Ice Fishing Tips -Check your local regulations! > Catfish

Channel Catfish

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Channel catfish tend to behave very much like crappies in terms of winter fishing.  They have light soft bites often.  Maybe they just breathe the lure into their mouths.  They also like to feel the lure with their whiskers for some reason, which often means if you jig the lure at the moment, they will shy away.  However if you set the hook, sometimes you will set the hook on their whisker or barely lipping them.  When they bite aggressive, they tend to bite hard onto lure.  Which sometimes results in either no hook set or again bare minimal hook penetration on the lip just due the teeth clamping onto lure.

You can catch catfish either just like a few feet underneath the ice to all the way to the bottom of the lake at times.  I've caught some down like 40 to 50 feet on bottom.  However when they're feeding on the mud bottoms, I tend to find them about 20 to 35 feet often, but those bottom feeding ones tend to be smaller ones of usually between 16 to only 20 inches in length.  The bigger ones I tend to catch are often suspending mid water.  There's something about dropping the sonar just after you drill a hole and seeing a huge mark just 10' below you and then dropping bait down to see that fish slowly come in and chow down on the bait. 

There can be very large schools of catfish, but often there will be a two or three of them that like to roam together.  When night falls, I tend to find them schooling more so in large migratory groups.  They seem to like to suspend over the deeper lake hole zone. 

Often times a plain deadstick presentation will work.  Sometimes it's a jigging presentation that will call them in to bite.  While they may bite an artificial lure and/or soft plastic, most of the time some kind of bait is required for the bite.

Using crappie fishing rods is often the best way to for a jigging presentation.  Although a walleye deadstick is also a good choice for both jigging and dead sticking.  Only when catfish are aggressive should one use like a medium powered walley rod to even a heavy powered rod to tangle with the big ones.  By big, I am referring to channel catfish of at least 28 inches in length or more.  They will still fit through an 8" ice hole.  The big ones I've caught are typically 32 to 34 inches in length.  They seem to only have half of their fighting strength in winter time. 

i've had my best success for channel cats on the brightest, sunniest days, and during stretches of warmer/more stable weather. i think the bump in temperature puts them in a more positive feeding mood.

ideally, i look for deeper water, somewhere around 15-20 feet, and if i'm lucky, i'll find a sunken tree or bush on the bottom. then, i'll drop a camera to see what exactly is going on there, and if any catfish are present. if they are, i'll set dead rods with waxworms or small pieces of cutbait, then jig nearby with a small spoon tipped with some waxworms. another good place i've found to look is dense patches of live weeds. if you can find the edge, i've seen catfish cruising along just outside the weeds.


--- Quote from: vanhln on Nov 29, 2020, 05:28 PM ---I'm not the most seasoned ice fisher, but all the ones I've caught have been at dark in the evening....This is about a 16 incher from Punderson lake on east side of Cleveland, OH...
And...caught all mine on waxworms...didn't expect that....

--- End quote ---

I live 20 minutes from Punderson. We catfish there in the summer but with all the springs in that body of water, we have never gone there to ice fish. 16" is a good eating channel :)

I'll catch one now and then on a couple of the ponds I fish. A nibblet of nightcrawler on a jig an inch or two off the bottom has been the only thing I've ever had them hit.

Most of the ponds I hit in the winter, they never touch bait, even when you see them swimming around, though. They're weird in the ice season.


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