Anytime is a great time to go fishing, as most anglers already know. However, fishing for catfish is a summertime tradition. An experienced angler, newbie or just the casual fisherman can find fantastic cat-fishing opportunities in Georgia.
“Anglers who enjoy catching catfish have plenty of places to choose from in Georgia,” said John Biagi, chief with the Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Management Section. “There almost certainly is a local place near you that has catfish, they require relatively simple gear and taste great on the dinner table — all good reasons to get out and go fish.”
Georgia’s public waterways are home to several species of catfish, including channel, white, blue, flathead and bullheads (consisting of several similar species — yellow, brown, snail, spotted and flat). The larger species, blue catfish and flathead catfish, can grow to exceed 100 pounds.
With summertime getting closer to its peak, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division highlights hot weather hot spots and offers tips on technique and equipment for anglers of all skill levels:
• Lake Nottely, near Blairsville – Contains good populations of channel catfish (averaging one pound or less) and fewer, but larger flathead catfish (weighing up to 40 pounds).
• Lake Marbury (Fort Yargo State Park), near Winder – Supports an excellent population of channel catfish.
• Lake Oconee, near Madison – Supports high numbers of channel, blue, flathead, white and bullhead species of catfish.
• Flint River – Great location for catching five to 30-pound flathead catfish or channel catfish, though most channel cats will weigh between two and five pounds.
• Chattahoochee River above West Point Lake – In the last few years, the number and size of flathead catfish caught above West Point has increased significantly.
• Goat Rock Lake – This lake constantly produces good numbers of harvestable-size channel cats.
• Big Lazer PFA – Staff are seeing many large channel cats currently being caught at the dam area.
• Andrews Lock and Dam (Chattahoochee River) – Best location in southwest Georgia for catching a flathead or blue catfish exceeding 20 pounds.
• Lower Chattahoochee River near Highway 91 southwest of Donalsonville – Recent surveys conducted during summer months indicate that channel, blue and flathead catfish can be found here in abundance.
• Lake Seminole, near Donalsonville – Good catches of channel catfish available throughout the summer.
• Lake Blackshear, near Cordele – Excellent channel catfish spot. Best places are the main lake and below Warwick Dam.
• Lake Walter F. George, near Columbus – Excellent fishing for channel catfish in the main lake and in the upper end (above Florence Marina) for both channel and blue catfish. The state record blue catfish (80 pounds, 4 ounces) was caught in the tailrace of this lake by Ernest Timpson in February 2010.
• Altamaha River – Great location for several species of catfish, including flathead, channel and an expanding population of blue catfish. The Altamaha boasts two state record fish: flathead (83 pounds) caught by Carl Sawyer in 2006; and channel cat (44 pounds, 12 ounces) caught by Bobby Smithwick in 1972.
• Satilla River – Excellent fishing available for channel catfish, white catfish and several species of bullheads.
• Southeast Georgia public fishing areas (including Evans County PFA, Paradise PFA, Hugh M. Gillis PFA and Dodge County PFA) – Some of the best locations for channel catfish in southeast Georgia. Medium weight rod with either a spincasting or spinning reel recommended.
• St. Marys River – Healthy populations of channel and white catfish are available.
As a rule, the species and size of catfish dictate the fishing line used. If targeting channel and white catfish, fisheries biologists recommend eight- to 14-pound test line and medium-sized hooks (two to 1/0) under a bobber or fished on the bottom.
For anglers trying to land a large flathead, heavy tackle is a must — large spinning or casting tackle with at least 20 to 50-pound test line, large hooks (3/0 to 7/0), and heavy weights to keep bait on the bottom.
Best baits for channel, bullheads and white catfish are worms, liver, live minnows, cut bait and stink bait. Recommended flathead baits are live goldfish, bream and shiners.
In general, anglers should target rocky shorelines, rip-rap areas and points. When fishing rivers during the day, anglers should look to deep holes containing rocky or woody cover. During dusk, dawn and at night, anglers should concentrate on shallow sandbars and shoals nearby the deep holes fished during the day, as catfish frequently move shallow to feed during low light conditions.
Though most species of catfish are active throughout the day, the best summer fishing is at dusk and during the night, and while catfish can be caught year-round, the peak bite typically is from early spring through the peak of summer.
Anglers must possess a current Georgia fishing license to fish in public waters. Where can you get a license? Buy it online or find a list of retail license vendors at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.
For more information on fishing in Georgia, visit the www.gofishgeorgia.com/fishing.