How To Catch Catfish In Lakes

A reader asked us if we had any tips for capturing prize channel catfish when lake fishing. This post will go through some techniques to assist you target big catfish when fishing on a lake.

It is essential to keep in mind that the feeding patterns and the general routines of the catfish do not alter much whether your targeting them in a lake, river, stream, pond, and even a creek; nevertheless, the size of the fish differ significantly depending upon the body of water your fishing. When lake fishing on a big body of water for catfish you can anticipate to catch some trophy sized channel cats. Generally if you’re familiar with the lake, the depth, and the bottom terrain you can quickly narrow in on where these huge catfish hide.

How To Catch Catfish In Lakes

Fishing Sonar

Most importantly, try and find big underwater rocks and boulders. This can be done using a fishing sonar. In my area you’ll be trolling in depths of 25 feet and stumble upon a rock structure that covers 15 feet around. Areas like this provide shelter to big catfish, and this is where they tend to nest. Simply toss on some homemade catfish bait and drop it right to the bottom beside the edges of the rock; if a catfish is there it will make certain to bite trust me. This technique works fantastic during the early periods of summer.


Where the rivers pour into the lakes is another gem for capturing large catfish. Often catfish will hangout around areas in the lake drop-offs where the river gathers. Given that catfish are bottoms feeders they hangout near the bottom of the lake and wait for food to pour in from the river. Fishing this mouths will land you some large fish over and over.


Depth plays a huge role in where the catfish are hanging out. The catfish will try to find waters in the mid 70s that has plenty of oxygen; which is usually in deep areas in the summertime. In the spring catfish will move into warmer and shallower waters to spawn. Catfish aren’t as active in the winter so your best bet is to target them in the warm summertime.

Do not troll around or move too quickly when lake fishing. Catfish are bottom fish and are pretty lazy fish. The gradually coast around their nesting areas and draw up food on the bottom of the lake. Your best bet is to put on a piece of bait and let it rest right on the bottom of the lake or an inch above. Baits that are smelly work the best; you can either buy catfish stink baits of make your own. Bear in mind that catfish primarily find food based upon scent; so use something that is getting their attention.


The truly large catfish like to eat other fish. If it’s the 10 lb plus catfish you’re targeting avoid the stink baits and just opt for minnows. Small 5-8 inch sucker fish minnows work wonders for the larger catfish. You can use the same methods noted above.

Other Tips

  • Use a fish finder, screen temperatures, and discover where the catfish are gathering
  • Use live bait or stinky baits to bring in the fish
  • Catfish hang out in groups; as soon as you find them there are always more
  • Search for underwater trees, rocks, and immersed logs; catfish nest in these areas
  • Let the bait sit; the catfish will find it if they exist
  • You can capture catfish throughout the year.