The UA crew has randomly caught a few small catfish over the years while fishing through Denver. We had never specifically targeted cats in Colorado, but would randomly reel one in when bass fishing or scouting for carp. We recently decided to hunker down and target some deep spots to see what was lurking in the depths of the city.
Most lakes and reservoirs across the Metro area are stocked with Channel Catfish, so we had plenty of local spots to try out. We concentrated our efforts in deeper areas and inlets. Even the smallest ditch inlet to a local pond will bring in a constant supply of oxygen and food for the fish hiding in the deeper water below. We started Friday evening after work at a spot we had recently caught a small catfish.
We brought along fresh cut bait and G&S cheesebait (a legendary stinkbait born on the banks of the Mississippi in a small town in Illinois). We got both baits out and down to the bottom but were hesitant to use the cheesebait with water temperatures falling. We normally like to use cheesebait in warmer water and bloodbait/cutbait in colder temps.
The cut bait instantly started getting hits, but unfortuntely only other species seemed to be investigating it. As the sun started to set, the catfish bite turned on, but we only landed a couple of dinks. Once we started to think there might not be a large enough food source in the city to allow for bigger cats, the reel started screaming. It wasn’t huge, but a solid 20″ channel cat, and the biggest one we had ever caught in the city! Mission accomplished. We called it a night and planned on spending the weekend searching the city for more urban catfish.
Saturday and Sunday blew our expectations out of the water. We were happy with the 20″ urban catfish on Friday, but couldn’t believe what found it’s way into the net the rest of the weekend. We bounced around town hitting different lakes and waterways and landed 10 channel cats for a combined weight of 65lbs. The biggest fish that weekend was 15lbs, followed by a handful of cats in the 8-12lb range. Not bad for our first Colorado catfish mission!
Check out the article below for our tips and tricks to catching urban catfish!
Catfish specific gear is not required. We use some of the same rods and reels we use for bass fishing. A 7’ or 7’6” length rod with medium heavy action, and enough backbone to handle a bigger catfish. The setup should be light, comfortable to hold, and sensitive enough to feel bites. Plenty of flex in the tip is necessary for circle hooks to work effectively.
10-12 lb. monofilament works fine and allows greater vibration in the line to feel bites. Braid can be used for fishing thick cover and snags, but it does not allow as much feel. Hi visability line and brighter color line can be used if you have a setup specifically for catfishing. The brighter line allows you to more easily see the take.
We like to use a Carolina rig setup as it fights off snags and presents the bait in an unrestricted manner. Use as little weight as possible to keep the bait where you want it. Too heavy of a weight will cause resistance on the line and can spook the fish into dropping the bait. We recommend 6/0 circle hooks as you don’t have to set the hook, and they are nearly impossible for the fish to shake off. Be sure the gap in the hook is wide enough for the size of catfish you are targeting. It must be wide enough for the width of the jaw. These fish either hit like a freight train or just barely tap the bait, so stay on your toes!
WHERE TO FISH
Just like bass fishing, catfish love structure. It provides shade, protection, and is usually rich in baitfish and other food sources. Place your bait close to channels, drop offs, stumps, rocks, or trees. The closer you can get your bait to structure, the better chance of catching a catfish. One of the keys to fishing for urban cats is to actively pursue feeding fish. If there is nothing biting, change locations. The angler that goes and finds the fish to put bait in front of will always catch more fish than those that sit and wait for fish to come to them.
Take a moment to think about what a catfish would naturally be eating in a specific waterway before you present bait. Smaller catfish prefer insects, larvae, aquatic bugs, and smaller fish. Channel catfish are more of a scavenger compared to its predatory cousin, the flathead catfish. Channel cats will use their whiskers to smell and locate stationary bait, while flathead will actively hunt and pursue live bait.
Our favorite baits are fresh cut bait such as bluegills and perch, and cheese dip baits in warmer water conditions. Keep your baits fresh, and switch out until a pattern presents itself. Don’t be afraid to experiment with baits either. Punch baits , stink baits, livers, or shrimp. We have even tried raw bacon. Circle hooks are an excellent choice for cut baits, and are catch and release friendly over treble hooks. If you are using treble hooks, please keep your finger on the line to detect the slightest bite so you can feel as soon as the fish takes the bait. As opposed to letting them take off and swallow it. Pantyhose and gauze can be used to wrap bait around a circle hook to keep bait in place.
Please practice Catch & Release in urban fishing environments.
While catfish & hushpuppies are delicious, please preserve these precious resources for future urban anglers.