Channel catfish don’t get as big as flatheads or blue catfish but they are the most popular catfish in North America and they hold a special place in my heart. The largest channel catfish ever caught in North America was 58 lbs from Lake Moultrie South Carolina. Channel cats can be found in almost every state in the lower forty eight states.
Identifying Channel Catfish:
Channel catfish sometimes get confused with small blue catfish or flatheads because channel catfish have such a wide variety of colors. Channel catfish range from brownish/yellow to dark bluish grey. The age and location have a lot to do with the coloration. Young channel catfish tend to be more yellowish and they have a few black spots and black edges to their fins. The sure fire way to tell a channel catfish apart from other catfish is the tail fin and the anus fin. Channel catfish have a forked tail (unlike flatheads and bullheads which do not have a forked tail). Channel cats also have a rounded anus fin (blue catfish have a straight edges anus fin).
Finding Channel Catfish:
Channel catfish tend to inhabit the same types of areas that the other species of catfish inhabit. Old river beds on reservoir bottoms, submerged trees, the seems between fast and slow current, drop offs, along reed beds and in shallow depression within flats are all great places to find channel catfish.
In current, channel catfish will be in still slow water close to moving water. Seams where fast and slow current meet, the calm water behind a large rock, log jams, holes on the bottom of the river and sheltered under cuts in the bank are all classic places to find channel catfish.
In lakes, find food and you’ll find channel cats. Channel catfish are often very close in to the shore in all seasons but the winter. Places where trees over hang the water, along the edge of reed beds or in log jams are all classic channel catfish locations. Depressions along the bottom, the edges of shelves near sunken structure are also good places.
Channel catfish feed actively all year long. You can ice fish for channel catfish. The trick to fishing for channel cats in the winter time is to find them. Channel catfish change their locations as the water temperatures drop but if you can find them you can catch them all year long. Check out this fun video of some great winter channel catfish action in the middle of Virginia snow storm.
Channel Catfish Bait:
The best channel catfish baits can be anything. Cut bait fish is probably the most reliable and universal of all channel cat baits. blue gill, skip jack, herring, shad, chubs and suckers are all great bait fish depending on the location. Generally, any bait fish you catch locally will work great when cut up.
Channel cat baits can be anything. Worms, chicken liver, frogs, clams, punch baits, dip baits, pellets, boilies, soap, spam, hotdogs, and many lures can work great as well. Live minnows or gold fish also work well though they tend to catch bass and other fish as well.
My personal favorite channel catfish baits are cut shad, cut blue gill, halibut pellets, crab boilies and worms.
Here are some fun videos demonstrating how to catch channel catfish: