What do Catfish Eat?

North American fishing is dominated by three species of catfish: the blue, the channel, and the flathead.

They share many things in common, such as a great sense of smell. However, their eating habits and diets are quite different. While a channel cat’s stomach may be full of insects and snails, a trophy flathead will eat primarily fish. A big blue will eat any food in the water.

These differences are not just academic. The more you understand the diet of catfish, the easier it will be to catch them.

Are you interested?

Continue reading!

What do Catfish Eat? Catfish Diet Explained

The skin of all three catfish species is covered in scent-detecting chemical chemoreceptors. They have a super-sense and can sense prey in darkness or even the muddiest of waters.

You might accept that truth and assume that stink baits are the best choice for all three species.

You’d be wrong.

Our top picks for catfish baits, and how to use them.

Only channel cats are known to engage in scavenging, while flatheads and blues both prefer live food. As we have discussed, understanding the diet is crucial to selecting baits.

Let’s take a closer view.

Channel catfish

The most common and smallest of the three species is the channel catfish or Ictalurus puntatus. They are typically caught between 2 and 4 pounds but can grow up to 40 to 50 inches.

Thomas L. Wellborn is a University of Florida catfish specialist. He says that young catfish eat primarily aquatic insects based on their stomachs. Adults eat a more diverse diet that includes insects, small fish, snails, and green algae. They will eat terrestrial insects when they are available. There are even records of birds being consumed. Channel catfish over 18 inches in length eat fish as an important part of their diet. In natural waters, fish can make up as much as 75 percent.

The Channel cats are therefore omnivorous but become piscivorous with age.

While live food is appealing to channel cats, they will also enjoy time-tested, stinky options such as soured chicken livers or punch baits. This is especially true in warmer waters where the smell will disperse quickly and alert them to a meal.

I love homemade sponge baits with a #4 treble hook and dip baits such as Triple S.

Channel cats can’t go wrong with Triple S, a stinky bait.

It is easy to use the sponge.

Flathead catfish

Pylodictis Olivares is also known as the flathead catfish. It can grow up to 61 inches in length and 123 pounds in weight. These fish have a voracious appetite to eat live prey and are more interested in offering liver or turkey necks than channel cats.

Texas Parks and Wildlife explained that these catfish become almost exclusively piscivorous at 10 inches. They then eat shad, carp, and suckers as well as largemouth bass, sunfish, largemouth basses, and other catfish (including their own species).

Flatheads will be attracted to live or cut bait such as shad and bluegill. You can either run a 3 to 4 inch live fish under slip floats or hook up with a slip sinker rig that has a fat sucker to make sure you are making the right move.

Slip, sliding, and sinker rigs can be used on flatheads as well as blues.

These steps will help you tie a Slip Sinker Rig.

  1. Place an egg sinker on your mainline.
  2. Use a bead to help you follow the sinker.
  3. Attach a heavy-duty barrel pivot with a Uni Knot. Then, wet it and tighten it. Trim the tag end.
  4. About 18 inches of tough leader can be cut.
  5. Attach a strong hook to your Palomar Knot. You can wet the knot and tighten it. Trim the end of your tag.
  6. Use a Uni Knot to attach the leader to your barrel pivot. It should be soaked in water, then tightened down. Finally, trim the tag.

Blue catfish

The American catfish’s undisputed heavyweight is the blue cat, Ictalurus furcatus. It can reach a length of 25 to 46 inches by the time it is caught.

Blues do not scavenge to grow that big, but like flatheads, these large predators are active hunters.

Sunfish, suckers, and shad are all on the menu. You can also add small alligators, frogs, and snakes to the mix. You can also take in birds foolish enough to lure a blue cat.

A blue cat will eat almost any kind of prey, and it’s not hard to find them!

Large sunfish and shad can be a great place to start if you are looking for a trophy blue.

A Three-Way is the best way to rig them.

The Three-Way Rig is a popular choice for catfish anglers who prefer to fish in the current.

It uses a heavy sinker to hold it in place, and a leader that holds live bait downstream, earning its reputation as a cat-catcher.

Just be sure to run a robust three-way swivel: it will take a beating from a big blue!

These steps will help you tie a Three-Way Rig.

  1. Use a Uni Knot to attach your mainline at the top of a 3-way swivel.
  2. You can wet the knot and tighten it. Then trim the tag at the end.
  3. To determine the depth of your presentation, cut a length (or dropper line). I recommend starting with 12-18 inches, but you can increase or decrease that amount as needed. A strong line is not recommended for droppers as it may snag and need to be broken.
  4. Attach the Uni Knot to a disc sinker by attaching this line.
  5. You can wet the knot and tighten it. Then trim the tag at the end.
  6. Use a Uni Knot to attach the weighted line at the bottom of your three-way swivel.
  7. You can wet the knot and tighten it. Then trim the tag at the end.
  8. Use a Snell Knot to attach a strong hook to 12-18 inches of length.
  9. You can wet the knot and tighten it. Then trim the tag at the end.
  10. Attach the leader and hook to the backward-facing eye of the three-way swivel using a Uni Knot.
  11. You can wet the knot and tighten it. Then trim the tag at the end.

Last Thoughts

This is the conclusion: adult catfish tend to favor fish, but there are differences among species. You can read our article Catfish Fishing Tips: Catch Catfish like a Pro to learn more about the best rigs.

We have all the bases covered.

We hope this article helped you to choose the best live bait option for your next fishing trip. If not, we would love to hear about it!


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