How to Catch Catfish

Rising above its lowbrow image, the size of a catfish can make it formidible prey. Includes information on how to catch catfish, types of catfish and record-holding information on catfish caught in years past.

| May/June 1988

This informative guide on how to catch catfish provides fishing tips and tricks. Live minnows are just one of many productive catfish baits. (See the catfish photos and illustrations in the image gallery.)

How to Catch Catfish

"Well, the days went along, and the river went down between its banks again, and about the first thing we done was bait one of the big hooks with a skinned rabbit and set it and catch a catfish that was as big as a man, being six foot two inches long, and weighed over two hundred pounds. We couldn't handle him, of course; he would 'a' flung us into Illinois. We just set there and watched him rip and tear around till he drownded."

That's Mark Twain, of course, and while it might seem that he's wildly exaggerating the size of Huck and Jim's big catfish for literary effect, the old master was in fact merely pushing the limits of reality. For Twain's Mississippi was, and remains, an exceptionally fertile environment for the growth of giants among the two largest catfish species native to North America, the blue and the flathead.

The International Game Fish Association's rod-and-reel record for the blue is 97 pounds; for the flathead, 98. But larger, much larger cats have been taken by non-IGFA-sanctioned methods such as trotlines, bank poles and hand lines.

The heaviest verified weight for a blue that I've run across was a behemoth that weighed 150 pounds taken (method unknown) from the Mississippi in 1879. In this century, a 130-pound blue hauled from Tennessee's Ft. Loudon Reservoir in 1976 remains king. And a five-foot-long, 106-pound flathead fell to a trotline in Oklahoma's Lake Wister in 1977. There are even bigger cats still out there, no doubt. Somewhere, probably lots of somewheres, these monsters are feeding voraciously and growing to legendary proportions.

It was as big a fish as was ever catched in the Mississippi, I reckon. Jim said he hadn't ever seen a bigger one. He would 'a' been worth a good deal over at the village.

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