From the neighborhood pond or nearby lake to the mighty rivers in the south, a variety of catfish species inhabit Georgia’s waters making fishing for “cats” an angler favorite.
Although anglers can have success fishing for catfish throughout the year, the best time of year to fish for a variety of catfish species is now through the peak of summer, according to the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.
“Reeling in a catfish is a favorite pastime of many Georgia anglers, and we are fortunate to have an abundance of locations where this experience can be enjoyed,” says John Biagi, Wildlife Resources Division chief of Fisheries Management. “Catfish typically can be found in waters close to home, require relatively simple gear and taste great – all good reasons to get out and fish.”
Several species are found throughout the state, including flathead, channel, blue, bullhead and white catfish. Following is a breakdown of some catfish hot spots:
· Coosa River: Good numbers of channel and blue catfish, as well as a few flatheads. Anglers should focus on the main river channel.
· Lake Nottely: Contains good populations of channel catfish (averaging 3/4 pound) and some flathead catfish (weighing up to 40 pounds).
· Lake Tugalo: Contains an abundant population of white catfish.
· Lake Marbury (Fort Yargo State Park): Supports an excellent population of channel catfish.
· Flint River: A great location for flathead (5-30 pounds) or channel catfish.
· Lake Andrews (Chattahoochee River): The best location in southwest Georgia for catching blue and flathead catfish at more than 20 pounds.
· Lake Seminole: Good catches of channel catfish are available throughout the year.
· Ocmulgee River: The dominant catfish species are flathead and channel catfish on both upper and lower portions of this river. Although not eligible for record status due to catch method, an angler harvested a flathead catfish exceeding 100 lbs. during summer 2009 from this river.
· Altamaha River: A great location for flathead catfish. The current state record flathead catfish (83 pounds) and the current state record channel catfish (44 pounds, 12 ounces) were caught on this river. Although not eligible for record status due to catch method, flathead catches up to 90 pounds using bush hooks (a line attached to a bush or tree limb) have been reported from the Altamaha.
· Southeast Georgia public fishing areas (including Evans County PFA, Paradise PFA, Hugh M. Gillis PFA, Flat Creek PFA and Dodge County PFA): Offer some of the best locations for channel catfish in southeast Georgia.
· Lake Sinclair: This middle Georgia lake offers good numbers of channel and white catfish, large bullheads and an expanding blue catfish population.
· Walter F. George: An excellent location for channel and some white catfish. Blue catfish, though not native, are also present here and in the Chattahoochee River below the reservoir. The current state record blue catfish was caught at this lake.
Wildlife Resources recommends using a medium weight rod with either a spincasting or a spinning reel. The species and the size of catfish should dictate the fishing line used. For example, if targeting channel and white catfish, 8 to 14-pound test line and medium size hooks (6 or 8) under a bobber and fished on the bottom is recommended.
For anglers trying to land a large flathead, heavy tackle, large spinning or casting tackle with at least 20 to 50-pound test line with weights to keep bait on the bottom, is a must. Recommended flathead bait includes live bream, shad and shiners.
The best baits for channel, bullhead and white catfish include worms, liver, live minnows, live shad/bream, cut bait and stink bait.
River anglers should target deep holes that contain rock or woody structures during the day and shallow sandbars and shoals near these deep holes at dusk, dawn and night. Reservoir catfish often can be found on flats adjacent to river channels during the day and in shallow water at night as they roam while feeding.
The following are catfish records for Georgia: blue catfish (80 lbs, 4 oz), channel catfish (44 lbs, 12 oz), flathead catfish (83 lbs), white catfish (8 lbs, 10 oz), yellow bullhead (4 lbs, 15 oz) and brown bullhead (5 lbs, 8 oz).
For more information on fishing in Georgia, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com .