.  Watch your pole carefully for bites.  For channel cats use smaller hooks but you will need a heavy sinker to keep your bait on the bottom in the current.

All three species of cats feed better at night so set up camp, build a fire, put on lots of bug repellant and spend the night.  If fishing from a boat make sure you are anchored securely and keep a light on in case other boats are running the river. If you are going to fish all night fishing from the bank is much more comfortable.

Ogeechee River

The Ogeechee River is one of our most pristine rivers and has no dams on it.  Rivers with dams upstream have regulated flows and predictable rises and falls. The Ogeechee does not and fishing can vary a lot depending on river level.

There are no flatheads in the Ogeechee and anglers should help keep it that way.  If you happen to catch one, kill it.  There is no limit on flatheads anywhere in Georgia since they are an invasive species and harm local populations of fish, especially redbreast. Never transport flatheads to this river.

There are good populations of white cats and bullheads in the river and they seem to concentrate where there is swift water and lots of cover.  You will find many trees in the water, some all the way across the river, and breaks in the current hold cats.  There are also good numbers of channel cats.  Cut bait, shrimp and earthworms are all good for these three kinds of cats.  Live minnows, shiner or small bream, also catch white and channel cats.

DNR boat ramps at Highways 88, 1 and 78 offer access to the river and you can also put a small boat in at several other bridges.  A small jon boat, canoe or kayak is best for fishing this small river.  There is also bank access around most of the bridges where you can fish.

Savannah River

The Savannah River from Augusta to Savannah is a big river with big catfish. Although the most common catfish in the river are white cats, some monster blues and flatheads live here. This is the best place to target a trophy cat in the area.  There are many five-pound plus blues in the Savannah.

Cats in the Savannah are most likely to be in deep holes with strong current during the day but they will move out of them at night to feed in more shallow water. Fish live bream or cutbait on shallow flats and sandbars near deep holes at night. During the day set up above the holes and fish big live bait on the bottom.  Outside bends in the river are best.

If the bank is undercut you can hook some of the biggest cats in the area by drifting a live bluegill under the bank.  Use just enough lead to keep it down and control it.  Hooking them is one thing. Getting them out from the heavy cover under those banks is difficult. Use heavy tackle and line.

Access to the river is good with several DNR boat ramps from Augusta to Savannah.  You can fish from the bank around them, too.  Bigger river boats and even bass boats can be used on this river but smaller jon boats will work fine.

Hamburg State Park

Hamburg State Park is the sleeper catfish hole in this area. Although the state park website does not mention catfishing, channel cats are stocked into the 225 acre lake for kids fishing events and it is managed for good fishing.  The lake is full of stumps and is well known for crappie and bass, but catfish are common and grow big.

The state park is located just south of Jewell and Highway 16.  Signs from I-20 at the Highway 80 exit point the way. Camping is available and there are docks to fish from in the campground. There are boat ramps and fishing piers, and bank access is good, too.

Kay Clark, clerk at the park, said there are pictures of several big channel cats on the wall there. A 16 pounder was caught from a dock in the campground last July and others have been caught all during the year.

According to Kay, shrimp is the best bait for the cats at Hamburg and there is a bait machine there that dispenses shrimp and other bait.  Reserve a campsite or go for the day.  Fish shrimp, earthworms or cut bait on the bottom from the bank or a boat and you will catch some channel cats.

You have many options for catfish this summer.  You can fish from boats, piers or the bank and use a wide variety of baits to catch several species of cats.  Pick what you like best, grab your tackle and go fishing.