How to Catch Big Blue Catfish in Lakes And Rivers

Written by Patrick in Fishing
Image Credits: Pexels.com

So, you want to know how to catch big blue catfish in lakes? 

Many catfish anglers want to know the same exact thing, and I was in the same position as well at one point, so let’s start digging into it a bit. The first problem you’re going to have with catching blue catfish in lakes is that they are usually only in large lakes. This is why we are going to discuss river fishing for blue catfish in the blog post as well. Don’t worry we will cover everything.

For the most part, blue catfish are found more frequently in rivers than they are lakes, but that doesn’t mean if your fishing a good size lake, that you can’t set the hook into a monster blue.

On the grand scale of blue catfish fishing, your going to be better off targeting the blue catfish in rivers but for the sake of how to catch them, the information will remain the same, so we will still cover the best methods and techniques to locating and landing these monsters so that the next time you hit the waters, you have the chance of reeling in the trophy catfish of the year.

» Want to Catch Big Blue Catfish in lakes? Find The Right Gear on Amazon, Click Here!

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How to Catch Big Blue Catfish in Rivers And Lakes

How to catch big blue catfish in rivers and lakes? Blue catfish is they rarely move in the ways other species of catfish move. They stay on the bottom for the most part and don’t tend to surface feed or shallow feed nearly as often as a channel or even flathead catfish. Unless your approaching the night time. More specifically, after 9pm. It’s when biting really and activity really picks up.

They like to stay low and prefer to be in waters that have rocky and sandy bottoms and in waters with a decent current.

(*Hints why I said River Fishing for these catfish is typically going to be best.)

Going back to many of my other blog post about water structure and depths, it’s once again going to present itself with utmost importance in this situation as well. Finding the deepest spots with some structure or sandy bottoms will dramatically improve your chances of catching blue catfish.

What is The Best Bait For Blue Catfish?

Let’s move into the correct bait selection for blue catfish first. Okay, this is going to be a few mixed feelings from me. 

What is the best bait for blue catfish? The best bait for catching blue catfish are not necassarily the traditional bait. The top baits I'd recommend for landing blue catfish in a hurry is shad, red herring, bluegill and sunfish.

Blue Catfish are a predator of the rivers and yes large lakes too. They eat like an NFL offensive lineman.  Non-stop and eat the other weaker links in mass quantities. They don’t get up to 100 pounds swimming marathons and eating a healthy diet.

Understanding that the live baits are going to net way more significant results and ultimately larger blue catfish is essential. Also, understanding that finding the live baits in natural habitats in the water your’re fishing is also crucial to your success blue catfishing. As Chad Ferguson says, finding the shad, finds the blue catfish. Plain and simple and he’s 100% spot on with that. Couldn’t say it better myself.

Traditional Bait Options For Blue Catfish

Here are some of the traditional bait options you have when catfishing. Don't lean on these too heavily for blue catfishing if you expect or want tot yield the best results possible.

  • Night Crawlers
  • Chicken Livers
  • Minnows
  • Stink Bait
  • Hot Dogs

What Else Do Catfish Eat?

Aside from being the shark of the rivers and eating all the smaller fish species, blue catfish also eat crayfish, frogs and other cuts up or dead baits that can be placed in their line of vision or easy enough to attract them by scent. Again, traditional baits may catch blue catfish but overall, they want the big daddy meal, and using the live baits will increase your’re luck dramatically sticking to these baits.

Using the other baits, we know all so well that we discussed previously can work but it’s highly likely that if you land a blue catfish, it’s going to be one on the smaller end of the scale. Not that this bad by any means, it’s just going to be a long wait and you will need more luck to snag a monster using the common catfish baits as opposed to live bait for blues.

The Importance of Bait And Correct Fishing Gear

Especially with the correct bait selection and the proper gear which we are going to touch on shortly. I also frequently stress the importance of using the right gear when catfish fishing. This is going to be of even more importance with blue catfish. These aren’t smaller fish, and they aren’t going to mess around.

Blue catfish are known to get over 100lbs, so your Zebco 202 or cheap Walmart spin reel with 8LB test line isn’t going to get it done. If you’re up for losing the pole, having the pole snap and just wasting your time, I suppose it will do the job for you just fine, but if you truly want to land a blue catfish, come prepared to fight and realize, they are going to fight you HARD!

Even with the correct gear, I guarantee if you have never hooked into one, it’s going be a fantastic thrill and it’s going to put your original thoughts on what it feels like to fight one of these fish to shame. It’s crazy.

» Blue Catfish are Known To Get Over 100lbs - Find The Right Gear on Amazon, Click Here!

Can You Catch Blue Catfish From Shore?

Theoretically, yes. You can catch blue catfish from shore, but it is going to be much more difficult to locate and get to them from shore. Keep in mind, that we mentioned previously that blue catfish are going to be in the deeper waters in the rivers with sand and rock present. Getting to the deepest waters on a river or even a lake (large lake) is going to be difficult from shore.

On the larger lakes or even rivers, it’s going to be too far out to really cast to the desired spots to locate and effectively place bait where they will be interested. If, however, you can get to shoreline on the river or that large lake and you know some of the underwater structure and deep holes in the water, it could be possible to fish for blue catfish effectively from shore. Overall it wouldn’t be the recommended catfish to target from shore.

Fishing for blue catfish from a boat is going to be way more useful for several reasons which we can list here briefly.

  • Ability to Get to the Deeper Waters
  • Most Boats are Equipped with some form of sonar/depth/fish finding technology
  • Ability to Place yourself in your desired Position and Even Drift fish for blue catfish

A Possible Saving Grace For Blue Catfishing From Shore

If you have read my other blogs, you are probably sick and tired about hearing my rants about having some form of sonar/depth and fish finding technology. Here’s the deal. It wouldn’t come nearly as often as it does if it weren’t a huge component to successful angling for any fish species.

