Chasing Spring Catfish
Fishing for catfish is loads of fun, provides the main ingredient for a great fish fry and doesn’t take a lot of fancy equipment or special techniques.
Most people think about catfishing in the summer, but good catches start in late winter and last almost all year long.
Here’s a list of four good places to catch catfish in north Louisiana: Toledo Bend, Ouachita River, Lake Claiborne and Black Bayou Lake.
Nothing’s better than going out to eat a fresh batch of fresh fried catfish. Unless, of course, it’s eating a batch you catch and cook yourself. Now that’s Louisiana living! All across north Louisiana, there are dozens of spots you can catch cats. The fun starts in late winter and lasts almost all year long.
Some of the favorites include Toledo Bend near Zwolle, Black Bayou Lake near Vivian, Lake Claiborne near Homer and the Ouachita River from Monroe to Columbia.
Fishing at Toledo Bend State Park: Try the coves around Toledo Bend State Park. Fish the shallow flats, around the banks near deeper water or the edges of creek channels later as the water warms. Fishing is good around older boat docks. The older wood seems to hold more fish. It’s a huge lake—186,000 acres—so concentrate on one area and find the fish.
Fishing at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge: If you like lakes off the beaten path, then you’ll love Black Bayou Lake. Tucked away in the far northwest corner of the state five miles from Vivian, catfish is a popular target there. Fish around the cypress flats and creek channels or marked boat lanes.
Fishing at Lake Claiborne: Lake Claiborne, near Homer, is not as big as Toledo Bend, but its 6,000 acres offer great spring catfishing. Try the large coves that meander back off the main lake. Later in the year, the deeper water near the spillway produces some great catches around the shore. And extend your stay by enjoying the many activities at the Lake Claiborne State Park.
Fishing the Ouachita River: The Ouachita River is a totally different experience. It offers popular fishing from the Arkansas State line at Marion down through Sterlington, Monroe/West Monroe and to Columbia. Public boat launches provide access to the river itself and dozens of productive backwater lakes.
Bait to Use for Catfish Fishing: Best baits are cold worms, earthworms or packaged catfish stink bait. You’ll need a sturdy hook (1/0 or 2/0), at least 12-pound line and a medium to heavy action rod and reel, or just a good cane pole. You can fish your bait under a cork, or let the bait sink to the bottom. When you feel a tap-tap, set the hook, and reel in supper. If you need advice, just ask at the local bait or tackle stores in these areas. They’ll be glad to offer up-to-the-minute tips.
Time for Dinner! Frying catfish is simple, too. Once you’ve cleaned them, cut them into pieces, season to taste with one of Louisiana's seasonings, coat them with cornmeal and deep fry in 350-degree peanut oil. Or, they are great blackened in a skillet or grilled with fresh veggies.
Kinny Haddox is an avid outdoorsman and writer from West Monroe, Louisiana. He is the publisher of LakeDarbonneLife.com and a feature writer for Louisiana Sportsman magazine.