Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Late spring begins prime time for catfish
FRANKFORT, Ky. – A stable weather pattern this week brought an
early taste of summer to Kentucky as high temperatures topped 80-degrees on
Warmer weather and
water temperatures climbing into the 70s tell catfish that it’s time to spawn,
and anglers who pursue them know from experience the period from late spring
into early summer is prime time.
“The next couple of
weeks look good for catfish because they’re going to be aggressive and
feeding,” said Kevin Frey, eastern fisheries district biologist for the
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
blue catfish and flathead catfish are the most sought after catfish species in
Kentucky, and the most widely distributed of those is the channel catfish.
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources annually stocks roughly 100,000
channel catfish across the state. About 30 percent of that amount is allocated
to Fishing in Neighborhoods (FINs) lakes.
These popular urban
fisheries can receive heavy fishing pressure but are stocked frequently with a
variety of fish species to meet the demand. More than two dozen FINs lakes
statewide are due to receive stocker-sized channel catfish this month. The
stocking schedule for FINs lakes is available on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s
website at fw.ky.gov.
“A lot of the time
the catfish do bite really well right after we stock them,” said Dane Balsman,
urban fisheries biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “And you don’t have
to have a really fancy set up to catch them.”
A 7- to 9-foot
medium to heavy action spinning rod with a matching spinning reel spooled with
20-pound line and outfitted with a simple slip sinker rig is a capable outfit.
To assemble the rig, tie a 4/0 circle hook onto an 18-inch fluorocarbon or
monofilament leader. Tie a barrel swivel onto the other end of the leader, then
take the main line and thread it through a ½- to ¾-ounce egg sinker and plastic
bead before tying the line to the other eyelet of the barrel swivel.
Channel catfish have
olive-brown to bluish-slate backs, white bellies and pale gray sides, often
adorned with small black spots. Adults range from 12 to 32 inches long. They
scavenge the bottom using their whiskers to sense the presence of food.
chicken livers, cut pieces of shad or skipjack herring, shrimp and scented
dough baits are among the most widely-used and productive baits for channel
catfish. Try fishing these baits in areas with undercut banks, stumps or logs
and rocky banks and points.
“Catfish are going
to look for a cavity to get back in to spawn,” Balsman said. “They get in there
and lay their eggs and protect those eggs.”
Low-light periods -
such as around dawn and dusk or at night - tend to be the best times to catch
“Sandy clay shallow
areas are another alternative especially if there’s some vegetation,” Frey
said. “Those shallow water areas are still going to be good into June. As the
water continues to warm, catfish will come in to the shoreline at night and
drift back out to the open water during the daytime.”
From Lake Barkley
and Kentucky Lake in the west to the Ohio River to Dewey Lake, Fishtrap Lake
and Yatesville Lake in eastern Kentucky, there is an abundance of places across
Kentucky holding excellent populations of channel catfish.
The “Where to Fish” feature on Kentucky Fish and
Wildlife’s website is a handy tool for those looking to find a place to fish
for catfish. As an example, anglers can search for waterbodies that hold
channel, blue and flathead catfish and offer bank or fishing pier access. The
department’s annual “Fishing Forecast” is
another valuable resource available online.
One evening last
week at a FINs lake, a father and son looking to squeeze in some fishing before
sunset encountered an older angler seated on a plastic bucket waiting for a
catfish to bite and tug his pole float under.
The man had a
question for the boy.
“Are you going to
catch all the fish?” he asked playfully.
The boy stopped and
thought about his response for a moment.
“No,” he said
nervously and then continued to scout the bank for the perfect spot to set up
and try for a catfish.
Pieces of frozen
shrimp stained red from a marinade in strawberry Kool-Aid mix fished weightless
on the bottom as far out as he could cast enticed two channel cats in short
order. The fillets those fish yielded filled his belly two nights later and the
experience left him wanting to fish for catfish again sometime.
The next several
weeks are as good a time as any for catfishing in Kentucky.