In rivers, catfish are harder to find because they move a lot more. They love timber and brush. This provides excellent cover for them. Catfish are constantly moving in rivers to follow the forage. They will also move during periods of high and low water. In high water, catfish will sneak back into creeks and other backwaters. During low water, they will look for deeper pools. When the water levels are normal, fish areas that provide cover such as wood, rocks and large boulders. Dams also produce well. Some fishermen claim that most of the fish are below the dam, while others say they have better results just above the dam. Most of the larger catfish will come below the dams, but you can definitely catch plenty of catfish above and below.
Fish the Current Breaks
The current break will hold all kinds of fish and catfish can be found there too. Some current breaks are obvious. You will see pools of water with slack water or slowly moving water and these are things you can see above water with your eyes. Some of the better current breaks happen below water and you may need your electronics to help you find some of those big boulders, trees or other big objects on the bottom that create a current break. Catfish love to rest out of the current, but be close enough to snag a quick meal.
Fish the Deep Pools
The deep pools are some of the better places to fish for catfish in the summer. When the water temperatures heat up, you can sometimes find catfish schooled up in bunches in these areas and a lot of times, they receive little to no angling pressure.
Catfish can be found all over the shallow flats during the late spring and early summer when water temperatures warm into the mid-60s to mid-70s. A flat that has some type of cover such as timber & brush, laydowns, hollow logs or rocks will usually hold more fish than a flat that doesn’t have any cover. Catfish will move into the shallows during the pre-spawn and these fish can be very aggressive. Fishing is usually very good up to the spawn and then very good again during the post-spawn. Catfish will go much deeper during the summer, but at night, good numbers of catfish will come onto these shallow water flats again to feed.
Drop-offs will hold lots of catfish during the summer. Catfish may be found anywhere from 15 to 50 feet deep depending on the species. A good drop-off will have some type of cover such as wood, rock or weeds and quick access to shallow and deep water. Catfish will often be found in much deeper water during the day and then shallower at night. Catfish will also suspend above the thermocline along these drop-offs in the summer. Whether you are fishing on the bottom or suspended, all of the typical catfish baits will work.
Rocks and Boulders Create Awesome Current Breaks
Large rocks and boulders are great cover for catfish in rivers. Rocks and boulders will hold some catfish in lakes as well, but in rivers, the big rocks and boulders provide a place to hide and a place to rest out of the current. Drifting your baits near these bigger boulders can be very productive. When catfish are inactive, you may need to position your bait on the bottom just behind the current break. A live or dead bait fish will usually coax them into eating if it sits in front of their face long enough.
Catfish love wood. Large brush piles, logjams, single trees and laydowns are great places to fish for catfish, especially in rivers. Some of the bigger catfish will actually rest in hollowed-out trees that sit on the bottom. These fish are much harder to catch with traditional fishing tackle, but some anglers do pursue these giants by noodling (this means fishing for catfish with your bare hands).
Dams & Spillways
Dams and spillways are always good places to fish for catfish. Some anglers prefer to fish below the dams while others insist that fishing is better above the dams. Whatever your preference, you can definitely catch plenty of catfish above and below the dams. We do believe that you will get better results if you consistently fish below the dams, especially for bigger catfish.
Below the dams, current breaks will usually hold some catfish. These current breaks give catfish a chance to rest out of the current but still be close enough to the current to grab an easy meal that may get washed downstream. You can find channel catfish, flathead catfish and blue catfish near the dams and spillways.