A favorite activity of many families is enjoying a day of fishing and then cooking up a “mess” of catfish for dinner. Whether you are a new or experienced angler, you can find fantastic catfishing opportunities in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“Georgia has abundant opportunities to throw out a line for catfish,” says John Biagi, WRD Fisheries Management Chief. “They require relatively simple gear and are a great way to introduce someone new to fishing, especially kids, so get out and go fish!”
Georgia’s public waterways are home to several species of catfish, including channel, white, blue, flathead and bullheads (consisting of several similar species – yellow, brown, snail, spotted and flat). The larger species, blue catfish and flathead catfish, can sometimes grow to exceed 100 pounds.
As summertime gets closer to its peak, WRD highlights some warm weather hot spots and offers tips on techniques and equipment for anglers of all skill levels:
• Lake Nottely - near Blairsville, contains good populations of channel catfish (averaging one pound or less) and fewer, but larger flathead catfish (weighing up to 40 pounds).
• Lake Lanier – supports good numbers of small channel catfish (1-2 lb) lake wide and fewer flathead catfish (10-40 lb), which can be found up the Chattahoochee and Chestatee arms of the lake.
• Carters Lake-Home to good numbers of keeper-size channel catfish. Blue and flathead catfish are present in lower numbers, but can exceed 20 pounds. Rocky areas in the Coosawattee River arm of the lake are best.
• Lake Oconee, near Madison – Supports high numbers of channel, blue, flathead, white and bullhead species of catfish.
• Flint River – Great location for catching five to 30-pound flathead catfish or channel catfish, though most channel cats will weigh between two and five pounds.
• Chattahoochee River above West Point Lake – in the last few years, the number and size of flathead catfish caught above West Point has increased significantly.
• Goat Rock Lake – this lake constantly produces good numbers of harvestable-size channel cats.
• Central Georgia’s public fishing areas (Big Lazer PFA, Flat Creek PFA, Marben PFA and McDuffie PFA) – some of the best locations for channel catfish on these areas are located at the dam. A medium weight rod with either a spincasting or spinning reel recommended.
• Andrews Lock and Dam (Chattahoochee River) – Best location in southwest Georgia for catching a flathead or blue catfish exceeding 20 pounds.
• Lower Chattahoochee River near GA Hwy. 91 southwest of Donalsonville – Recent surveys conducted during summer months indicate that channel, blue and flathead catfish can be found here in abundance.
• Lake Seminole, near Donalsonville – Good catches of channel catfish available throughout the summer.
• Lake Blackshear, near Cordele – Excellent channel catfish spot. Best places are the main lake and below Warwick Dam.
• Lake Walter F. George, near Columbus – Excellent fishing for channel catfish in the main lake and in the upper end (above Florence Marina) for both channel and blue catfish. The state record blue catfish (80 pounds, 4 ounces) was caught in the tailrace of this lake by Ernest Timpson in February 2010.
• Altamaha River – Great location for several species of catfish, including flathead, channel and an expanding population of blue catfish. The Altamaha boasts two state record fish: an 83 pound flathead and a 44 lb, 12 oz channel cat. In June 2017, a 101-pound flathead was caught on a limb line on the lower river.
• Satilla River – Excellent fishing available for channel catfish, white catfish and several species of bullheads. Some of the best white catfishing in the state is on the lower Satilla, near Woodbine and in White Oak Creek. A piece of shrimp on the bottom near a runout on an outgoing tide is a sure bet!
• Southeast Georgia public fishing areas (including Evans County PFA, Paradise PFA, Hugh M. Gillis PFA and Dodge County PFA) – Some of southeast Georgia’s best locations for channel catfish. Anglers also can find bullhead catfish at some of these PFAs, including Paradise and Dodge.
• St. Marys River – Healthy populations of channel and white catfish are available.
• Ogeechee River - Excellent fishing for channel catfish and several species of bullheads throughout the river with higher numbers of white catfish closer to the estuary.
• Savannah River - This river has a high density of channel catfish and bullheads throughout the system. White catfish are very abundant near the estuary. Flathead catfish have also populated the Savannah and harvest of this invasive species is encouraged.
As a rule, the species and size of catfish dictate the fishing line used. If targeting channel and white catfish, fisheries biologists recommend eight to 14-pound test line and medium-sized hooks (size 2 to 1/0) under a bobber or fished on the bottom.
For anglers trying to land a large flathead, heavy tackle is a must – large spinning or casting tackle with at least 20 to 50-pound test line, large hooks (3/0 to 7/0), and heavy weights to keep bait on the bottom.
Best baits for channel, bullheads and white catfish are worms, liver, live minnows, cut bait and stink bait. Recommended flathead baits are live bream and shiners.
In general, anglers should target rocky shorelines, rip-rap areas and points. Catfish love holding near cover. When fishing rivers during the day, anglers should look to deep holes containing rocky or woody cover. During dusk, dawn and at night, anglers should concentrate on shallow sandbars and shoals nearby the deep holes fished during the day, as catfish frequently move shallow to feed during low light conditions.
Though most species of catfish are active throughout the day, the best summer fishing is at dusk and during the night, and while catfish can be caught year-round, the peak bite typically is from early spring through the peak of summer.
Need a license before you go? Visit www.GoOutdoorsGeorgia.com to purchase a license online or to view a list of retail license vendors, or buy a license by phone at 1-800-366-2661.
For more information on fishing in Georgia, visit the http://georgiawildlife.com/fishing/angler-resources.