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Catfish are abundant in Arkansas’s streams, lakes and rivers. They’re easy to catch and excellent to eat. In addition to the catfish that naturally grow up in Arkansas’s waters, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stocks about 1 million channel catfish each year in lakes and ponds across the state.
Arkansas is home to six major catfish species. Other, smaller species swim in Arkansas waters, but the top six are generally the only ones large enough to be targeted by anglers.
Click on the photo for details about each fish.
Lures to Use
- Live bait is always a great lure for catfish. Nightcrawlers and minnows will attract all species of catfish, and flathead catfish are particularly fond of shad and small sunfish.
- Commercially prepared baits, such as cheese bait and stink bait are excellent choices for channel catfish.
- Chicken hearts and chicken livers are great baits for channel catfish.
- One of the best baits for channel catfish and blue catfish is a hotdog soaked in a mixture of strawberry punch and garlic.
Rods, Reels and Tackle
- Catfish can be caught on cane poles and jigging poles using an 8-foot length of fishing line with a size 2 or larger baitholder hook. Pinch a few split shot to the line above the hook and add a bobber a few feet up the line. You want to fish as deep as possible with the bobber rig.
- Most catfishing is done using spincasting or baitcasting rod-and-reel combos. Use monofilament line larger than 12-pound-test. Run the line through a ½-ounce egg sinker and tie it to a swivel. Tie another section of line about one foot long to the other end of the swivel and attach a baited hook to the opposite end. Cast the line, let it sink to the bottom, reel up the slack and watch your rod tip to see the strike.
- Many people set out trotlines catfish as well. If you have a boat, you can tie a line stretching between two trees and tie dropper lines to hooks baited with live bait. Add some weight to the main line to make sure it sinks to where the catfish are. Check it often for your catch.
- Jugs and noodles are another fun way to fish for catfish from a boat. Tie a 10-foot length of line to a clean, empty bottle or a section of pool noodle. Add a weight, hook and live bait and set your lines out where you can keep an eye on them. When a fish is hooked, the jug or noodle will bounce around in the water, letting you know to come get your dinner.
Other Helpful Equipment
- A pair of gloves or a fish-gripper will help you handle catfish while you unhook them. Their fins have sharp spines that can hurt if they stick you.
- A landing net can come in handy when trying to get large catfish in the boat or on shore.
- Needle-nosed pliers are always handy to get hooks out of fish and cut fishing line.
- Fishing for catfish from the bank is a relaxing way to spend the day. Cast your line as far as you can to get to deep water. Bring a lawn chair or bucket to sit on and relax while you watch your line. When you see the rod tip move, reel up the slack and set the hook hard.
- A pair of pliers comes in handy when dressing catfish for a meal. Catfish have skin, not scales. Use the pliers to peel the skin off.
- Rivers are great places to catch catfish. Cast your line near breaks in the current. Stink bait is best for attracting channel catfish and blue catfish in current, as they follow the scent trail to the bait.