COLUMBUS — Summer is the perfect time for anglers to chase catfish in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division. Ohio’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and streams are home to four types of catfish: blue, bullhead, channel, and flathead.
The wildlife division regularly stocks over 300,000 channel catfish in over 100 different tanks. River catfish also occur naturally in most Ohio rivers and streams and thrive in Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay.
A popular sport fish, they typically measure between 15 and 25 inches in length and can weigh up to 10 pounds. In larger tanks and rivers, river catfish can be much larger, with some trophy fish reaching the 26-inch requirement for Fish Ohio recognition.
The largest catfish found in the state is the blue catfish, which regularly grows to 30 to 40 inches. Ohio’s record blue catfish weighed in at 96 pounds. A blue catfish at least 35 inches long qualifies for Fish Ohio recognition. This species is found in the Ohio River and is stocked in Clendening Lake, Caesar Creek Reservoir, Hoover Reservoir, and Seneca Lake by the Wildlife Division, with Hoover giving anglers the best chance of success. Over 150,000 blue catfish were stocked in 2021.
Flathead catfish present a challenge to anglers as they can weigh up to 80 pounds, although most weigh between 5 and 40 pounds with lengths of up to 50 inches and over. They are found in the largest rivers and reservoirs of Ohio; the Muskingum watershed is a hotspot. Anglers will need heavy tackle to reel in a trophy flathead, with most fish caught near underwater structures and drift piles. Flatheads over 35 inches in length qualify for Fish Ohio recognition.
All three species of Ohio catfish — black, brown, and yellow — can be found in a variety of waters statewide. Smaller than other species of catfish, bullheads average between 10 and 12 inches in length. Bullheads feed aggressively and target a variety of baits, and for this reason can be exciting to catch. Bullhead catfish must be 14 inches long to qualify for Fish Ohio recognition.
Chasing catfish is at its best during the summer months when they are actively feeding. Catfish spend most of the day in deeper water and may not react to bait, but they do move to shallower water to feed at night. The shallow plains next to the deep holes and along the beaches provide concentrations of feeding catfish.
Night fishing during the summer is generally successful, and Ohio catfish not only provide excellent recreation, but also make an excellent table meal.
Catfish are omnivorous and feed on a variety of food types. Blue and flathead catfish easily feed on smaller fish and can be caught on gizzard shad, suckers or chub. For catfish and bullhead, try shrimp, chicken livers and night owls. A strong sense of smell is a common trait in Ohio catfish; using scented baits will result in higher catch rates.
Anglers looking to target catfish this summer can find fishing tips by species and fishing reports and forecasts at wildohio.gov. Beginner anglers can access a variety of other resources for getting started on the Wild Ohio Harvest Community page. The Find a Destination tool on ohiodnr.gov can help you find a public fishing area near you.
A fishing license is required for anglers 16 years of age or older. More details can be found in Fishing Regulations 2022-23, available online, on the HuntFish OH mobile app or from a licensing agent.
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