Catfishing in Creeks: Untapped Opportunities

Last Updated on

Catfish have a remarkable ability to travel long distances, which is what makes creeks and streams surprisingly good spots to do some catfishing.

We’ve had success catfishing in creeks which are upwards of 100 miles from the nearest river which a traditional angler would call good for catfishing. These creeks are often only a few feet across and in places no more than 2 feet deep.

Catfish need their habitat to offer a few key points in order to support them year round. They need:

  • A source of food
  •  Suitable cover
  • Good water quality
  • Flowing Water
  • Locations and opportunity to overwinter

If a creek doesn’t offer all of these points, then chances are any catfish may only make an appearance for part of the year. Normally just the summer months.

Some catfish will migrate huge distances in order to locate ideal spawning grounds. A small tributary is often better suited to spawning compared to larger rivers.

You’ll often find catfish lurking in these creeks until such times that water levels begin to drop, or when temperatures begin to fall. At which times the catfish will tend to swim downstream to seek out locations with more stable temperatures and water levels.

How To Find A Good Catfishing Creek

There are two ways to go about finding good catfishing creeks:

1. Look on google maps for river tributaries which you can then trace back to find secondary tributaries and so on.
2. Speak with locals and perform a bit of on the ground reconnaissance.

Key to finding catfish in any creek is connectivity and adequate water flow.

If the catfish can’t physically get to the creek, either due to obstacles, lack of connectivity or not enough water, then the chances of finding and catfish are also slim.

The ideal catfish creek will display several key characteristics:

  • A variety of depths, with some deep holes and shallow beds
  • Plenty of overhead and in water cover
  • Both slow and fast moving currents

A creek with fallen trees, logjams and brush piles will offer a good range of hiding locations and sources of food.

Moving is Key

Try to fight the urge to sit in one location and fish all day. If you want to maximize your chances of catching as many catfish as possible, then you need to move around and find them.

You’re much more likely to find multiple suitable habitats if you walk a mile or two of a creek rather than settling with the first spot you come across.

If the creek you’ve chosen isn’t providing the type of cover and habitat that catfish like, then consider moving to another tributary.

As you move around and start catching catfish, then you’ll begin to get a feel for spots that offer the best chances. sooner or later you’ll begin to understand a particular creek and whether or not your time would be best spent elsewhere.

Look for slow-moving deeper pools with overhead cover. As the current flows into such pools, its scours the sediment, especially during the spring months when rains are common, which creates ideal conditions for catfishing.

As summer comes around, these pools will contain slower moving water, which is the perfect spot for resting catfish. Check behind natural rock formations or bridge pillars for naturally occurring deep areas and eddies.

Additionally, during the warmer months, catfish can be found in areas with as little as two feet of water. While in the winter months, expect catfish to be in water that is at least waist deep, if not much more.

The Type Of Creek Cover Matters

When you’re looking at the cover offered in creeks, the type and amount can make a significant difference.

A snag which is made up from several large logs is far better than a single tree with a limited amount of branches.

If you can find a pool with cover near the head, then you’ve struck catfishing gold. This is an excellent place to find feeding catfishing waiting for prey to come to them.

The lower end of a pool is more likely to contain resting catfish, which are less likely to take any offered bait. So, look for holes with good cover at the head or midsections.

Catfish can live in creeks with next to no flow, but it’s far from ideal. The best pools will have some water flow in order to replenish oxygen levels and provide a steady source of food.

Creek banks with strong vegetative growth can create overhangs, which create pools underneath with great cover overhear. These can be some of the best spots for catfishing, so keep an eagle eye out for creeks that display these characteristics.

Lastly, areas, where a creek narrows significantly, can create pinch points that cause an increase in water flow. If these pinch points contain significant amounts of cover, either at the head or tail, then there’s an excellent chance of finding decent amounts of catfish.

Best Rigs For Catfishing in Creeks

Catfish are an uncomplicated species of fish. Catching them can be as easy as dropping some bait into the right location at the right time.

A simple rig will make sure your bait is delivered to the right location, and more importantly, ensures the bait is held in place.

A simple rig is also much easier to construct, so when the inevitable line breakage occurs on a snag, you can quickly and easier whip up a new rig in next to no time. They also tend to be easier to cast accurately, which is half the battle with any type of fishing.

Simplicity should not prompt function. Which is to say, your rig must be able to present the bait to the catfish in a manner they can get to it. One of the most simple and effective rigs is simply bait and a hook.

Trout Fishing: Tips & Guide For Landing Massive Fish

Using a 2/0 hook, attach a fresh piece of bait and then simply cast the bait into the head of a pool. The bait will naturally fall through the water column and will then be pushed along the bottom by the current. It’s very hard to create a more appealing bait for bass.

However, you might find getting good distance and more importantly accuracy with such a rig difficult. In which case a drift rig will work better.

Drift Rig

To create a drift rig, simply using the same set up as above, but this time add a couple of lead shots pinched about 8 inches above the bait.

This even minor additional weight will allow for far greater accuracy. It will also allow the bait to sink to the bottom faster, yet it should remain light enough for the current to push the bait along the bottom.

The main downside of these rigs is that they tend to snag often, so you may have to be prepared to lose some gear.

Slip float Rig

Slip Float Catfishing in Creeks

Just like drift rigs, float rigs can keep bait moving, with the upside that they tent to snag less often.

I would suggest sticking with cigar-shaped slip floats over bobbers, as cigar-shaped floats allow for greater sensitivity. Better sensitivity translates directly into more bites and a better chance of setting a hook.

A basic slip float rig consists of the float, hook, lead shot and optionally a swivel.

Attach the slip float so you can adjust the length between the float and the hook, I normally use a small elastic band to pinch it into place.

Weigh down the hook end with a couple of split shots positioned around 6 inches above the hook.

Bait up the hook and cast out into the head of a pool. The current will allow the float and bait to drift along.

Final Thoughts

Catfishing in creeks is an often under-exploited avenue, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have plenty of success.

The main thing is to get out there and try it out. You’ll quickly begin to understand where the ideal locations are and how you can improve your success rate.

If you feel we’ve missed anything in our catfishing in creeks article, please let us know in the comments below.