How to Catch Channel Catfish from Shore | Rivers, Lakes, and Ponds

Catching channel catfish from shore is actually easier than you might think. Using fresh bait, picking the right location, and using the proper rig will get you some channel catfish.

Channel Catfish

Channel catfish are the most widespread species of catfish in North America. The channel catfish is also the most sought after catfish of the species.

They have a very good sense of smell and taste, and also possess great eyesight. These fish are very fun to catch, as they can grow to over 50lbs.

Channel cats are great eating! Many people fry, bake, and even bbq catfish. It is also the state fish for Tennessee, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska. They can be distinguished by the anal fin, as it differs from other species.

The channel cat has 24-29 rays, this is the only true way to identify the channel cat from any other catfish.

Channel Catfish Bait

Channel catfish bite a wide variety of baits, ranging from worms to cut bait. Some of the most common baits include, chicken liver, nightcrawlers, cut shad, mackerel, and also live sunfish.

My personal favorite bait for channel catfish is garlic scented chicken livers. You simply pour garlic powder into a tub of chicken liver and boom, your good! Another great bait that is always producing is cut shad.

Gizzard shad is my favorite, but other places will say skipjack is their favorite. A more unorthodox bait is garlic jello chicken breasts.

The results speak for themselves! There are countless videos of people Catching catfish on jello garlic chicken breasts. I have used this bait myself, and was very surprised by the results.

All you do is pour a packet of jello, some garlic powder, and put some chicken breast in a bag. Shake it up and leave it overnight and boom, cheap effective bait.

The Jell-O flavor is up to you, although all of them work well. Channel catfish tend to really gravitate toward the smellier baits, so when looking for an effective bait, this is something to consider.

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Hooks

 Channel catfish do have smaller mouths for their body’s size. However, it is important that you match your bait size with your hook size.

If you know you are going to be targeting bigger fish, you should probably use bigger hooks, and vice versa. As a general baseline, I like to use size 5ot circle hooks.

This seems to be the best in between size that catches most fish. But as I said before, you need to know the size range of the catfish you will be catching. It is important to use smaller or bigger hooks if needed, so bring at least 4 different hook sizes.

If you need help with rigging check out the best catfish rigs for bank fishing.

Finding a Spot

Finding a spot for channel catfish is not very difficult. Some good spots tend to be coves, riverbends, riprap, and also drop offs.

Rivers

In river systems, channel catfish can be very plentiful. I think it is safe to say that 90% of all rivers in North America have channel catfish.

Channel catfish tend to be shallower in the warmer months (April-august) and as the colder months roll in (September-March) they seem to be deeper. The best spots to target in the warm months are depth from 5-15 ft of water.

Channel catfish like warmer water, so during this time they will be pretty easy to catch. Behind sunken trees, eddies, current breaks, and also river mouths are all a great bet for catfishing spots.

If you don’t seem to be getting any bites within 30-45 minutes, it is best to move. The summer time you don’t want to waste your time in spots for too long.

In the winter time, the best options are the deepest holes you can find. After the water temp drops below 50, the catfish of I’ll go deep.

Depending on your river, this will mean different depths. The best places to target during these times are the river channels, deep holes, and any warm water discharges if you have access.

Lakes

Lakes can provide some great catfishing action that is if you know which spot to pick. During the warmer months, catfish will likely be extremely close to shore. 5-10 feet of water is usually the best bet for fishing this time of year.

I do have an article on how to catch catfish in lakes, for a more in depth read.

I generally like to target windy banks, riprap, coves, and any kind of structure. The coves generally warm up faster than the main lake, so catfish love to stack up in there.

Also to note, where bait is plentiful, catfish will also be plentiful. If you find that spot on a windy day, where the wind is blowing into your face, you may have just found a gem.

The wind blows baitfish and other nutrients into the bank, so it provides an easy meal and a bountiful food supply for channel cats. Be sure and move often, as catfish will not come to you, you have to move to them.

In the winter time, lake fishing can be a bit more challenging. It is much tougher to reach the deeper sections of the lake, and for the most part that is where the fish will be.

Try and get as close as you can to deep water, or try the balloon method.

The balloon method acts pretty much like an oversized bobber to float your bait out further than you can cast. This can be effective at helping you reach deeper water.

Ponds

Ponds can be a very easy place to locate and catch channel catfish. There is only so many places they can go, so be determined to spread out baits, and change baits to find the fish.

I like fishing riprap, weed edges, and even in the deepest section of pond. This will give you a good spread of baits in different locations to help you find the fish.

Summer time the fish will likely be close to the bank and you may even be able to see them. Try casting closer to shore during this time, as catfish love patrolling the bank for baitfish and any other easy meal they can find.

Also if your pond has structure, then target it heavily. It is not uncommon for swarms of catfish to gravitate toward structure. Especially during the summer, the structure can provide shade for catfish to get out of the heat.

In the winter time, it is best to target the deepest section of the pond. There is no guarantee during the cold, as some catfish become so inactive that they don’t eat at all.

Ponds do get colder than rivers and lakes, so this is to be expected during colder Months.

Rod/Reel

For rod and reel, untypical like to use something a bit longer when fishing from shore. This will help you cast further into unknown spots, and could help you find some fish.

8-10 feet is a good size for casting, but you can get away with a 7ft. Your rod action should be at least medium heavy, but you could go heavy if you wanted.

Catfish can be tough, especially channel cats, so be prepared with a solid rod. For reel I like using something that can hold at least 200yds of line.

This way when you snag and break off, you aren’t automatically running out of line. Okuma Coronado cdx, abu Garcia 7000, and the okuma avenger are all good baseline reels to get started with.

As for line, if you are using monofilament, I like anywhere from 15-25 lb. Channel catfish fight harder than blues and bullheads, so it is important you have line that holds up to the strength of the fish.

As for braid, I would go with no less than 40lb. It is also important to use mono in high cover areas, such as rocks or timber.

You don’t want your line breaking due to other factors other than the fish. Braid breaks very easy on rocks, so be careful to use the right line style for your location.

Overview

Channel catfish are very catchable from shore, so go out there and get them! Whether your fishing a pond, river, or lake, you should be able to apply these skills to catch yourself some fish.

Be sure to say tuned into my Youtube Channel to stay up to date on all of my fishing adventures!

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