River fishing for catfish requires a unique set of equipment and angling skills than fishing from the shore or a boat. Although there are no special catfishing tactics or what can be considered the best catfishing techniques, there are a few things to consider. In this article, we’ll give you tips on how to catch catfish in a river with the goal of increasing your chances of landing more fish.
We may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you when you buy through links on our website.
Learn more about our Amazon affiliate program
Top Catfishing Tactics for River
Let’s start with the steps you need to follow!
Choose the Right Spot
Fishing for catfish will require an angler to be more strategic, most especially when choosing the correct spot of the river bank where there’s likely catfish swimming about.
The prime holding areas of catfish in a river include:
- The areas beside a levee
- A shore clearing close to the outside bend of a river
- A gravel bar that’s adjacent to a deep hole
- Near cement structure e.g. a pump house
- Under covered areas e.g. overhanging branches, under a bridge
If you don’t elicit a strike in 30 minutes, it’s best to move on to a different spot. You’ll eventually spot hungry fish in the areas that we described above.
It’s absolutely vital for an angler to remember that there may be permits or licenses required in fishing certain spots and bodies of water. There are some fishing spots that are regulated while others may be privately owned.
In such a case, you’ll need to speak to the local authorities or the owner. Always obey a no trespassing sign as not doing so will bring a visit from a wildlife officer and you’ll get a hefty fine.
Use the Right Rod and Reel Setup
One of the crucial points to remember if you want to know how to catch catfish in a river is you need to have the correct fishing gear. Having the right gear and equipment is just as critical as fishing in the correct location.
Most seasoned anglers would tell you that the best fishing rod is 7 ft or more in length and made with composite. There should also be a minimum of six ceramic/stainless steel guides.
Your pole’s length and the guides will help control the distance and power of casting and they will keep line off the river. Rods can be bought online and from your local fishing gear outlet.
A guide on how to catch catfish in a river will be incomplete without some information on the recommended catfish reel to use. The best surf fishing reel is the 6000 size for a spinner that’s spooled with at least 150 yards of 20-pound test fluorescent orange line.
You can also use a 200-yard 20-pound test braided line. Other anglers may not agree with the color or weight of the line, but they are what we frequently use as most professional anglers.
Bring the Right Bait
Catfish are bottom-feeders and they hunt through their senses of taste and smell. As they inhabit muddy waters where visibility is close to nil at the very bottom of a river, they’ll respond more to bait than lures.
Truthfully, anything with a strong taste or smell will work perfectly as catfish bait. This is important to remember when learning how to catch catfish in a river.
Catfish love eating large carrion. A good chunk of shad can be exactly what you’re looking for as catfish bait.
There are only a few baits that are as great as shad in attracting huge catfish. Channel catfish that feed on riverbeds like feeding on shad.
Shad makes for incredible catfish bait, but it can be hard to get your hands on it. If you can’t obtain shad, minnows can be your substitute. If you have shad, load it onto a hook. It can be in strips or chunks.
The size of the shad will determine how small or big of a catfish you’ll get. The most efficient method of cutting up shade is slicing off the tail and head and across the body in order to create strips.
Nightcrawlers are also effective bait for catfish. In general, the fatter and larger the nightcrawler is, the more success you’ll have to attract fish.
Using a bobber or float that suspends the hook with the nightcrawler barely off a river’s bottom is often an overlooked method in catching catfish. But, a float will let you move your bait around in various locations and to where cover is, which is where catfish feed.
Kids can also have so much fun searching for worms on the ground, especially after rain as they can easily be picked from the ground.
Chicken liver can bring fish swimming to find your hook and grab your bait. Catfish find chicken liver irresistible with their foul, meaty odor.
Typically, the chicken liver doesn’t bring many huge fish to an angler; however, channel cats that are up to 10 lbs. love them. It increases your chances of landing catfish significantly.
The aforementioned tips are sufficient in helping you land catfish in a river. You may still be wondering whether river fishing for catfish is best done in the daytime or nighttime.
Catfish can be caught regardless of the time of day. Although catfish are nocturnal species and they usually forage at night, don’t rule out fishing for them during the day.
At night, they’ll be in shallow waters. In the daytime, just fish on deeper waters, remember the tips above and you’ll elicit some strikes from massive, heavy cats.