The United States is full of world-class fishing that draws anglers from all over the world. With over 30 species of catfish, and is home to world-renown waterways. Like the Mississippi River, Colorado River, Missouri River, and Ohio River to name a few. Hence, the thrill of commonly occurring 100+ lb cats is on many anglers’ minds. That being said, here is a list of the best states for catfishing.
With many state record fish pulled from the Mississippi River, it could only mean that the state of Mississippi would have hefty cats. Known as the “Catfish Capital of the World” due to its large amount of farmed catfish, a dedicated Catfish Museum, and catfish state. The state of Mississippi is crazy about catfishing. In addition to the world-renowned Mississippi River, other waterways to find cats on include Yazoo, Big Black, Homochitto, and Pearl Rivers.
In April 2022, a Mississippi man caught a 131 lb blue catfish on the Mississippi River, breaking the previous state record. However, if your preference is a lake, try these bodies of water; Lake Washington, Grenada Lake, Ross Barnett Reservoir, and Pickwick Lake. The most common catfish species found here include flathead catfish and channel catfish, and blue catfish.
No matter what area you go to in the state of Missouri, the catfish are plentiful. More so, anglers catching 100+ lb trophies and 50 lb cats are common. Missouri is the cream of the crop when it comes to catfishing. Along, with notable rivers such as the Mississippi, Osage, Missouri, and Grand river, to name a few; it is hard to go bust when catfishing in Missouri. But it doesn’t stop there with monster-producing lakes such as Mark Twain Lake, Montrose Lake, Lake of the Ozarks, Truman Lake, Table Rock Lake, and Smithville Lake have a lot to offer.
As such, Montrose Lake holds the state record for the largest flathead catfish at 77 lbs. Additionally, there are a whopping 17 species of catfish found in Missouri; these include channel catfish, blue catfish, black bullhead, white catfish, yellow bullhead, stonecat, slender madtom, tadpole madtom, freckled madtom, ozark madtom, and brindled madtom to name a few.
When Ohio comes to mind as a top catfish destination, you’re probably left scratching your head a little. Likewise, on the Ohio River catching a 100 lb or more catfish is plausible, and recorded occurrences of 50lbs cats are increasing. Other good catfish rivers include Muskingum, Maumee, Devola, Marietta Rivers.
Catfish are just as abundant on the lakes of Ohio, with some excellent fishing coming from Mosquito Lake, Clendening Lake, LaDue Lake, Milton Lake, and Atwood Lake. The state record for the largest flathead catfish was caught on Lake Clendening at 76.5lbs. Yet, the common catfish species are bullheads, flatheads, blue catfish, and channel catfish.
Arguably, there’s no better place to seek out catfish than in the state of Texas. Alas, no matter what body of water you’re in, catfish are lurking around the bowels of the waterways. With the mighty Colorado River and Brazos River on its doorstep, it’s no wonder why catfishing is popular. Further, snagging 120+ lb cats are possible; and as the saying goes, “everything is bigger in Texas.”
On Lake Texoma, the current state record goes to a 121.5 lb blue catfish. However, Lake Tawakoni is recognized for producing monster fish. More so, multiple 200+l b stringers were showcased from the 2013 Cabela’s King Kat tournament. Other great locations for catfishing in Texas are Lake Livingston, Choke Canyon Reservoir, Lake Palestine, and Lake Conroe. There are many species of catfish in Texas from gafftop, blue, channel, flathead, yellow bullhead, black bullhead, to tadpole madtoms.
Emerging as a catfish hotspot, Alabama should be on everyone’s list for channel cats. Through many of the state-stocked lakes, the Alabama takes it upon itself to maintain the channel catfish hatchery for all to enjoy. Likewise, anglers should try Eufaula Lake, Wheeler Lake, Neely Henry Lake, Wilson Lake, William Dannelly Reservoir, and Millers Ferry Lake to name a few.
But, the rivers are just as good as lake fishing when it comes to producing catfish. With the Tennessee River, Coosa River, and Tombigbee River at your disposal. Species found in Alabama include blue catfish, channel catfish, white catfish, and flatheads.
Known for trophy blue and flathead catfish, Arkansas is a producer of large eaters. Alas, this has a lot to do with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and a push on restocking these massive bottom dwellers.
Although the White River, Mississippi River, and Red River are all feasible for nabbing catfish. When it comes to catfishing in Arkansas, the lakes are king. Like so, Bull Shoals Lake, Greer’s Ferry Lake, Lake Ouachita, and Lake Conway produce some sizeable eaters. As so, Lake Ouachita holds the state record for the largest channel catfish at 38 lbs. That being said, the species of catfish you can find in Arkansas include blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead.
When you think of catfishing, chances are Illinois does not come to mind. However, this sleeper of a premium catfish destination has much to be desired. Moreover, Illinois doesn’t see catfish as a popular protein like the southern states. In return, there is less pressure on the consumption of this fishery. Pair this with the northern Mississippi River and Ohio River, then you have optimal room to seek these monsters out.
In fact, the state record for a blue catfish belongs to the Mississippi River when a 124 lb trophy got caught. However, there are many smaller rivers to note such as Kaskaskia, Illinois, and Fox. The waterways in Illinois are unique in the sense that they hold one species or another. But, if you’re looking for open water, try Crab Orchard Lake, Carlyle Lake, Kinkaid Lake, or Lake Springfield. Catfish species found in Illinois include brown bullhead, black bullhead, yellow bullhead, blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish.
8. South Carolina
Many anglers have heard of the Santee Catfish Rig or Santee-Cooper Rig, however, what you don’t know is this sinking rig came to fame on the Santee-Cooper Lakes. A popular body of water with an abundance of catfish. South Carolina is a premier destination for this target species. Notable bodies of water include Lake Wateree, Lake Hartwell, Lake Marion, Lake Moultrie, Lake Monticello, and Lake Murray.
The present state record for a blue catfish was caught in 2017 on Lake Moultrie and weighed a whopping 113.8 lbs. Lastly, species of catfish found in South Carolina include channel, blue, flathead, white bullhead, yellow bullhead, black bullhead, and brown bullhead.
Final Thoughts About Catfishing
The United States is a prime destination when it comes to targeting catfish. As such, over 7 million anglers actively go catfishing in a given year. With more than 30 species of catfish to target and historic bodies of water producing record-breaking fish. Catfishing has emerged as a much-sought angler halftime, with the allure of fighting the next big trophy to the shores. But, one thing is for sure, American has a love for these hard-fought and delicious eaters.