Spring Catfishing

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CatmanND's picture
Spring Catfishing
<p>What is the best bait for channel catfish this time of the year? My local river is open, but there are still ice chunks floating in it.</p>
Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
Probably really fresh cut bai

Probably really fresh cut bait, like chunks of suckers or chubs.  Smallish hunks like an inch or two long.  Keep your bait pleanty fresh.  I like to change out cut bait every half an hour or so, if I'm not feeling too lazy.

This time of year, I fish any

This time of year, I fish anything with shad. Cut shad, shad guts, doughbait with shad ground in. Seems to do well. There is a locally made doughbait which has shad as the major componant. It stinks, but it catches them.

Corey's picture
Dead Frogs

I have never tried it, but I have it on good authority that big channel cats go absolutely nuts for dead frogs in the spring. Lots of them get winterkilled in the shallows and the spring runoff washes them into the rivers. Would love to hear some reports.

Mike B
Mike B's picture
Years ago when I was living i

Years ago when I was living in Winnipeg I'd walk down to the Red River to fish during the spring. On the way there was a creek loaded with leopard frogs. I'd catch a few then crush and kill them and fish them on the bottom. I caught some really nice channel cats there, some good drum too. One time I was with my girlfriend there when I caught a big cat which vomited the dead frog up on the shore when I landed it. That didn't go over very well.

mike b

zippyFX's picture
If it's still cool. I would s

If it's still cool. I would stick with worms. Last spring here, when when the water temp was still low, my cut bait was getting competely ignored. All my hits were on worms. 


I was thinking that theier metabolosim had not yet come up to speed for larger offerings. 


In the end you'll have to experiment. If they are on bigger offerings try to mimick the winter kill. 

Outdoors4life's picture

Early in the year frogs are just startign to come out and very sluggish. That is why I think that dead frogs work so well. They are tougher to get around here now. I used to use frogs for bullheads when I was younger and I caught the biggest bullheads that way and channels would be similar. I have used them on the st croix around stillwater with limited success but other rivers I have done well.

Crawlers are a similar situation where I think this year is going to be less effective because of the lack of water flowing into the river washing crawlers in too.

These are just my theories but they have helped me choose bait in different watersheds.

It is all perspective!

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D.T.'s picture
Squished fatheads!

Where I live it's hands down the best ice fishin bait for channel cats. Plus early spring. I have tried livers, crawlers, cut sucker, and stink baits. Best bait for me is three sqished fatheads on a circle hook. Cat crack!

CatmanND's picture
Thanks Guys

Thanks guys, I guess I'll jist have to experiment with baits.  The winter kill is mostly baby carp. I'll post  a report in a few days.


Jason E.
Jason E.'s picture
I've found that catfish can b

I've found that catfish can be "site-specific" regarding their food preferences.  I've tested this out numerous times.  At one spot, I was catching lots of channel cats with worms.  I switched over to dead shiners.  Nothing.  Not a nibble.  Switched back to worms, and I started catching fish again.  At other spots, I've found the reverse to be true.  Crayfish tails also can be "cat crack" at various times.  My last outing, waxworms outperformed garden worms, so who knows? 

eanoszko's picture
Where to find cats in the spring?

What sort of water do you target for spring catfish?  I've caught them in the summer, but never had much luck early in the season. 

Eli's picture
I've had some very violent ta

I've had some very violent takes from early season channel cats using shrimp as well as salted smelt. When I say violent, I mean rod flying off the stand without a warning and gone baby gone if I'm off taking a piss but luckily I wasn't type of thing...

Worms work, no doubt, but I find the bites to be somewhat more subtle (as subtle as a channel cat bite can be...). 




krazyk's picture
So it has been kind of a weir

So it has been kind of a weird spring  here so far. We've had very warm temps which have made the ice unsafe but we've had cold nights which have preserved some good amounts of ice on my local river.

Is it worth trying fishing inbetween the remaining ice in channels or breaks in the ice? There are large stretches of iceless water. I'm itching to get back out there and big channel cats sound like an awesome way to kick off the open water season - I have plenty of deadbait!

Chain Pickerel: All the bad assery of a Northern Pike wrapped up in a smaller, prettier package.

Eli's picture
Yes! If you look back at last


If you look back at last year's reports, I was catching carp right next to a sheet of ice. 

Fish the mid-late afternoon when the water has had the most time of warm up and try to get to the side of the river where the sun hits first. It'll be the warmest water around and that is where the more active fish will be.




krazyk's picture
That was a cool report with s

That was a cool report with some huge carp! I saw a small creek that had open water around it with ice about 15-20 yards beyond the mouth - I'm gonna give that a try this weekend I think. If I catch anything I'll post a early spring report!

Chain Pickerel: All the bad assery of a Northern Pike wrapped up in a smaller, prettier package.