Have you really and truly lived a good southern life if you haven’t spent a whole day fishing and then fried up a “mess” of catfish for dinner?
Catfishing provides great opportunities for new and experienced anglers, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“Georgia has so many opportunities for folks to toss out a line for catfish,” says Thom Litts, WRD Fisheries Management Chief. “Additionally, it is an activity that requires relatively simple gear and it is a great way to introduce someone new to fishing, especially kids, so it’s a perfect opportunity to get everyone outside!”
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). While you may not catch them often, the larger species, like flathead catfish, can sometimes reach monster weights in excess of 100 pounds—and that’s no tall fish tale!
What to Use
- 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. Best baits for channel, bullheads and white catfish are worms, liver, live minnows, shrimp, cut bait and stink bait.
- For anglers trying to land a large blue or flathead catfish, heavy tackle is a must—large spinning or casting tackle with at least 20 to 50-pound test braid or monofilament line, large hooks (3/0 to 8/0), and heavy weights (1–5 oz) to keep bait on the bottom. Flatheads are ambush predators that prey heavily upon fish, so live or freshly killed fish used as bait will increase your chances. Similarly, freshly caught gizzard shad increases your chances of reeling in a giant blue catfish.
- Other methods for catching catfish include trotlines, limblines, and jug-lines. More info on the regulations relative to these methods can be found in the 2020 Georgia Sportfishing Regulations Book found at https://georgiawildlife.com/fishing/angler-resources.
Where to Look
In general, anglers should target rocky shorelines, rip-rap areas, points and outside bends of rivers or the submerged river channel. Catfish will stay in deep areas or “holes” during the day before roaming the shallows at night for food. When fishing rivers during the day, anglers should look to deep holes containing rocky or woody cover. During dawn, dusk and at night, anglers should concentrate on shallow sandbars, flats, and shoals near the deep holes fished during the day. Catfish, especially flatheads, love holding near downed trees, so look for these on outside bends.
Georgia’s Public Fishing Areas (https://georgiawildlife.com/allpfas) are great places to target catfish, especially as most of them are open 24 hours a day year-round. Looking for additional locations? Check out the Fishing Forecasts webpage at https://georgiawildlife.com/fishing-forecasts.
When to Go
Though most species of catfish are active throughout the day, the best summer fishing is at dusk and during the night. Catfish can be caught year-round, with the best bite typically from early spring through the peak of summer. Be prepared to fish multiple areas and if you don’t get a bite within 30 minutes, just try another until you find some fish.
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 https://georgiawildlife.com/fishing/angler-resources.