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Fishing For Catfish In Arkansas

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Guide to fishing for flathead, blue and channel catfish in AR.

By AA-Fishing Staff Writers

Catfish Fishing Options

Catfish Fishing

Best Catfish Fishing In Arkansas

Arkansas presents ideal conditions for growing catfish, and most waters in the state have one or more species of catfish. Rivers are an ideal environment for growing monster catfish. Often ponds and small lakes are stocked with one or more species of catfish, making them a great place to take kids fishing.

Catch More Catfish

Generally, catfish are considered bottom feeders. They will generally eat anything they can get in their mouth. Their strongest sense is the sense of smell, which they use to locate potential food sources. Capitalizing on this sense is the primary weapon in your endeavor to catch catfish. Aggressive catfish have also been caught on most types of fast-moving bass lures, so don't under estimate their ability to catch live bait. Adult catfish range in size from less than a pound to hundreds of pounds, and are found in all types of water including ponds, streams, lakes and rivers throughout Arkansas. Bigger catfish can put up a very noble fight once hooked.

While there are many good choices for destinations to catch catfish in Arkansas, some of the most popular lakes include Lake Bentonville, Lake Dardanelle, Lake Ouachita, Millwood Lake and Lake Austell. In addition, river systems with nice populations of catfish include the Arkansas River, Ouachita River, Mississippi River, Red River and others.

Catfish Fishing Video

Catfish Fishing Options

How To Fish For Catfish In Arkansas

Fishing for catfish is an art that requires a keen understanding of the fish's behavior. To successfully locate catfish, target areas with ample cover and structure, such as submerged logs, rocky outcrops, and underwater vegetation. When this cover is located near a river channel or drop-off, it enhances the chance of holding catfish. These environments provide shelter and ambush points, making them prime hunting grounds for savvy anglers. Additionally, catfish are known to congregate near deep holes, bends in rivers, and underwater channels, where they can find food and refuge from strong currents.

Once a promising location has been identified, anglers can employ a variety of techniques to entice and catch catfish. One of the best ways to fish for catfish is by using natural baits such as nightcrawlers, small fish, chicken livers, or stink baits, which can emit powerful scents that attract catfish from afar. Bottom fishing with a slip sinker rig or a Carolina rig allows anglers to present their baits effectively in catfish territory. Patience is key when catfishing, as these bottom-dwelling predators may take their time investigating before committing to a bite. By mastering the art of catfishing how to, anglers can increase their chances of landing a trophy-sized catfish.

Best Tackle For Catfish Fishing

Whether you prefer spinning reels or baitcasting reels, be sure to use a stout, quality fishing rod. Medium-heavy or heavy action rods in the seven-foot range tend to be ideal. Most rod manufacturer offer rods specifically designed for catfish fishing. Spool your reel with 15-to-50-pound monofilament, fluorocarbon or braided line, depending on the size and types of catfish you expect to encounter.

Best Baits For Catching Catfish

When it comes to bait selection for catfish fishing, anglers have a wide array of options to choose from. Natural baits such as live bait, nightcrawlers, chicken livers, and cut bait are perennial favorites among catfish anglers. Stink baits are also highly effective at attracting catfish, particularly in muddy or murky waters where visibility is limited.

Fishing For Channel Catfish In Arkansas

Channel Catfish

One of the most common catfish species in the state is the channel catfish. Known for their voracious appetite and strong fighting abilities, channel catfish can be found in various bodies of water throughout the state. Anglers can fish throughout most areas of a typical lake, including the main lake, coves and the river end of the lake. Use a slip sinker or Carolina rig with standard catfish baits.

Fishing For Flathead Catfish In Arkansas

Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish are known for feeding in river systems, particularly in areas where the river flows into a lake. They grow to be giants, have a big appetite and powerful fighting abilities. Focus on the river end of lakes throughout Arkansas, and up into the river itself. Look for any type of cover or channel swings that they can use to deflect current. Use slip sinkers or Carolina rigs with standard catfish baits.

Fishing For Blue Catfish In Arkansas

Blue Catfish

Blue catfish, prized for their size and fighting prowess, are a popular species among Arkansas catfish anglers. Blue catfish can reach trophy proportions in many waters across the state. They are typically found in larger rivers and reservoirs. They prefer deep, swift-moving waters with ample cover such as submerged logs, rock formations, and underwater ledges. Their feeding preferences lean towards live prey such as shad, sunfish, and other small fish. Anglers target them using live bait, cut bait, or even large artificial lures designed to mimic their preferred forage.

Catching Catfish By Season

Arkansas Spring Catfish Fishing

Spring catfish fishing presents anglers with prime opportunities to target catfish as they become increasingly active due to warming temperatures. As water temperatures rise, catfish emerge from their winter lethargy, transitioning from deep wintering holes to shallower areas in search of food and suitable spawning grounds. During this period, catfish are eager to feeding on a variety of standard catfish baits. Fish on or near the bottom, nearby cover, and experiment with various water depth.

