Enjoy Thrilling Kayak Catfishing Adventures!

Do you love the exhilaration of battling a fish while basking in the serenity of the open water? If you do, then you’re in for a treat with one of the most captivating and dependable fishing experiences in the Delmarva region: catfish kayaking. Whether your sights are set on the feisty channel catfish or the sought-after trophy blue catfish, these whiskered creatures will keep your fishing rod bent and your freezer well-stocked throughout the winter months. Join me as I reveal my tried-and-true method for kayak catfishing, a technique that any angler can employ to reel in these beloved local favorites.

monster catfish caught on a kayak

Kayak Catfish Gear

The debate surrounding the ideal gear for catfishing may seem never-ending, but the key factors to consider are depth and current. Based on my personal experience, when fishing in depths of up to 20 feet with moderately strong currents, I opt for a seven-foot, medium-heavy, fast-action rod accompanied by 20-pound braid, a 40-pound mono leader, and a 7/0 circle hook. The weight of the rig depends on the strength of the current. However, it’s important to note that gear selection is not set in stone, and you can always modify it to suit the conditions and your personal preferences.

In terms of rigs, my go-to choices are the Santee Cooper Rig and a standard top-and-bottom rig. While these two options work exceptionally well, don’t hesitate to experiment with others and find your own personal favorite.

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The Finest Catfish Baits

One of the most exciting aspects of catfishing is that these fish aren’t picky eaters. You have a wide array of baits to choose from, including chicken gizzards, dough bait, cut fish, and chicken breast. Personally, my preferred bait is regular chicken breast. I cut it into baseball-sized chunks and let it soak in garlic salt overnight. Some anglers even claim that using Kool-Aid or soaking chicken in WD-40 can attract catfish. For those targeting trophy-sized fish, live sunfish or bluegills can prove to be a winning choice. If you find yourself in Virginia tidal waters, fresh cut mud shad is considered a top bait.

anchoring a kayak for catfish fishing

Discovering the Hotspots

Channel catfish can be found in most major freshwater bodies and relatively fresh tidal rivers and creeks near the Bay. A simple online search can reveal whether your local waters house these fish. If, like me, you’re drawn to the potential size of blue catfish, the Potomac River and its tributaries present excellent areas to explore. Look out for holes, channel edges, chokepoints, and locations abundant with snags and structures for the best chances of success.

Anchoring Your Kayak

When it comes to anchoring down for catfish, practice makes perfect. You don’t need an expensive kayak to enjoy a fruitful day of catfishing. Anchor trollies and foldable kayak anchors are readily available for purchase at outdoor stores, or you can create your own setup using a regular anchor and rope. The advantage of anchor trollies is their ability to adjust the point on your kayak where the anchor enters the water, ensuring you face the correct direction.

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Before anchoring, utilize a fishfinder or a navigational website such as Navionics to locate a deep hole or trough. Position your kayak up-current from the hole, allowing the scent of your bait to drift towards the catfish. This strategic placement is crucial to attract the fish effectively.

One common mistake is dropping the anchor straight down and expecting the kayak to remain stationary. In areas with tidal or significant currents, drop the anchor approximately 20 to 50 feet above your desired position. Let out some line, secure it, and use a simple screw-in cleat to tie it off. An old Gatorade bottle will make a perfect anchor-line spool. If you find your kayak still drifting, release more line and readjust until you achieve stability. Remember, catfish rely on their senses when feeding, so give your bait ample time to catch their attention.

Fighting Catfish From Your Kayak

When employing a circle hook, there’s no need to manually set the hook. Keep your drag tight, firmly hold the rod, or use a rod holder. When you experience an initial hit, your rod tip will bounce; however, refrain from reacting immediately. Wait until the rod goes down and remains down before reeling or engaging in a battle with the fish. This approach ensures that the circle hook embeds itself securely, minimizing frustration and reducing bait loss.

Now that you possess the necessary knowledge, grab some pungent bait, prepare your gear, and embark on your kayak catfishing adventure. Don’t be fooled by their appearance—catfish hit hard and put up a considerable fight. Good luck, and may your lines always be tight!

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By Matthew Stone

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