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Ultimate Guide to Catfishing the Mighty Mississippi River


Article Categories: Fishing Tips

Catfishing is one of the most beloved American pastimes. Nothing combines relaxation with thrill as much, especially when you are catfishing in iconic locations like the Mississippi River. Stretching over 2,300 miles, it is one of the most popular locations in the world to reel in monsters while enjoying its scenic beauties at the same time.

Catfishing in the “Big Muddy” can be an exciting experience for both novice and experienced anglers. But getting the most out of your fishing trip is no easy task. So, read on for our essential tips, techniques, and gear you need to successfully catfish the Mississippi River.


Catfishing in the Mississippi River

In the Mississippi River, you can catch three kinds of Catfish – Channel, Flathead, and Blue Catfish. The biggest ones are usually the Flatheads and Blues. They can grow over 30 inches long and weigh between 20 to more than 100 pounds. Channel Cats are usually around 20 inches long and weigh about 30 pounds.

However, when it comes to reeling one in, it takes a bit of learning and preparation.


Know Your Catfish

When catfishing in the Mississippi River, it is always important to learn about different species that inhabit the waters there. Knowing what to expect and where is important. Here’s why:

  • It can help you make a more targeted approach if you know their behavior, habitat, and feeding patterns.
  • You can select specific bait which can significantly increase your chances of attracting bites and landing a catch.
  • You can pinpoint specific locations where the catfish usually inhabits. For example, blue catfish often prefer deeper, faster-moving waters, while flathead catfish are more commonly found in slower, deeper areas.


Gather Quality Equipment

Quality gear is important for a successful catfishing expedition. Here’s a list of the equipment you are going to need:

  • Rods and Reels: You should always opt for a medium to heavy rod with a heavy weight reel with a strong line. Your choice of rod, reel, and line must be able to survive 20-50 lb of breaking strength. Generally speaking, go on the heavier side with braided line to avoid breaking off if you do happen to hook into a large fish.
  • Load up on sturdy lures, swivels, sinkers as well as leader materials. These components play a crucial role in presenting your bait effectively and handling the strength of catfish.
  • Choose suitable catfish bait such as live bait (shad, minnows), cut bait (fish chunks), and stink baits.


Choose the Perfect Fishing Spot

When you are catfishing in the Mississippi, choosing the perfect fishing spot is crucial. It is a vast river and the currents are always changing. That means, not all areas are equally suitable for catfishes and therefore, those aren’t suitable for catfishing either.

  • They tend to inhabit areas where they can find food, shelter, and suitable water conditions.
  • They often congregate near structures that provide cover and ambush points for prey.
  • Catfish often gather in areas where the current is moderate.
  • They are known to move between shallow and deep waters based on water temperature and food availability.

Fishing in areas with varied depths, such as drop-offs or channels, increases your chances of encountering catfish.


Use Different Fishing Techniques

Some of the most common techniques for catfishing are:

  • Bottom Fishing: Cast your bait near underwater structures and allow it to settle on the riverbed.
  • Float Fishing: Use a bobber or float to suspend your bait off the bottom. This is effective for targeting catfish at different water depths.
  • Drift Fishing: Allow your bait to drift with the current. This technique covers a larger area.
  • Night Fishing: Catfish are often more active during the night. So, consider fishing during dusk, dawn, or after dark for better results.


Mississippi River Catfish Tips


Use Real Bait

The mississippi is home to Skipjack, perch, shad, and other species that using these fish either whole, or chunks of bait can be effective. If those bait are not effective, using chicken liver or other similar bait can be effective. Bring more than one bait type on board for testing.


Fish Deep

Many of the catfish species inhabit deeper areas in the river. Look for deep holes. These can often be dikes, or just other deep area in the river. Some of the local pros say some of the best water is between 30 feet and 100 feet deep.


Use Heavy Braided Line

Catching a monster often requires heavy line. In addition, when fishing deep, a lot of monofilament line can lead to lots of line stretch, making it difficult to set the hook appropriately. Therefore, the local guides use braided line of 50+ pound test to allow for better hooksets, and prevent breakage.



No matter what your skill level is as an angler, catfishing in the Mississippi River is a fun and thrilling experience. You just need to make sure that you understand all the basics. That includes knowing about the catfish species, getting the right gear, selecting the proper fishing spot, as well as using the right technique. These will greatly enhance your chance of a successful and enjoyable catfishing experience.

We highly recommend hiring a guide on the river for your first time out. They will get you on fish, and teach you what often takes years to develop through your own experiences.

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about