IOWA DNR - Hooking Summer CatfishStart a new family tradition this summer – go fishing for catfish. Bring along two coolers with ice, one to keep your bait firm and fresh and another to keep your catch cold and preserve that great taste.

“Catfish tend to be more active in warmer weather,” explained Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Fisheries Bureau.  They are in every stream of any size and in all lakes and many farm ponds.

A catfish’s sense of smell and taste is tremendous. Try prepared dip baits, chicken livers, minnows or chubs, green sunfish, bluegill, crawdads, frogs, night crawlers or dead, but fresh, gizzard shad.

Lakes stratify, or form layers, this time of year, with cool, oxygen-deprived waters sinking to the bottom. Do not fish in water deeper than 8 to 10 feet. Look for areas with vegetation, brush piles or rock. Fish the upper ends of the larger reservoirs where the water is shallower and baitfish like gizzard shad gather. Fish baits on the bottom or suspended off the bottom with a bobber and let current or breeze move the bait to find active catfish.

Rivers in Iowa are loaded with catfish. Look for fish around downed trees and brush piles, but don’t overlook rock piles or other objects that deflect water and form a current seam. Position your bait just upstream of brush piles so the scent of the bait is carried downstream into the structure drawing the catfish out. Use a heavy weight to anchor the bait so it doesn’t drift into snags. If fishing the big rivers, try upstream and on the tips of wing dykes and wing dams on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

Find more tips for catching catfish on the DNR website at

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