The Beginner's Guide to Catching Catfish – Foundry Outdoors
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The Beginner's Guide to Catching Catfish

Looking for a fish that puts up a good fight, bites frequently, and doesn’t require a ton of fishing gear to get started? Then the catfish is the perfect species for you. Found around the world, catfish are plentiful and come in a variety of sizes. Be aware of the species of catfish near you as some can leave longer lasting memories then just a picture - some can sting! For example the Gafftopsail catfish has poisonous barbed spines in their dorsal and pectoral fins, and if you are stung it can be very painful and even land you in the doctor's office. While other catfish like the channel catfish which are found in many lakes and rivers across North America are perfectly harmless. After identifying the types of catfish species near you, you can begin to plan your fishing excursion.


The Beginner's Guide to Catching Catfish


Learn about... 

1. Habitat of the Catfish

2. Essential Catfish Gear

3. Catfish Techniques


1. Habitat of the Catfish


Catfish are dwelling fish, meaning they prefer structured habitats. Structure is important to catfish and they seek out logjams, river bends, and deep holes. Catfish can be found in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Something to keep in mind about catfish is they are usually found at the bottom of the surface. During the day you are likely to find catfish in logjams or in murky water while the night hours usually prove to be exceptional fishing as this is when the species is typically feeding the heaviest. At night flats, weedy areas, and the bottom are all excellent spots to try for catfish.


2. Essential Catfish Gear


When out to catch catfish you will want to be sure you have the right gear to have success. The basic gear for catfish includes:


1. A medium to heavy action rod is critical for landing catfish, as you want a rod that is stiff enough to put up with the fight and debris catfish usually put anglers through. Having a rod that you can put some extra torque into will prove useful for landing catfish. A 6 to 7 foot rod paired with a spinning or spincasting reel is ideal for catfish. When it comes to line, abrasion resistance is important to think about. Catfish surround themselves with other debris so having a strong line can make the difference between re-tying or a barbecue. 14lb test or stronger is a suitable place to start when fishing for catfish. For catfish anglers can get away with using monofilament line, as fluorocarbon is not mandatory.


2. Beyond fishing line, a circle or treble hook works well for catfish. For a circle hook you can use a decent size hook anywhere from a 1/0 to 3/0 hook. A circle hook works well if you prefer to not have to jerk or set the hook hard when you feel the bite, as the hook sets itself. A treble hook will require a bit more of a manual hook set, #2 or #4 treble hook works well on many catfish.


3. Typically catfish are found at the bottom so bringing along plenty of lead like split shot is important. Depending on the current or flow of the water you may need more or less lead, using split shot makes it easy to adjust your depth quickly. You can also experiment with floating a bobber into an area like a bend in the river or deep hole that you want to sit the bait over.


4. Bait, Bait, Bait! Now that you have your hook picked out it is time to pick your bait. Catfish are easier then other fish species in this department, as they will eat most anything. Some popular bait outside of worms and shrimp include minnows, smelly artificial bait, or cut bait like chicken liver and gizzards. Catfish have a strong sense of smell, the smellier the better!


5. Be sure to keep a pair of long nosed needle pliers on you as it can be difficult to get a treble hook out of a catfish’s mouth and the longer the pair of pliers the less chance you have of coming in contact with the fish (important when catching catfish that pose a threat).


3. Catfish Techniques


Being that catfish are generally cruising the bottom of the waters, making sure your bait is down is important. One way to ensure that you are getting the right float is by using a slip sinker rig. This rig consists of tying the mainline to one end of a barrel swivel while tying your leader line (14lb or heavier monofilament) to the other side of the swivel, followed by your hook. On the mainline you will put a sinker and a bead. When using this type of technique a sliding sinker will work more effectively then split shot sinkers.


If you have a spot where you don’t want a lot of action or movement happening to your line a float rig may work well. This rig is similar to a slip sinker rig yet you add a float (bobber on the mainline) and use a three-way swivel. With a three-way swivel you attach your mainline, you leader line with hook, and then your other leader line with a sinker to the last end of the swivel.


Last but not least if you prefer a bit more action or movement while fishing try a jig rig. Simply tip your jig with your choice of bait, and slowly jig up and down across the bottom of the water. After a few jigs let your bait rest still, as catfish usually will strike when it just becomes motionless.


Now that you have the basic knowledge on catfish, put together your best catfish rig and enjoy a day or night out on the water filled with many bites, strong fights, and memories that will last a lifetime!

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