Catfish Species

In North America catfish can be found in almost any body of fresh water.  In many places some are able to be caught year round offering anglers a better opportunity to catch fish any time of the year.  There are three major species considered to be gamefish: blue, flathead, and channel catfish.  These fish can all grow to very large size so, catfishing has the possibility of putting a truly large trophy fish on the end of a line.

Channel Catfish

Monster 20lb Channel Catfish

Channel catfish are the most plentiful and easy to catch catfish in our waters.   They are usually gray or brown in color, have a slight overbite, and a deeply forked tail.  While this is the smallest of the three they can still reach weights of 50 pounds or more.  The real beauty of channel catfish is they can be caught on almost anything for bait!  Everything from commercial baits to things you can find at your local grocier.  Shrimp, liver, fish, cheese and even bar soap have been used to catch these scavengers.  Other favorites include baits that can be caught in the waters you are fishing such as shad, sunfish, minnows, frogs,  and crawfish.  Channel cats can be located almost anywhere on a given body of water but, there are some things to consider.  Catfish are not necessarily a schooling fish but, where there is one there are bound to be a few more in the vicinity.  Look for areas with submerged structure, trees, rocks and ledges are great places to start.  In lakes and reservoirs the inlet rivers and creeks can also produce good numbers of fish.    Channels are one of the most prominent and easy to catch fish in the states and they are the reason the popularity of catfishing is on the rise.

Flathead Catfish

2 Monster Flathead Catfish

The flathead catfish is the most elusive of the three.  They have a very different appearance from our other two catfish.   They have a brown or yellow mottled coloration, a broad flattened head, and a squared off tail.  These powerful fish are apex predators and prefer live bait most of the year.  In the spring and fall they can also be caught on fresh cut baits such as shad and bluegill.  After a good rain they can also be taken on a huge ball of night crawlers.  Flatheads are very structure oriented fish, more so than blues and channels.  Heavy timber, rocky areas, and undercut banks near deeper water are great places to find them.  They can also be found cruising river or creek channels between shallow and deep water because, often times, they will move to the shallows to feed at night.  These fish also can grow to a very large size.  The current world record is 123 pounds!  Hook into even a small flatty and you’ll be amazed by their strength.

Blue Catfish

Monster Blue Catfish

Monster Blue Catfish

Blue catfish appear similar to channel catfish but, they have a couple of distinguishing features.  The anal fin is the easiest way to identify a blue.  Channels have a slightly rounded anal fin with 24-29 rays and a blue’s anal fin is more squared off with 30-35 rays.  While blues can be caught on livers and commercial stink baits they seem to prefer freshly killed bait fish.  They are considered to be a big river fish but can be found in many lakes and reservoirs.  In rivers look for deep swift moving water with or near structure, flats or rocky areas.  In reservoirs they can be found in deep water near cover or shallows as they will move to shallower water to feed during warm weather.  The tail races of dams and power plants are also great places to hook into a big blue.  These monsters grow to an enormous size.  The current world record, caught in Missouri, weighed an impressive 130 pounds.

Many of these fish can be caught with the same methods and in the same areas.  With proper bait choice and presentation you will be able to specifically target one or more species.  Any time is a good time to wet a line for catfish!