Pursuing catfish from a kayak is an idea some folks would laugh at. That is until they see what kind of fish you can hook, and sometimes even land. But of course, if kayaking is not your cup of tea, then fishing for big cats from a boat is great fun too.

Catfish have a reputation as a strong, hard fighting fish which can test any angler’s gear and resolve. Add in the inherent angry nature of anything that swims in river currents its entire life, and you have a real adventure on your hands!

River cats enjoy the benefits of having their favorite restaurant in their living room; the only drawback is that it’s a drive through. With possible meals always on the move these fish don’t have the luxury of carefully evaluating their prey. Once they’ve found it, they waste no time in devouring it! This is great for the kayak based angler who is also very much on the move in the river. I say this because, depending on the river you are fishing, anchoring up may not be safe option while in a kayak.

Once you have located a good hole or eddy where you believe catfish may be waiting for a meal, it is important to calculate HOW they are feeding. Depending on current speed, water clarity, and even forage base, the fish will position themselves differently. If the fish are facing heavy current, they will find any structure or current break to hide behind in order to ambush live prey. If slower moving water is more prevalent, they will often lie in the deeper sections and wait for food to come to them. Often times, you will find the fish that are in dirtier water to be more aggressive than their clear water counterparts. One thing I’ve noticed is that in rivers where large shad and bream are available, the bigger catfish will often pass up smaller offering in favor of the largest bait available. Presumably, this is because they exert less energy for a more fulfilling meal than chasing small shiners all day.

When rigging up for battle, choose a rod that is stiff enough to winch in some big fish, but with enough tip to let you feel what’s going on. If you’ve never fished the water you’re in, you’ll appreciate being able to detect smaller fish when they bite so you don’t spend the whole trip donating bait. Round body bait casters are my choice when pairing a reel, but heavy 4000 series spinning reels are usually more than up to the task. When it comes to line, there is always a braid versus monofilament debate, which in the end usually comes down to personal preference. Whichever you choose, I would recommend a fluorocarbon leader to finish the job. Hook size is completely dependent on what size catfish you expect to tangle with. For a “standard” I would lean towards a 6/0-8/0 depending on bait size.
Kayak cat-fishing is a great way for many anglers to take advantage of targeting “fun” large size cats, and even brutish river monsters like the flatheads, Blue cats, and Channel cats.

The Apalachicola River, Chipola River, West Arm Creek, and the famous Dead Lakes in Wewahitchka are well known for some of these river monsters. It is important to plan your trip out in advance and do your homework. When combining moving water and the possibility of tangling with large fish, SAFETY is the word of the day! For this adventure you’ll be leaving the usual rods at home, but tangling with a big river cat is a great way to find a new passion for kayak angling!

Blue-cats are known for being one of the strongest freshwater fish with the current state
record at 64.5 pounds. The current state record for Flathead catfish is 55.05 pounds, and the current state record for Channel-cat is 44.50 pounds. Another plus is, all these fish are excellent to eat.

Be sure to stop by and see Richard Keele at the Fishin Shack at the intersection of Highway 22 and 71 in Wewahitchka for bait, tackle and advice on where to fish- (850) 899-3035. You can also contact Matthew Godwin with Off the Map Expeditions for your kayaking adventure in the famous Dead Lakes and surrounding areas and rivers- (850) 819-3053 or www.offthemapexpeditions.com.