Huge catfish make for a positive pursuit atop frozen waters. 

Ice anglers are likely to deal with panfish, walleyes, perch, lake trout and pike all through a lot of the Ice Belt, leaving quite a few missed species, which I’ve written about up to now—fish together with eelpout, tullibees, whitefish, white bass, and each largemouth/smallmouth bass.

That stated, you may need to hunt down less-pursued species for plenty of enjoyable while you’re finished placing collectively a Zip-Lok of panfish or walleye fillets for the desk.

For many people, the tug is certainly the drug. And in the case of the tug, it’s dang arduous to beat the Olympian sprints, longer, drag-peeling runs, twists, and turns of channel catfish on ice fishing gear.

ice fishing for catfish
The place avaialble, channel catfish are comparatively simple to find and catch from underneath the ice, and so they put a significant finish in ice rods.

For many of us, when somebody mentions channel cats, photos of sliding down muddy riverbanks or slathering stinkbait on stout hooks come to thoughts. Now, what sticks in my reminiscence is the hilarity of attempting to squeeze a pot-bellied fish by way of an 8-inch gap. Paraphrasing Roy Scheider’s character within the film JAWS: “We’re gonna want a much bigger auger!” Actually, you probably have entry to it, you may simply need to substitute a 10-inch auger bit over the 8-incher for cats on hardwater.


Over time, I’ve fished channels a bit by way of the ice—and it’s been a hoot. Didn’t know jack about find out how to do it 15 years in the past however I used to be shortly introduced in control by some buddies.

What did I study? First, it’s not rocket science. The largest factor? Discover a physique of water with each numbers and high quality cats to pursue. The remaining is pretty simple, making it a fantastic alternative for fishing with youngsters and newbies to the game.


So far as discovering catfish on ice, they are often wherever, from close to river inlets, deep holes, turns, and submerged construction—even roaming flats. With at the moment’s forward-facing sonar, (which I’ve not personally utilized for finding channel cats), anglers inform me that you’ll find them fairly simply. And opposite to what you might suppose, faculties of channel cats are sometimes increased up within the water column than the place you may affiliate the “bottom-dwelling fish.”

So, expertise can assist. Nonetheless, a easy flasher works (because it has for many years)—however the one piece of substances I do advocate is a few form of underwater digital camera that can assist you discern species, after which allow you to set the hook when catfish are investigating your bait. I’ve used varied Aqua-Vu digital camera for ice fishing since my very first outing years in the past and so they assist loads.


A enjoyable strategy to catch channels in winter is to make use of deadstick/auto-setter gadgets that make the most of a rod-in-holder and truly means that you can struggle the fish versus hand-over-hand tip-up fishing. If utilizing the auto-setting function on a tool, simply guarantee that’s authorized in your state first—in any other case you’ll should set the hook with a sweep of the ice rod—finally, no large deal and a part of the enjoyable.

rippin lips scent trail for catfish under the ice
Cutbait with some added taste is bound to tempt a big hungry winter catfish.

Merchandise like iFish Execs, Jaw Jackers, the Computerized Fisherman, Finicky Foolers, and even easy rod-holders—or a rod positioned on high of a 5-gallon bucket with the drag loosened will all work. New bait-runner reels are additionally a fantastic choice which permit two drag settings—one to let the fish inhale the bait and peel line; the opposite, a flip of the change to alter again to your main drag setting and set the hook and struggle the fish.

So far as deadstick rigs, all you want is a 1/8-ounce jighead or treble hooks and a few split-shot sinkers.

Customary rail and insulated, disc-shaped tip-ups are additionally efficient rigged the identical approach.


When you choose jigging rod-in-hand techniques, high shows embody jigheads, in addition to spoons. I’ve had good luck with each the Customized Jigs & Spins Professional Collection Slender Spoon and Northland Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon in 1/4-ounce. So far as the latter, I’m curious to see if their new 2024 line of Tremendous-Glo makes any distinction to largely visible poor channel cats.

custom jigs and spins pro series slender spoon
Cats will even chase an erradict presentaiton in the course of the winter, too. An amazing choice is likely to be a Customized Jigs and Spins Professional Collection Slender Spoon.
Northland super glow buckshot rattle spoon
A Northland Deal with Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon will work for icy catfish, too.

If fishing inside a transportable or hard-sided shack, line to make use of on a 2000- to 2500-size spinning reel is 8- to 10-pound braid to a 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon chief. If fishing in subzero situations outdoors, since braid ices up simply, 8- to 10-pound mono, co-polymer, or fluoro will all work.

So far as rods, 32- to 38-inch medium-heavy energy sticks work properly.

Stinkbait and Lower-Bait

This begs the query of utilizing stinkbait on hardwater. However science and expertise signifies that it doesn’t work as properly in winter because the warm-water seasons. Nonetheless, scent can play an element, and it’s not a nasty concept to spray your bait with PowerBait or any variety of scents accessible at the moment like Rippin’ Lips Scent Path, a potent brew of omega-3 wealthy pure fish oils, blood and amino acids that has confirmed its benefit on the open-water catfish match path.

The deal is admittedly cut-bait, strips of sucker, golden shiners, or giant fatheads. Wisconsin-based information Eric Haataja has additionally had success in his area utilizing sections of frozen shrimp on his spoons.

“Some days the cats go completely bonkers for it,” stated Haataja.

eric haataja ice fishing catfish
Eric Haataja is aware of how a lot enjoyable large cats might be on frozen water.

Catfish have an unbelievable sense of scent—which I’ve noticed on my Aqua-Vu digital camera—and it’s frequent process for cats to rub style buds—situated throughout of their our bodies and barbels—on the bait earlier than they decide to consuming your bait.


Need a tremendous enjoyable day on the ice? Chase channel cats by way of the ice. They’re a largely untapped species throughout the Ice Belt and supply nice struggle potential. Not solely that, the smaller to midsize fish supply wonderful desk fare, cubed and deep fried with some Cajun seasoning—or used as protein in gumbo. To arrange, throw the cubed meat in a Zip-Lok bag with a can of low cost beer some lemon or citrus slices—or milk/buttermilk—the latter utilized by anglers for many years—and let it sit in a single day within the fridge. You may be stunned with the outcomes.

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