Must See Destinations

Catfishing in Florida Rivers – Florida Flathead Fishing

Catfish in Florida

Florida is home to a bountiful population of freshwater and saltwater fish. For this reason, fishermen from across the country and the world travel for Catfish in Florida every year. Here they can explore the canals, rivers, beaches, mangrove swamps, and other waterways in search of dinner and impressive specimens.

More than 900 world fishing records have been produced in the Sunshine State. This is more than any other state or even any other country!

The official freshwater fish of Florida is the largemouth bass. Other popular types of fish for amateurs and pros alike include snook, sailfish, and tarpon. Anglers can also enjoy terrific opportunities for catching catfish all across the state.

Are you wondering how to catch catfish in Florida? Are you searching for the best spots for all of the different types of catfish? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know.

What Are the Different Types of Catfish in Florida?

You can find more than thirty species of catfish in North America. However, anglers have zeroed in on the most popular species of catfish, referring to them as “The Big Three.” These are flathead catfish, channel catfish, and blue catfish.

Not only can you find these types of catfish in Florida, but there are also a number of other species. Anglers can find white catfish, yellow catfish, brown bullhead, walking catfish, and more.

Catfish in Florida
Catfish in Florida

Fishing for freshwater catfish in Florida is a favorite pastime among fishermen. There are also abundant opportunities to catch Gafftopsail. These are Florida catfish in saltwater regions, particularly on the gulf side of the state.

You might be wondering: are there flathead catfish in Florida? Though this species isn’t native, they do inhabit many of the rivers of the Panhandle. Other nonnative catfish species in the state include the vermiculated Sailfin, the Hypostomus, and the Sailfin catfish.

Where Are the Best Locations for Catching Catfish?

Throughout Florida, you can find canals, rivers, and stocked ponds where catfish are abundant. Whether you’re fishing from a boat or from the shore, you’ll find that fishing in the early morning or the evening gives you the best shot at bringing home some dinner.

1- The Apalachicola River

If you’re looking to angle for big channel catfish, head to the Apalachicola River between April and early June. For flathead catfish, your chances are best starting in April and running through the summer months. Throughout the year, you can catch small catfish in this Florida River.

The area from the Jim Woodruff Dam south to Owl Creek is an ideal spot for anglers searching for all catfish species. You will want to target the mouths of tributaries, old creek channels, and deep holes with structure.

For blue catfish, try using fresh-cut bait like mullet. Nightcrawlers and stink baits fished on the bottom will help you attract channel catfish. For big flatheads, use live bream fished on the bottom as well.

2- The Yellow River

In 2019, a new state record for flathead catfish was set when Marvin Griffen caught one that weighed a whopping 69.3 pounds. With a girth of 34.25 inches and 47 inches long, Griffen caught the monstrous fish using live bait in the Yellow River.

The record was broken again in August 2020. Weighing in at 69.9 pounds, this behemoth broke the record set the previous year.

While you might not break a state record, this river has high catch rates for multiple species. Also, anglers can find shadow bass, spotted bass, largemouth bass, bluegill, and much more in the upper Yellow River.

3- The Ochlockonee River/Lake Talquin

The Ochlockonee River is a top destination for channel catfish as well as bullhead, flathead, and white. It’s also popular for striped bass and black crappie.

For flathead catfish, the best angling begins in April. As well as, if you’re looking for channel catfish, mid-May into early summer is ideal. Both types of catfish will keep biting until October or November when the water turns cold.

Catfish in Florida
Catfish in Florida

The Lake Talquin Reservoir is located between Leon and Gadsden counties. Created by the impounding of the Ochlockonee River, Lake Talquin is known for largemouth bass, striped bass, and black crappie. The Talquin tailrace area is great for both flatheads and whites.

4- Choctawhatchee River best for Catfish in Florida

The Choctawhatchee River is an exceptional place to fish for flathead and channel catfish. Also, you can catch small catfish year-round. Moreover, the best months of the year for channel catfishing here are between late May and early July and October through early November.

Looking for the best spots on the Choctawhatchee? Check out the northern part of the river where there’s large woody debris or deep bends and holes.

5- Barnett Park Frog Pond

This 4.5 acre Orange County pond has excellent bank access. Part of the FishOrlando program, this is an annually stocked pond. Also, with baited fishing areas to attract channel catfish, you definitely won’t go home empty-handed.

They’ve also recently started stocking this pond with largemouth bass. According to the park, anglers can catch as many as fifty an hours after stocking occurs!

6- Edward Medard Reservoir

Edward Medard Reservoir is a 770-acre collection of former phosphate mining lakes. Located in Hillsborough County, the reservoir is stocked with channel catfish, sunshine bass, and largemouth bass.

