How the Catfish Spawn Works

Catfishing During the Spawn
Taste This and Make it a Biggie!

Catfish taste food with external taste buds located on those distinctive barbels, or whiskers. Since they are bottom feeders that feed at night, the catfish use the barbels to find food in the dark, muddy water. They're also fairly indiscriminate about what they eat. Insects and larvae, mollusks, fish, crustaceans, aquatic plants and seeds -- all are welcome nourishment for catfish. [source: Maryland Fish Facts]

In Maryland, the record channel catfish, caught in Piscataway Creek, weighed in at 28.3 pounds. The sport fishing record catfish, which was caught in Georgia, weighed 32 pounds. The big boy, however, is the blue catfish, which can weigh up to 100 pounds. [source: Chesapeake Bay Program Bay Field Guide, Maryland Fish Facts]

Bait casting is a popular way to catch a catfish. For this method, you'll need a free spool, or r­evolving-spool reel, which you'll place on the topside of the fishing rod. Bait casting requires larger lures that you will cast a longer distance. Make sure that your rod has good spring action. Use a 10- to 15-pound test line, and make sure the rod also has an anti-backlash reel.

You can use lures, but if you want to use fresh bait, channel catfish are fond of cut fish, squid, shrimp and either soft or peeler crab.

Most seasons and times of day are favorable for still fishing from shore, a boat at anchor, a bridge or a pier. You'll be fishing on the bottom of the body of water, where the catfish are also looking for dinner. [source: Maryland Fish Facts, Take Me Fishing.]

To keep banks from eroding, engineers place riprap -- chunks of stone or concrete -- near causeways, bridges and dams. These banks make great fishing areas during the catfish spawn, because catfish like to spawn in cavities between the rocks. The best locations aren't where the riprap is neatly placed. Rather, look for rockslides, or even for logs or pipes. [source: Sutton]

­The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may not seem like a fishing buddy, but this group has made improvements to major river navigation systems that will help you. In an attempt to keep riverbanks from washing away, members of the agency smooth the shore and then cover the soil with revetment, or concrete matting. Underneath these structures, are prime nesting grounds for catfish. If you're fishing from a boat with a sonar screen, watch for bucked-up slabs of the revetment. Go upstream within casting distance and drop anchor. If you haven't gotten a bite within 15 to 20 minutes, move further upstream to find another hole. [source: Sutton]

Persistence and patience are always key in successful fishing. This is even truer during the catfish spawn, but determination makes a difference.

R­el­ated HowStuffWorks Articles

    More Great Links


    • Chesapeake Bay Program Bay Field Guide. "Catfish." (Accessed 11/07/08)
    • Dorman, Larry W. "Spawning Jars for Hatching Catfish." (Accessed 11/07/08)
    • "Maryland Fish Facts: Channel and White Catfish." (Accessed 11/07/08)
    • Sutton, Keith. "Understanding the Catfish Spawn." (Accessed 11/07/08)
    • Take Me Fishing. "Catfish, White: Baits and Lures." (Accessed 11/07/08)
    • Take Me Fishing. "Fishing Methods." (Accessed 11/07/08)

    More to Explore