Some folks just shy away from fishing for catfish, but catching catfish can be great fun for the whole family. If you want to get bit by a fish, the catfish will ensure you get bit often. The catfish receives less fishing pressure than most of the other types of fish found in Lake Oconee. This is unfortunate because not only are catfish a challenging fish to catch, they are excellent table food.

Now for good eating, most folks prefer those little fellows but those little 6 to 8 inch catfish can be a mean little rascal when you’re trying to remove them from the hook. They are so small there just is not a good way to hold them without getting stuck by their painful fins. Now many folks who are looking to catch catfish for food will use a fish basket and that is OK but today’s article is about catching them on hook and line.

I solved the problem of safely removing the hook from the little fellows by purchasing a pair of hospital surgical scissors at a flea market for $1. That was the best investment I have ever made for a buck. It works so well that 99 percent of the time you don’t even have to touch the fish. You can also spend a little more money and buy a fish grabber or fish holder for less than $20.

Equipment required to fish for catfish can range from a cane pole for the smaller fish to a heavy baitcasting rod with a baitcasting reel for the larger fish. Believe me, a 10-pound channel catfish or a 30-pound plus flathead catfish will test the heaviest freshwater rod and reel.

When fishing for the larger catfish, a good sharp hook is required to penetrate their tough sandpaper mouths. I generally use a rig much like the Carolina rig I use for largemouth bass fishing except for the hook that I switch out for a Gamakatsu baitholder hook in a Size 1 or a Mustad beak hook in either a Size 1 or 1/0. I also use at least 20 to 40 pound test line when fishing for the bigger catfish.

The biggest challenge when fishing for catfish is finding the right bait for the type of catfish you’re trying to catch and then secondly using the bait in a way that will help you avoid catching the smaller catfish. To make the right choice on bait, I suggest you look no further than something readily available in the lake and it will provide excellent bait.

One choice is shad and another is bluegill. Both are legal to catch and use for bait. They probably provide the majority of the food for all the catfish in the lake so why not use what they normally eat. Earthworms will catch catfish but that should only be your choice if you want to catch the small fellows.

Now a good size channel catfish will take the bait alive but trying to keep them fresh is a problem and the old channel catfish just doesn’t care whether it’s DEAD or ALIVE. When fishing for channel catfish, if you want to avoid the smaller catfish use only the head from the bream or shad.

Lake Oconee has a good population of channel and blue catfish and the lake has an emerging and growing population of flathead catfish. Blues and flatheads prefer live bait like shad or a small bluegill but will also bite shrimp and other cut baits. Small bluegill are available around docks and can be readily caught on a small bream pole baited with worms or crickets.

You may be able to catch some small shad with a cast net from your dock but you may have to look elsewhere in the lake for the shad. Bridge crossings often offer large numbers of shad that can be caught with a cast net in those locations.

The catfish in Lake Oconee have about completed their spring spawn but will remain in shallow water throughout May. They show up every year during the shad spawn which is under way right now. During the shad spawn, I have seen dozens of catfish along shorelines feeding on shad that have gone there to deposit their eggs.

The catfish are biting great right now and will bite throughout the summer in both shallow and deep water so why not give them a try. Good catfishing and see you next week.

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