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Catching Catfish

Spring’s siren song urged my eyes to close for a catnap as I leaned back in my lawn chair to bask in the late afternoon sun. Suddenly, the tip bounced on one of three fishing rods propped up on the bank with forked sticks.

I took the suspect pole in hand and waited for the second knock. Another tug, and I swept the rod back with authority. The pole stayed bent as the fish peeled line off the reel. A few minutes later, a channel catfish splashed to the shore. Catfish aren’t shy about announcing their arrival. A hearty tug on the line means a fish wants your bait.

Angling for catfish is one of the most relaxing ways to fish. You can enjoy a picnic and socialize with friends while awaiting the arrival of fish. Simply prop a pole upright and wait.

June is the best time of year to go after these hard fighters. As the water temperature warms into the 70s, catfish start looking for a place to spawn and feed heavily. “It’s a good time to fish for them. And right after they’re done spawning, they’re hungry,” says Mike Larimore, who runs the state fish hatchery in Frankfort.

Kentucky stocks 160,000 channel catfish a year at dozens of lakes, so there’s plenty to go around. In June, catfish hole up in natural cavities to spawn. Look for them in shady areas around riprap (piles of rock, usually found around dams), undercut banks, and underwater ledges.

Catfish primarily hunt by smell—one of the reasons bait found in stores has a powerful scent. The whiskers of a catfish are actually sensory organs that help these fish find their food. “Their whiskers enable them to feed in low light and in turbid water,” Larimore explains.

For bait, try chicken livers, night crawlers, store-bought preparations, or a fillet from a bluegill. Use a medium-heavy rod spooled with 8- to 12-pound line. Good places to fish include Taylorsville Lake, Green River Lake, Nolin River Lake, Barren River Lake, Guist Creek Lake, Kentucky Lake, Wood Creek Lake, and Carpenter Lake.


Bring those dusty rods out of the closet and gather the family together—Kentucky’s free fishing weekend is June 7-8. No fishing license is required during this weekend, although size and catch limits still apply.

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