A reader asked us if we had any suggestions for catching trophy channel catfish when lake fishing. This post will go through some techniques to help you target big catfish when fishing on a lake. It is important to note that the feeding patterns and the overall habits of the catfish do not change much whether your targeting them in a lake, river, stream, pond, or even a creek; however, the size of the fish vary greatly depending on the body of water your fishing. When lake fishing on a large body of water for catfish you can expect to catch some trophy sized channel cats. Usually if you’re familiar with the lake, the depth, and the bottom terrain you can easily narrow in on where these big catfish hide out.
First and foremost, try and find large underwater rocks and boulders. This can be done using a fishing sonar. In my region you’ll be trolling in depths of 25 feet and come across a rock structure that spans 15 feet around. Areas like this provide shelter to big catfish, and this is where they tend to nest. Simply throw on some homemade catfish bait and drop it right to the bottom next to the edges of the rock; if a catfish is there it will be sure to bite trust me. This technique works great during the early periods of summer.
Where the rivers pour into the lakes is another gem for catching large catfish. Often catfish will hangout around areas in the lake drop-offs where the river pours in. Since catfish are bottoms feeders they hangout near the bottom of the lake and wait for food to pour in from the river. Fishing this mouths will land you some large fish over and over.
Depth plays a huge role in where the catfish are hanging out. The catfish will look for waters in the mid 70s that is full of oxygen; which is usually in deep areas in the summer. In the spring catfish will move into warmer and shallower waters to spawn. Catfish aren’t as active in the winter so your best bet is to target them in the warm summer months.
Don’t troll around or move too quickly when lake fishing. Catfish are bottom feeders and are pretty lazy fish. The slowly coast around their nesting areas and suck up food on the bottom of the lake. Your best bet is to put on a piece of bait and let it rest right on the bottom of the lake or an inch above. Baits that are smelly work the best; you can either buy catfish stink baits of make your own. Remember that catfish primarily locate food based on scent; so use something that is going to get their attention.
The really large catfish like to eat other fish. If it’s the 10 lb plus catfish you’re targeting skip the stink baits and just go with minnows. Small 5-8 inch sucker fish minnows work wonders for the larger catfish. You can use the same techniques listed above.
Some Final Take Away Points To Be Successful
- Use a fish finder, monitor temperatures, and find where the catfish are congregating
- Use live bait or stinky baits to attract the fish
- Catfish hang out in groups; once you find them there are always more
- Look for underwater trees, rocks, and submerged logs; catfish nest in these areas
- Let the bait sit; the catfish will find it if they are there
- You can catch catfish all year round; you just have to find where they are