Top Spots for Catfish

Top Spots _Catfish

Compiled by: Andy Strickland & Jordan Hults

The following areas were selected by Florida's freshwater fisheries biologists as being the most likely to be highly productive for catfish during 2014 (see Top Sites Map Adobe PDF 5MB).

Apalachicola River

Species: Channel, flathead, and blue catfish.

Big channel catfish can be found in the Apalachicola River from April into early July near the dam. Flathead fishing picks up in April and runs into the summer months. Smaller catfish can be caught year-round, but spring and summer are best. Fish the Jim Woodruff Dam south to Owl Creek, trying deep holes with structure, old creek channels, and around mouths of tributaries. Best baits include live bream on the bottom for big flatheads, while stink baits or night crawlers on the bottom should do the trick for channels.  Try some type of fresh cut bait, such as mullet, for blue cats.

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Choctawhatchee River

Blue catfish

A hefty Choctawhatchee River blue cat.

Species: Channel, flathead, and blue catfish.

Big channel catfish are usually caught in the Choctawhatchee River in late May through early July, and October into November if the water stays warm. Small cats are caught year-round, but expect the bite to slow when it is cold. Work the Alabama line south to West Bay, and around the mouth of Holmes Creek and other tributaries.  Most of the larger catfish are found in the northern portion of the river, but some will be found throughout the river within deep bends and holes that contain large woody debris. Fish live bream on the bottom for flatheads up to 30 pounds, and try stink baits or night crawlers on the bottom for channels.

Special note: The state record blue catfish was caught on the Choctawhatchee River on August 4, 2008.  It was caught by Washington County, FL resident James Mitchell.  The blue catfish weighed an outstanding 64.50 pounds.

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Yellow River

Species: Flathead catfish.

The biggest Yellow River flatheads are usually caught April through October, from the Alabama line to the I-10 Bridge. Anglers should try live bream on the bottom for these big flatheads, targeting any deep holes containing structure.

Special note:  On October 9, 2011 the state record flathead catfish was caught on the Yellow River. It was caught by Milton, FL resident Eric Auston Jr. Auston was night fishing on the river and used a small bluegill as bait while fishing with conventional tackle. The fish weighed in at an impressive 55.05 pounds which shattered the previous record of 49.39 pounds set back in 2004.

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Escambia River

Species: Blue, channel, and flathead catfish.

Larger channel catfish and big flatheads in the Escambia River are usually caught from April through October.   Fishing for smaller catfish is good year-round except during cold weather. The best fishing is typically from the Alabama line to the I-10 Bridge. Live bream on the bottom is the bait of choice for big flatheads, while stink baits or night crawlers should do the trick for channels.

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St. Johns River and Dunn's Creek

Species: Bullhead, channel catfish, and white catfish.

Big channel catfish are usually reported in the Upper and Lower St. Johns River and Dunn's Creek system from early May through June. Smaller catfish can be caught year-round, but the best fishing occurs in spring and fall. Places to target include Dunn's Creek to Lake Crescent, Murphy Creek, and the river from Palatka to Little Lake George. Try the hole on the North side of Buffalo Bluff Bridge, but bring plenty of hooks and weights due to the many snags.

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Ochlockonee River

Species: Bullhead, channel, flathead, and white catfish.

The best Ochlockonee River catfishing occurs in April and May for flathead catfish, and mid-May into early summer for channel catfish. Both channels and flatheads bite until the water turns cold in October or November. Small catfish bite year-round but slow down in cold months. Fish throughout the entire river, especially in the Talquin tail race area for whites and flatheads.  Try deep river bends holding structure further downstream for flatheads as well. 

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Haines Creek

Species: Bullhead, channel catfish, and white catfish.

Big channel catfish show up mid-April through June, and then October and November as water temperatures begin to drop. Small cats can easily be found year-round, especially where there is water flow.   The area below the lock and dam can be especially good at times.

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Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

Species: Bullhead, channel catfish, and white catfish.

Big channel catfish in the upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes experience peak spawning periods between April and June and can be targeted then. Bullheads can be caught year-round.  Water flow will concentrate catfish and make them easier to locate and catch. Specific sites include C-31 (East Lake Canal), C-35 (Southport Canal), C-36 (canal between Lake Cypress and Lake Hatchineha), C-37 (canal between Lake Hatchineha and Lake Kissimmee), below the Kissimmee River structure (S-65), around mouth of and in Shingle Creek, and in the lake proper around fish attractors.  Catfish are often found near drop-offs or around bottom structure in the canals.

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Mosaic Fish Management Area

Species: Channel catfish and bullheads.

Catfishing on this 1,000-acre Fish Management Area (FMA) near the town of Ft. Meade is usually best during the warmer months but fish can be caught year-round. Mosaic FMA lakes are frequently stocked with channel catfish to improve fishing opportunities; however, bullheads reproduce very well in several lakes and anglers have reported catching as many as 100 in a single trip.  A harvest limit of 6 channel catfish per day is strictly enforced on all lakes. The dozen lakes on the area range from ten to 200 acres in size and have very irregular bottom contours since they were created by phosphate mining many years ago. Fish can be caught from the bank or by boat. Try Haul Road, SP12 North, SP12 South, and LP2 West lakes for some of the better action. Most anglers have good success fishing chicken liver or commercial stink baits on the bottom, but night crawlers or other worms also work well. The Mosaic FMA is only open four days a week (Friday-Monday) on a first-come, first-serve basis but there will always be a spot to fish somewhere.  For more information, please call 863-648-3200
.

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Joe Budd Pond (Gadsden County)

Species: Channel catfish.

Channel cats can be found throughout the lake, particularly around the fishing fingers and along the dam. Fishing worms or night crawlers on the bottom will almost always produce, and catches typically range from 9 to 14 inches in length. Fish can be caught from shore or from boat, but gasoline motors are not permitted. A harvest limit of 6 channel catfish per person, per day is strictly enforced. This 20-acre impoundment is only open to the public on weekends beginning the first Saturday in July through the Labor Day weekend, including the Labor Day holiday.

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Medard Reservoir (Hillsborough County)

Species: Channel catfish.

The many ledges and bars (flats) within the main body of the reservoir provide areas for boat anglers to focus efforts for channel catfish.  Medard Reservoir was drawn down during the fall of 2009 by the Southwest Florida Water Management District to make necessary repairs on the dam and structure.  Medard Reservoir was stocked with 200,000 channel catfish in 2011 following the drawdown to provide an excellent opportunity for anglers to catch channel catfish.  Based on recent fish community sampling by FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, the channel catfish stocked are now large enough to be caught and filleted by anglers.  Chicken liver, commercial stink bait, or night crawlers should work well.

Days and hours of operation, park entrance and other user fees shall be designated by Hillsborough County and posted at the park main entrance..

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FWC Facts:
Freshwater fish have a series of sensory pores called the lateral line that detect movement and vibration in the water, which helps with predatory and schooling behavior.

Learn More at AskFWC