Let’s assume you are fishing from shore and that’s your only option. Hey, that’s okay. Boats are expensive and can honestly be a pain in the *** at times. I get it. I’ve been there. Now let’s also assume you spent the money on the castable sonar technology that’s easily accessible and can be purchased nearly anywhere.

If Only You Had The Technology

If you had this technology, and you were fishing from shore on a lake or a large river, you could toss it out with distance, get accurate readings and information on what’s below the water surface which could quickly help you gauge if you are in the right spot or perhaps find the best possible spot to drop your bait right near a huge blue catfish.

If you don’t have the technology or have no interest in purchasing it, it still doesn’t mean your completely out of luck, it just means your going to NEED luck to hook into a blue catfish from shore. Without the technology, I’d recommend changing your targeted catfish species to channel catfish or flathead catfish for the best results or at least something to catch with some frequency.

Catching Blue Catfish in Summer

Catching blue catfish in summer is probably the most popular time to do so. In the winter, they will be nested much more in the crevices and deep-water spots. Don’t be confused, however, they prefer these spots just about all year round. Winter is also very popular among anglers for landing blue catfish as well.  Don’t pack up all the fishing gear just yet. It’s never too cold to go catfishing!

In the summer, however, you may be able to spark more action then just landing directly in these holes beneath the water. Most pro catfish anglers use techniques such as “dragging” or “bumping” the water bottoms, but this takes some skill and practice to get down to a science. Your overall objective is to present the bait, the best you can to make it flow naturally with the water current.

Go With The Flow For Blue Catfish

Understanding and learning to read the waters and the flow/current is essential when fishing for blue catfish and probably one of the biggest reasons that it’s still not my main catfish game.

Channel catfish for me has been an easier fish to catch with ease, but the blue catfish are something to remember when you finally do get hooked into one, so it becomes somewhat addicting.

Can You Catch Blue Catfish at Night?

This is the one exception to the rule that blue catfish don’t move nearly as much from there nesting spot in the deep water. At night. At night big blue catfish will still make there way toward shallow waters. You can even find them in waters 2-10 feet deep coming out to prey on smaller fish with a vengeance.

Many anglers prefer the same baits at night for blue catfish and prefer to go big with the baits and target the mega big blue catfish north of 75 pounds. Bait such as live silver carp, larger chunks of shad or herring is preferable. It takes patience night fishing for blue catfish, and it’s all about hitting your spots and intercepting the blue on its way to actively feed and devour smaller fish.

I’m not nearly as seasoned with blue catfishing as some of the pros but the going trend I know of for best results requires you to find the deepest holes in the water your fishing and set up station between that hole and a nearby sandbar or shallow sandbar bottom area where they will come to actively feeding.

Mix Things Up

Trying and using multiple rods to use different depths and different bait selection can be your best opportunity at making sure you’re in the “right place at the right time.” If you do all these things even 75% correctly, you should have a strong chance at the fight of a lifetime.

The Best Blue Catfish Rigs

What is the best blue catfish rig? I’m not 100% seasoned into giving the best blue catfish rig advice at this point in my hobby so this one I wanted to do some digging on for you. Here’s a great example of 2 professionals favorite blue catfish rigs they use in tournaments.

*Three-way rig with a 6-inch dropper and 30 pounds of test line and a 4-8-ounce bait sinker. This is desirable for the monster blue catfish for a few reasons. It allows you as the angler to still land the catfish even if the sinker snags upon the strike and the dropper snaps. The sliding dropper allows the fish to run.

This rig can tie right up to an 80-pound spider wire mainline with another barrel swivel. Lastly, you have the two 6/0 and 8/0 hooks a few inches apart and an 18-inch lead with 60-pound test.

Keep in mind, this is the rig they prefer when targeting the monster blue’s at night in the shallower water. This is an absolute rig and not necessarily what you have to use for success. I just felt my favorite setup that I use and have caught way less blue catfish with wasn’t the absolute best you could use (I target Channel/Flathead primarily),I believed it was better to give you sound advice from other professionals.

You know how I roll by now, I’d prefer not to steer anyone wrong and openly admit when better advice is looming around for you to feast on.

So, Can We Catch Blue Catfish in Lakes? Yes, But Rivers are better. Your turn…

What’s your Experience with Blue Catfishing?

We discussed several factors that are essential for prime-time blue catfishing and the challenges lake fishing for blues may present and the advantages of sticking to rivers only for catching blue catfish. All other factors aside, blue catfishing is quite the angling experience and something any avid cat fishermen should attempt at one point or another.

Using the correct gear and learning essential catfishing tips and tricks of where blue catfish can be found and reading current is huge but overall, just having a good old-fashioned good time trying to catch them is the most crucial factor if you ask me.

Have I left anything out? What’s your record blue catfish that you have landed? I love to hear the stories, and I know the rest of us enjoys them too so be sure to leave a comment below and attach a picture of your trophy fish.

As always, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to subscribe to our email newsletter for my most recent post, and recommended fishing gear updates on a weekly basis. Don’t worry it’s free and I’m only here to share stories and provide tips to those who want to improve their catfishing game and overall angling experiences.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. See you next time.

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Author Bio
Patrick Author BonfireBob

My name is Patrick, and I am the main Author and owner of BonfireBob.com

I live in a smaller town, very close to a bigger city and I love the Outdoors!

BonfireBob is my outlet, and my escape from the every day lives. I write about fishing, hiking, climbing, gear, camping and much more, enjoy!

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