Catfish can be found across the Buckeye State, but they vary in types and sizes. Whether it is bullheads in farm ponds, channel catfish and flathead catfish in reservoirs and rivers, or blue catfish in the Ohio River, many anglers seek catfish not only for their fight but for their table fare as well. Catfish sustain populations by natural reproduction in many habitats but is not true in all of Ohio’s smaller reservoirs, many of which are stocked with channel catfish by the Division of Wildlife.
Anglers use a variety of scented baits since a catfish’s sense of smell and taste is excellent. The most effective baits include cut shad, prepared blood bait, chicken livers, shrimp and nightcrawlers. Keep tackle simple. When fishing on the bottom, use a fixed or slip sinker and when fishing the surface or suspended, try either a slip or fixed float. Hook sizes range from size 4 to 6/0 depending upon the size of fish you are seeking and the size of bait that you are using. Having a strike indicator is a good idea for catching catfish. Catfish do not “hit and run” like other fish, instead, they move very slowly away with baits.
Rods and reels should be matched for the sizes of catfish that you anticipate catching. Standard tackle for channel catfish or bullheads includes medium spinning or baitcasting outfits with 10-12 pound line, whereas for flathead catfish or blue catfish, heavy rods and reels with 20- or 30-pound line may be required. Reels used for catfish should have a good drag system.
Summer (June-mid-September)
Peak Activity
Excellent, especially at night
Prepared baits start to work well this time of year, as do chicken liver, shrimp, crayfish or live fish. In general, the larger the bait, the larger the catfish.
Catfish prefer deeper habitats during the day and shallower habitats while feeding at night. Productive night areas include shallow flats next to deeper holes and next to swimming beaches, particularly where the bottom is stirred up during the day.