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Tips for Catching Channel Catfish With Chicken Liver Bait

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Using Chicken Liver for Channel Catfish Bait

Channel catfish aren't my favorite for eating, but they're one of my favorite fish to reel in. Catfish are strong fighters, even the small ones, and they'll put your rod and reel to the test when you hook into one.

I've experimented with different baits for catching channel catfish, including nightcrawlers and prepared stink bait, but the most effective is fresh chicken liver from the grocery store. Is chicken liver the best bait for catfish? I don't know, but it's worked well for me.

Most grocery stores sell fresh chicken liver in a plastic container for a few bucks. Fresh liver works the best. Catfish are scavengers and can't resist a juicy chunk of liver on the end of a hook. The juice and smell from the meat in the water draw in the fish.

When fishing with liver, it's important to store the container in a cooler to keep them firm and easier to bait onto a hook. In direct sun, the meat melts into goop and it's hard to fish with.

Fishing Location and Time

Find a river or lake in your area with channel catfish. My best spots are in rivers. The best time to catch these fish is in the spring when they move into shallow water to spawn, and in the evening, nighttime, or early morning, when it's warm outside.

After dark is one of the best times to fish in shallow water and catch the big ones searching for food. When using chicken liver for bait, I've had the most success shore fishing in the backwater of rivers, channels, or below a dam, using a rod holder positioned on the bank.

Fishing Line and Pole Length

A heavy action rod with stronger fishing line is ideal for landing big channel catfish from a boat and the shore. For bank fishing, a heavy action rod of at least seven feet in length provides more leverage and backbone for an easier hook set when the fish picks up your bait.

Monofilament and braided fishing lines are both used by anglers targeting catfish. Monofilament costs less than braided line, but it's more likely to break off if you hook into a big one, or if your reel drag is set too tight.

Braided line is less likely to break when reeling in fish through heavy weeds. I can reel in bigger fish without worrying about the line snapping.

I like using 20-pound braided fishing line for catfish. I would avoid using braided line rated for less than 12 pounds. The downside of braided line, other than the price, is that snags are harder to break off to tie on another hook. You can also cut your hands without wearing gloves, but with monofilament, the line usually breaks at the hook with one hard tug.

Carolina rig setup

Carolina rig setup

Best Way to Catch Catfish With Chicken Liver

When I use chicken liver bait, I fish from the shore, using a rod holder and a fishing bell clipped onto an eyelet near the top of the pole. My line setup is similar to a Carolina rig, but I use a treble hook instead of a circle hook. Treble hooks hold the chicken liver better. I use an egg sinker on braided line with a leader between the sinker and hook. The heavier egg sinkers allow you to cast farther.

The biggest challenge in using liver for bait is keeping the meat on the hook. Using the wrong hook, or casting too hard, will send the bait flying into the middle of the lake when you cast. Another mistake is baiting the hook with an oversized piece of liver. All you need is a small glob of it on top of the treble hook.

Use Treble Hooks

Circle hooks work well for other catfish baits, but not for chicken liver. The meat is too tender and won't stay on a circle hook alone when casting. Fish will also tear it off before you have a chance to set the hook.

Treble hooks keep chicken liver on longer. Treble hook barbs are very sharp and effective for setting the hook too. You can press a chunk of bait into all three barbs to help keep it from falling off when casting, or you can use liver hooks equipped with a bait holder clip.

The trick is to keep the chicken liver container on ice inside of a cooler, not in the sun, otherwise the meat melts and it's difficult to fish with. Another tip is to keep your bait fresh. Using a treble hook alone works great, but after twenty minutes underwater the meat starts to crumble and break apart. There are ways to keep the bait on longer.

Elastic Surgical Netting (Tubular)

You can buy a roll of elastic surgical netting and use it as a bait holder. This works well because it allows you to cast without having to worry about your bait flying off of the hook. The tiny holes in the elastic allow the juices from the meat to escape into the water to attract catfish and keep the bait on longer than using a bare hook.

I've caught channel catfish using this method, but after a while, the juices from the liver are gone and the netting becomes more visible to fish. The trick is to keep the bait fresh. Reel in your line every twenty minutes and check your bait.

Tie Off Your Bait

Another trick when using a treble hook is to tie off the liver with string, or a spare piece of fishing line. This helps keep the bait on when casting, but it doesn't work as well as tubular netting. You simply wrap the fishing line around the bait and hook to secure it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Matt G.