I grew up fishing in Northeast Ohio and have since gone back to my roots, with fond memories of days spent on Lake Erie with my father.
Summer Time Catfish
When I think summer, I think of hot days, cooler evenings, and the eventual switch from shallow water tactics for species like walleye and crappie into deeper waters. One thing that does stay consistent this time of year though, is catfish, most notably the channel catfish. I'll share some of my favorite tips and tricks to catching multiple species of this hard-fighting fish and a couple of recommendations on gear to help you reel them in.
What to Use
Depending on the body of water I know some combination of the baits listed below will get me a few catfish. I will list some conventional baits and some more unconventional baits I've been known to use as well as some information on where and how to use them.
- Worms: The gold standard for all species, earth worms come in handy during the early to mid summer when channels are seeking out good spawning grounds. Drop them like a bass worm around structures like wake walls, wingdams, or other riffraff and hold on tight. When your line jerks set the hook and hold on.
- Cut Bait: Lots of times when I'm fishing in a location I'm unsure of the preferred forage for catfish. Where legal, I will always try to catch myself some bait to use for later. Here in Ohio, bluegill, creek chubs, and sucker fish are all great options. Cutting them into pieces slightly smaller than the palm of your hand, make cutbait great for releasing scents and drawing fish in from all over.
- Chicken/Beef Liver: An all time favorite for many, liver is a great bait for lots of eater sized fish. It puts out lots of scents and draws the cats in from all over. Find a little bit of current to help disperse the scent and keep it close to the bottom. I prefer beef to chicken here as it stays on the hook better and seems to work just as well. When able, some Kroger markets in the midwest also sell turkey livers which work phenomenally when you're fishing for summer catfish.
- Hotdogs: Not just for the grill! Summertime catfish LOVE small pieces of hotdogs! I cut them into 1/4 inch chunks the size of a coin and fish them primarily around over known structures using a medium sized slip bobber. No need to cook them and from my experience the cheap store brand works better than name brands (and it's easier on your wallet!).
- Shrimp/Crawfish: While not at the top of my list, I once worked in a restaurant that specialized in seafood and let me tell you, old shrimp still in shell work wonders for summer catfish! Crayfish, crawdads, crawfish, all work just as well.
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Structure is Key
Fishing structure is the key to finding almost all species and catfish are no different. To me, the secret is finding breaks in currents and deep pools in the summer (in rivers) or finding flats next to deeper water (in lakes). Catfish, especially in summer, use these routes to search for food and forager them day and night. Remember, the best tool for success is a good sonar, but if that isn't feasible, there are lots of topographical maps of lakes available for free online. Learn your local haunts and find your own secret summer catfishing hole!
Night or Day?
There's no perfect time to fish, no right or wrong! You just can't catch fish sitting on the couch at home, so get out there and experiment! I know at some of my local lakes we actually do better in the middle of the day in late June/early July than we do any other time of the day or night! When fishing at night stick close to shore, find the bait/food source and you will find the fish. For daytime fishing, look for some form of structure that offers a good current break with quick access to shelter.
© 2022 Jeremy Richmond