Catfish through the ice! This has been a type of fishing that has intrigued me for some time. Ever since I 1st seen it on in-fisherman I have tried to learn more about. I have had success a few times on targeting them.
When and Where
When: Mid to late winter, the dog days of winter
Where: The basins of the lake with at least 15ft of water. They will group in the basin and you’ll find them on the bottom or suspended up in the water column. Focus on smaller lakes with a good number of catfish this will make it a less daunting of a task.
To find them you’re going to need to punch a lot of holes and use your electronics to find them. What I like to do is drill holes evenly spaced across the basin. I will drop a 1/8th-ounce spoon down tipped with a waxworm and fish it for 5 mins. If I don’t mark anything I move on to the next hole. I will continue to cover the basin from edge to edge until I find them. Now if I am able to get a lake map that tells me what kind of bottom the lake has I will focus on where insects and aquatic worms will be living. It seems that wintertime catfish tend to want smaller meals at this time of the year. Waxworms work great has a bait. Also, the traditional summertime baits can produce also so try a few different things when you go out.
If you know where cats are found early in the spring in the body of water your fishing, try fishing the closet part of the basin to those areas. Depending on the food in the system the catfish may leave the basin and roam the edges of those flats looking for food.
My gear choice for this is pretty simple, I use a 28 to 36inch Med to Med-heavy rods such as the Ice Hopper Slammer rods. I will fill a Shimano 1000 with a 20lb braid. I will tie on a leader of 15lb Berkley Big game mono. The big game acts has a great shock absorber and can handle the roughness of the catfish's mouth.
My choice of baits is pretty much the same as what I will use for walleye. Jigging spoons and Jigging Rap’s being my search bait. Once I am on them I like to switch over to a fireball jig which has a fairly stout hook.
When you fish catfish you want a large hole. If you don’t have a 10inch auger overlap the holes to make one big hole. I have hooked a fish that would not fit through an 8-inch hole! A fish gaff can also be a handle tool to have with you to help bring the fish up the hole. I gaff the fish in the mouth that way I will not hurt or kill the fish and it will live to fight another day
Now if you don’t know of any small lakes with big channel cats, try to follow all the same things for bullheads but downsize since these are the panfish of the catfish family. There are a ton of small lakes loaded with these tasty little guys. And whats even more fun is you can play with them on your panfish gear.