Arkansas Summer Catfish Fishing

As temperatures rise, catfish become more active and feed aggressively, making them prime targets for anglers. During the summer months catfish tend to move a bit deeper, and can be found in a variety of habitats, including deep holes, submerged structures, and along the edges of weed beds. Use standard catfish baits and cast near areas with ample cover.

Arkansas Fall Fishing For Catfish

Autumn catfish fishing heralds a shift in tactics as these bottom-dwellers prepare for the cooler months ahead. As water temperatures gradually decrease, catfish become increasingly active in their search for food to bulk up before winter. Anglers often find success targeting catfish in deeper waters during the autumn months, as these fish migrate from shallow areas to deeper holes and channels. Use standard catfish baits presented near sharp changes in depth, with ample cover.

Arkansas Winter Catfish Fishing

Winter catfish fishing presents a unique challenge as these bottom-dwellers become less active in colder water temperatures. Anglers often target deeper holes and channels where catfish seek refuge from the cold. Slow presentations with natural baits such as cut bait, shrimp, or nightcrawlers can prove effective in tempting sluggish catfish. Patience is paramount during winter catfish fishing, as bites may be sporadic and fish may be less aggressive.

Best Techniques For Fishing For Catfish

Catfish Fishing Tips For Arkansas

First and foremost, learn about the lake or body of water you intend to fish. Review maps to locate potential channels and structure at a variety of depths. Read fishing reports and talk to local bait and tackle shops to gather as much information as possible before heading off on your catfish fishing trip. Find out what species of catfish inhabit your targeted fishery, and arrive prepared with the proper gear and bait.

Use The Best Rigging Setup For Catfish Fishing
Slip Sinkers Setups

One of the most effective rigging setups for catfish fishing is the slip sinker rig. Slide a heavy slip sinker up the main line, then tie on a stout hook baited with catfish bait. When a fish picks up the bait, the slip sinker stays on the bottom allowing you time to set the hook before the fish is aware of danger.

Carolina Rig

This setup allows for natural bait presentation while minimizing resistance. To assemble the rig, thread a sliding sinker onto the main line followed by a bead to protect the knot. Next, tie a swivel to the end of the main line, then attach a leader line of several feet. Finally, tie a strong hook to the leader line, baiting it with preferred catfish bait. Weedless hooks can be used around brush and vegetation to minimize getting hung up.

Best Catfish Lakes In The State

Catfish fishing in Arkansas

Rivers tend to produce monster catfish more often than lakes and impoundments. Yet the lakes and impoundments tend to yield better quantities. Some of the lakes with good populations of quality catfish include Beaver Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Bull Shoals Lake, DeGray Lake, Greers Ferry Lake, Lake Chicot, Lake Conway, Lake Dardanelle, Lake Greeson, Lake Hamilton, Lake Jack Lee, Lake Maumelle, Lake Millwood, Lake Ouachita, Nimrod Lake, Norfork Lake and White Oak Lake.

Fishing Boats For Rent In Arkansas

Catfish in Arkansas

Channel Catfish

Channel catfish

World record: 58 lbs 0 oz

State Record: 38 lbs 0 oz

Flathead Catfish

Flathead catfish

World record: 123 lbs 9 oz

State Record: 80 lbs 0 oz

Blue Catfish

Blue catfish

World record: 143 lbs 0 oz

State Record: 116 lbs 12 oz

Click the images and links above for species details.

Arkansas State Record Catfish

The state record channel catfish was caught from Lake Ouachita.

The state record flathead catfish came from the Arkansas River.

The state record blue catfish came out of the Mississippi River.

Additional catfishing information resources.

Catfish Conservation Group

U.S. Catfish Anglers Tournaments

Planet Catfish


Information for states with catfish.

AL Catfish Fishing AR Catfish Fishing AZ Catfish Fishing CA Catfish Fishing CO Catfish Fishing CT Catfish Fishing DE Catfish Fishing FL Catfish Fishing GA Catfish Fishing HI Catfish Fishing IA Catfish Fishing ID Catfish Fishing IL Catfish Fishing
IN Catfish Fishing KS Catfish Fishing KY Catfish Fishing LA Catfish Fishing MA Catfish Fishing MD Catfish Fishing ME Catfish Fishing MI Catfish Fishing MN Catfish Fishing MO Catfish Fishing MS Catfish Fishing MT Catfish Fishing
NC Catfish Fishing ND Catfish Fishing NE Catfish Fishing NH Catfish Fishing NJ Catfish Fishing NM Catfish Fishing NV Catfish Fishing NY Catfish Fishing OH Catfish Fishing OK Catfish Fishing OR Catfish Fishing PA Catfish Fishing
RI Catfish Fishing SC Catfish Fishing SD Catfish Fishing TN Catfish Fishing TX Catfish Fishing UT Catfish Fishing VA Catfish Fishing VT Catfish Fishing WA Catfish Fishing WI Catfish Fishing WV Catfish Fishing WY Catfish Fishing