You feel the familiar rush of adrenaline as you see the tip of your fishing rod bend over so quick it looks like it could break. You feel the familiar tug and fight of a monster catfish. Then you see gigantic whiskers, and your heart almost jumps out of your chest when he turns and starts screaming drag. There’s just nothing quite like catching trophy catfish.
Trophy catfishing truly provides a unique when you consider catfish species represent some of the largest freshwater fish you can target in the U.S., but if you really want to set yourself up for success, here’s a rundown of the top five states for catching catfish.
Let’s jump in!
- Arkansas a Top State for Catching Catfish
If you’re looking for choice catfish, this state can’t be beat. The waters here are teeming with millions of these whisker-sporting fish, as the state’s fish and game commission stocks them with these fish each year.
What does that mean for you? It means you can go fishing in nine lakes at state parks as well as 18 lakes that are part of the forest service.
Plus, over 40 lakes belonging to the fish and game commission, and 16 impoundments belonging to the Corps of Engineers are available for anglers.
You’ll see flatheads and trophy blues in abundance in Arkansas’s bodies of water. These bodies of water include large rivers, such as the Mississippi River as well. In fact, that’s where Bill Dance, a fishing personality caught a more-than-80-pound blue back in 2012.
Other anglers have also caught blues in the White River, Arkansas River, and Lake Ouachita. A record-setting channel cat weighing in at a whopping 51 pounds made an appearance in Polk County’s Lake Wilhelmina as well.
If you’re especially interested in flatheads, you can’t bypass Lake Conway located in Faulkner County. It’s brimming with catfish that are 50 to 80 pounds. You can’t beat that.
If you are itching to catch a giant catfish, look no farther than Mississippi.
You could describe the Mississippi River as essentially a factory for trophy catfish. The monster river runs more than 400 miles down the western border of the state and was the home of the state-record flathead (more than 77 pounds) and blue (around 95 pounds).
If you had a map of the state of Mississippi in front of you, you could place your pointer on any blue area and find a hotspot for unparalleled action.
Still, the top reservoirs in Mississippi include Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid, Grenada, Pickwick and Ross Barnett. In addition, you can experience some big success in small lakes such as Eagle, Okhissa, Roosevelt State Park, Percy Quin State Park, Washington and Oktibbeha County.
This state may not be the first one that comes to mind when you think of catching catfishing. But don’t underestimate it.
Excellent catfishing abounds in bodies of water across the state. You can go east to reach the grand Ohio River. Or you can travel west to reach, again, the massive Mississippi River.
What makes both of these rivers stand out, though, is that they do not get a lot of the pressure you’ll see on most waters in the Deep South. So, that means you can easily find channel cats, blues, and flatheads that are trophy-sized here.
Other rivers you can’t pass up for catching catfish for a trophy or for dinner include the Rock, Fox, Illinois, and Kaskaskia.
But don’t rule out the lakes. Try Governor Bond, South Spring, Springfield, Canton, Rend and Carlyle for some outstanding whisker-catching action.
This state, similarly to Illinois, isn’t often praised for top-notch catfishing opportunities. That’s why we couldn’t help but to give it its due praise here.
Virtually every river and lake in this state harbors robust channel catfish, flathead or blue populations. If you’re in the mood for catfish for supper, try the Branched Oak, Harlan and Swanson reservoirs.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for trophy fishing, try the Platte and Missouri rivers. You can also find trophy cats in the following reservoirs:
- Box Butte
- Wagon Train
But if you’re truly serious about taking home a trophy, keep Merritt Reservoir, which spans a whopping 2,900 acres, in the forefront of your mind. This lake has been touted as offering the best waters for trophy channel catfish throughout the whole country. You can easily see catfish after catfish that are over 35 pounds here.
What’s so great about these giant fish is that you don’t necessarily need a boat to catch them, either. Shore fishing will work just fine. No matter what method you choose, just be prepared to catch a ton of fish.
- South Carolina
The Palmetto State has been a top destination for catfishing for years. This is mostly because of the state’s solid reputation for fishing on the Moultrie, Santee-Cooper Lakes and Marion.
Some fishermen claim that these bodies of water are overrated these days. But the reality is that flatheads and blues worthy of trophies are still being reeled in every day there. For instance, these waters are typically known to produce 70 to 90 pound blues on a consistent basis
Other water bodies in South Carolina are especially perfect for those whose main goal is to bring home the family’s next meal. These include the Waccamaw, Pee Dee, Santee and Congaree rivers as well as Murray Wateree, Jocassee, Wylie, Greenwood and Clarks Hill lakes.
When to Go Fishing
When should you plan your catfishing trip? It all depends on the species you’re targeting.
For instance, winter is the best time if you’re after channel and blue catfish in the abovementioned states. Meanwhile, hooking flatheads is easier during the spring, when the waters have finally warmed up.
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