You can target channel catfish either from the shoreline or by boat. Frequently stocked by FWC, this is a great place to catch this tasty freshwater fish.

7- Tenoroc Fish Management Area – Catfish in Florida

Another former phosphate mine, this 8,300-acre area is awesome for catching channel catfish. FWC stocks them annually in several of the lakes here. There are also some naturally reproducing brown bullheads in a handful of the lakes as well.

8- Lake Weohyakapka

Lake Weohyakapka is a natural lake not too far from Lake Wales. You’ll want to plan on fishing from a boat here as there isn’t much in the way of bank fishing access.

You can find both brown bullhead and channel catfish here. Furthermore, try targeting the area around man-made canals or the mouths of creeks entering the lake.

9- Lake Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee is often named one of the top destinations for largemouth bass fishing. However, the catfish harvesting isn’t anything to scoff at here. It’s not unusual for one million pounds of channel catfish to be caught every year here.

10- Lake Bluff best for Catfish in Florida

The state record for channel catfish goes to a 44.5 pounder that was caught in Lake Bluff. Located in Lake County, this catfish angling spot is just west of Orlando. This is also a great spot for catching largemouth bass and northern pike.

11- The Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

There are angling opportunities at the Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes for the channel, bullhead, and also white catfish.

Bullheads can spawn year-round. However, they primarily spawn starting in October through November. Peak spawning periods of channel catfish here are between April and June.

Some of the best sites here include:

  • C-31 (The East Lake Canal)
  • C-35 (The Southport canal)
  • C-36 (The canal between Lake Hatchineha and Lake Cypress)
  • C-37 (The canal between Kissimmee and Hatchineha)
  • Around the mouth of Shingle Creek and in Shingle Creek
  • Below the Kissimmee River structure
  • Around fish attractors in the lake proper

It’s common for catfish to be found around the bottom structure in the canals as well as near drop-offs.

12- Haines Creek

There are great opportunities for finding channel, white, and bullhead catfish here. Aim to start angling between mid-April through June to find larger channel catfish. October and November are also ideal times for catching channels.

The best catfishing on the system can be found in the creek between Griffin and Eustis Lakes.

13- Southwest Florida Lakes

If you’re hunting for channel and bullhead catfish, you won’t have trouble finding them in the Southwest Florida Lakes. Some choice spots include ponds managed under the Tampa Bay Urban Fishery Program and the Tenoroc Fish Management Area.

14- Joe Budd Pond is an excellent place for Catfish in Florida

Located in Gadsden County, Joe Budd Pond is a 20-acre impoundment. Offering excellent channel catfishing, you can angle catfish throughout the lake. However, along the dam and around the dam are particularly good spots.

15- The Clermont Chain of Lakes

Both white and channel catfish can be found at the Clermont Chain of Lakes. You’ll want to focus on areas around bottom structures and near drop-offs on offshore open-water areas. This will give you the best chance of snagging.

16- The Escambia River is a good place for catching Catfish in Florida

Flathead, channel, and Florida blue catfish can be found in the Escambia River. As well, for the best angling opportunities, head to the stretch between the I-10 Bridge and the Alabama line.

17- The St. John’s River and Dunn’s Creek

For superior channel, bullhead, and white catfish angling, head to the St. Johns River and Dunn’s Creek. Some of the best locations here include the hole on the north side of Buffalo Bluff Bridge and the stretch from Dunn’s Creek to Lake Crescent.

What Is the Best Bait?

Catfish are quite opportunistic. That means that they will rarely pass up the chance for a meal.

They are highly capable of locating food by smell thanks to their “whiskers.” These are actually loaded up with sensory cells that help them find a nearby meal.

For this reason, bait with strong odors is best for catching catfish. Consider trying shrimp, chicken liver or gizzards, or cut mullet. You can also go with commercial stink baits.

A number of other baits can work quite well for catching Catfish. Earthworms can be an effective bait and freshwater clams can be as well.

Many types of catfish in Florida become active just before dusk and in the evening. For the task, you’ll want to use sturdy #2 to #4 hooks in addition to a heavy split shot sinker.

Are You Planning on Angling for Catfish in Florida?

You can catch catfish in Florida year-round. However, the warmer months are when the angling opportunities really shine.

Whether you’re in the Panhandle, Palm Beach, Fort Myers, or St. Augustine, you’re never too far from your next catch. You can definitely suit up and spend the morning angling alone, or you can book a fishing charter or tour. Either way, you’ll be able to reap the many benefits of fishing that include getting fresh air, boosting your vitamin D, and reducing your stress levels.

If you’re planning your next vacation, be sure to check out the rest of our blog. We have all the info you need about the must-see destinations in Florida!