The best locations for catching catfish occur all over the state of Florida.
By Bob Wattendorf:Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- The Apalachicola River offers excellent fishing for channel, flathead, and blue catfish. Angling for big channel cats is best from April into early July; flathead fishing picks up in April and runs into the summer months. Small catfish can be caught year-round, but the spring and summer months are best. For all species, anglers should try the area from the Jim Woodruff Dam south to Owl Creek. Target deep holes with structure, old creek channels and the mouths of tributaries. Live bream fished on the bottom work well for big flatheads, while stink baits or nightcrawlers (also fished on the bottom) should do the trick for channels. Try fresh cut bait, such as mullet, if pursuing blue catfish.
- The Choctawhatchee River provides outstanding fishing for channel and flathead catfish. Channel catfishing is best from late May through early July and October into November, if the water remains warm. Small catfish can be caught year-round. Concentrate on 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 within deep bends and holes or where large woody debris is present. Try live bream on the bottom for flatheads up to 30 pounds. Stink baits or nightcrawlers fished on the bottom will do the trick for channels.
- The Escambia River generates quality opportunities for blue, channel and flathead catfish. Fishing for channel catfish and big flatheads peaks from April through October. The best stretch lies from the Alabama line to the I-10 Bridge. Savvy anglers will fish live bream on the bottom for big flatheads and stink baits or nightcrawlers for channel cats.
- The St. Johns River and Dunn’s Creek yield superior bullhead, channel catfish and white catfish. Prime locations include Dunn’s Creek to Lake Crescent, Murphy’s Creek from the St. Johns River to Dunn’s 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 because there are many snags.
- The Ochlocknee River offers excellent fishing for bullhead, channel, flathead and white catfish. The best angling begins in April for flathead catfish and mid-May into early summer for channel cats. Both channels and flatheads will continue to bite until the water turns cold in October or November. Small catfish can be readily caught throughout the year, but fishing slows down in colder months. Catfishing is good throughout the entire river but especially in the Talquin tail race area for whites and flatheads. Try deep rivers bends with structure further downstream for flatheads as well.
- The Clermont Chain of Lakes offers anglers superb opportunities for channel and white catfish.Anglers should concentrate on offshore open-water areas, particularly near drop-offs or around bottom structures. Canals and channels may also be attractive to catfish during times of flow. Cut baits or stink baits should work well for both species.
- Haines Creek, near Leesburg, provides good angling for bullheads, channel catfish and white catfish. Most of the larger channel catfish are landed from mid-April through June and October and November as water temperatures begin to drop. However, small catfish of all species are readily available year-round, in flowing water. The creek between Eustis and Griffin lakes offers the best catfishing on the system, particularly below the lock and dam.
- The Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes affords great bullhead, channel catfish and white catfish angling opportunities. Big channel catfish experience peak spawning periods between April and June and are hungry right afterward. Bullheads primarily spawn from October into November but may spawn year-round. Water flow will concentrate catfish and make it easier to locate and catch. The best sites include C-31 (East Lake Canal), C-35 (Southport Canal), C-36 (canal between Lake Cypress and Lake Hatchineha), C-37 (canal between lakes Hatchineha and Kissimmee), below the Kissimmee River structure (S-65), around the mouth of and in Shingle Creek, and in the lake proper around fish attractors. Catfish are often found near drop-offs or around the bottom structure in the canals.
- Southwest Florida Lakes offer many excellent opportunities for channel catfish and bullhead, including lakes 2-5, B and Picnic at Tenoroc Fish Management Area (Polk County); lakes LP2 West, Haul Road Pit and Pine East at Mosaic Fish Management Area (Polk County); lakes 1 and 3 at Hardee Lakes Park (Hardee County); Lake Manatee (Manatee County); and ponds managed under the Tampa Bay Urban Fishery Program, particularly Dover District Park and Stephen J. Wortham Park.
- Joe Budd Pond (Gadsden County), a 20-acre impoundment provides excellent channel catfishing. Fish can be found throughout the lake, particularly around the fishing fingers and along the dam. This site is only open to the public on weekends, beginning the first Saturday in July through the Labor Day weekend (including the Labor Day holiday). Fishing worms or nightcrawlers on the bottom are all that is needed for great catches. Fish can be caught from shore or from a boat. Gasoline motors are not permitted. Fish are typically nine to 14 inches. A harvest limit of six-channel catfish per person, per day, is strictly enforced.For more detailed information on these catfish hotspots, visit www.myfwc.com