There are thousands of lakes and rivers in the U.S. that produce catfish in extraordinary numbers and sizes. Creating a list of the best catfish states is like trying to pick America’s best restaurants. It’s darn near impossible, and many excellent places would surely be left out.
We’re going to give it a try, nevertheless. And we’re not just going to pick those states where you can catch lots of catfish. Most states fit that mold. We’re going to choose the 12 best states for catching trophy catfish—heavyweight blues, channel cats and flatheads that can break rods, fry drags and snap fishing line like sewing thread. If you play your cards right—if you use the right tackle and bait in the right spot at the right time—the whiskered warriors you catch in the waters of these states could very easily weigh 30 to 100 pounds…or more.
Some states serve up superb fishing for monster channel cats—sleek, muscular giants with heads the size of boulders. Others are best known for producing gigantic blue catfish, the biggest members of North America’s catfish clan, which are known to exceed 5 feet and 200 pounds! Still others are flathead producers, churning out exceptional numbers of these beastly behemoths, some of which have mouths big enough to swallow basketballs. The very best states provide exceptional fishing for all three species.
All that’s left for you to do is pick a hotspot, make a plan, get there and go catfishing. Monster catfish await you. May luck be on your side.
Alabama is currently one of the hottest states for trophy catfish, particularly monster blues, many of which are being caught in lakes Wheeler, Wilson and Pickwick on the Tennessee River.
Guides like Mike Mitchell (right) of Southern Cats Guide Service, are helping clients catch numerous 80-pound-plus fish, like this 102-pounder landed by Joe Ludtke (left) in 2010.
Arkansas waters have produced some of the biggest cats ever seen, including this 116-3/4-pound former world record blue, a 139-pound flathead (caught on a snagline) and channel cats to 51 pounds.
Top trophy waters include the Mississippi, White, St. Francis, Arkansas and Little rivers and lakes Ouachita, Millwood, Conway and White Oak.
California originally had no native blue or channel catfish, but transplants from other states flourished and grew to huge sizes.
Now it’s common to see channel cats like this 38-pounder, especially in southern trout-stocked lakes like Irvine, which produced a rare 50-pounder. Blues grow huge, too. San Vicente Reservoir produced the 113-pound state record.
The Louisiana legislature named Lake Des Allemandes “The Catfish Capital of the Universe.” Like many Bayou State waters, it harbors loads of big channel, blue and flathead catfish.
But, currently, the Louisiana portion of the Mississippi River is in the big-fish limelight, thanks to this 114-pound state-record blue cat caught in March by 12-year-old Lawson Boyte of Oak Grove.
Missouri’s half a million catfish anglers have no problem finding waters where big whiskerfish abound. The Missouri River from Kansas City to St. Louis harbors lots of giants like this 64-pound blue.
But Show-Me State trophy hotspots number in the scores, including the Mississippi, Grand and Osage rivers and lakes Truman and Montrose.
Read more here: 12 Best States for Monster Catfish