The best time to fish is anytime you can go, as most anglers already know. However, fishing for catfish is a summertime tradition. Experienced angler, newbie or just the casual fisherman can find fantastic cat-fishing opportunities in Georgia.A lot of my fishing is catch and release, but when it comes to catfish, I catch and eat!
“Anglers who enjoy catching catfish have plenty of places to choose from in Georgia,” says 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!”. For good , up to date information on any of the lakes below, drop by a local bait and tackle store to buy your bait and they'll be glad to offer good advice. Most shop owners that I know love to talk fishing!
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, other fishing slows down a bit, but catfishing is still very good! Below are some good hot weather hot spots and 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 GA Hwy. 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. But if you try the shallow flats where the main creeks go into the lake, in about 6 feet of water, you'll find lots of catfish. Just put out several poles, fished tight lined in the bottom with worms, small pieces of cut bait, or raw shrimp and you'll get plenty of action!
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, try 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. For those big catfish, make sure to take a big landing net. That piece of equipment can make the difference between a smiling and crying fisherman!
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 . I hope you have a Georgia catfish tugging on your line soon!