General Information: 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 in not true in all of Ohio’s smaller reservoirs, many of which are stocked with channel catfish by the Division of Wildlife.
State Records: Bullhead Catfish: 4.25 pounds, 18 ½ inches, Farm Pond
Hugh Lawrence Jr., Keene, Ohio
May 20, 1986
Channel Catfish: 37.65 pounds, 41 ½ inches, LaDue Reservoir
Gus J. Gronowski, Parma, Ohio
August 15, 1992
Flathead Catfish: 76.5 pounds, 58 5/8 inches, Clendening Reservoir
Richard Affolter, New Philadelphia, Ohio
July 28, 1979
Blue Catfish: 96 pounds , 54 ½ inches, Ohio River
Chris Rolph, Williamsburg, Ohio
June 11, 2009
Fish Ohio Length: Channel catfish: 26 inches
Flathead catfish: 35 inches
Tips: 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 moving very slowly away with baits.
Tackle: Rods and reels should be matched for the sizes of catfish that you anticipate catching. Standard tackle for channel catfish or bullheads include 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.
Regulations: Channel catfish: 6 fish daily limit on public lakes less than 700 acres and 1 fish per day may be 28 inches or larger. Flathead and blue catfish: 1 fish per day may be 35 inches or larger
Where to go:
Seasonal Fishing Approaches:
(June - mid-September)
(mid-September - November)
(December - February)
||Excellent, especially at night
|Early spring catfish feed on fish that have died or been stressed throughout the winter. As water warms, catfish start to take live baits, especially if live fish are available.
||Live baits (nightcrawlers, crayfish, etc.) work well during spawning since they entice a bite from spawning catfish.
||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 tend to eat the most available foods. Schools of open water gizzard shad and bluegills are ideal bait for larger fish because they are common items in catfish diets.
||Catfish are scavengers during winter, so dead minnow or other fish are ideal bait. For a natural presentation, do not move dead baits, particularly since catfish are sluggish this time of year.
|Early spring anglers should focus on warm water discharges, stream inflow areas of reservoirs, or areas where baitfish are schooling, since catfish will start to feed more often.
||Instead of fishing larger flats, anglers should focus on areas with heavy structure or cavities (downed logs or rip-rap) since most Ohio catfish are cavity spawners.
||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.
||Catfish school tightly this time of year in preparation for winter. Fish areas next to deeper waters, especially areas near flats that cool down rapidly at night, or are located near feeder streams.
||Catfish prefer deeper water during winter. As waters warm, fish shoreline areas where the wind is blowing against and causing dead baitfish to windrow or accumulate.