“The Heart of Dixie” is home to various species of freshwater game fish, and catfish are among the most popular Alabama game fish for anglers and chefs alike. With five significant species in Alabama, catfish are one of the most sought-after fish in the state.
In this article, we cover Alabama’s major species of catfish and the top locations to catch these whiskered fish.
There are five major species of catfish in the state of Alabama. Blue, bullhead, channel, flathead, and white catfish inhabit Alabama’s inland rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes.
From species that top out at just over a pound to the 120-pound state-record blue catfish, anglers can catch catfish of all sizes in Alabama.
Where Can I Find Catfish in Alabama?
Catfish are versatile and can live in practically any body of water in Alabama. They are common in many freshwater areas, including moving streams and still lakes. Catfish also find their way into marshes, coastal estuaries, and river deltas.
What Do I Need to Catch Catfish in Alabama?
Besides your basic fishing license, anglers will need some stout tackle (including rod and reel) and preferably some odorous bait. For more on how to catch catfish, please see our how-to article about catfish fishing linked at the bottom of this article.
Mississippi’s Top Catfish Fishing Spots
While anglers can catch catfish practically anywhere they find year-round freshwater in Alabama, the following are our favorite catfishing locations in the state.
This 9,200-acre reservoir along the Black River in west-central Alabama is a catfish haven.
Although it’s most well-known for trophy largemouth and spotted bass, anglers catch a variety of species in this reservoir, including massive channel and flathead catfish, rainbow trout, and world-record striped bass.
The trick to locking into catfish is selecting the areas that each species is most likely to inhabit.
The lake’s deeper holes and areas with heavy currents are your best bet for locating channel catfish. Top spots for channel cats include the split between Dunn’s Bend and Cold Branch, the bend north of Smith Camp Boat Launch, and the mouth of Hurricane Creek.
These locations usually have a current and are best angled with a bottom rig, such as a Carolina or Texas rig baited with the cut bait or liver. The scent will travel with the current and draw in the catfish.
Bankhead Lake is dotted with log jams, creek miles, points, and thick weeds, perfect cover for ambush predators like the flathead catfish.
Further into the creeks, angular should target structure with a deep cork or work the cut or channel mouths with bottom rigs baited with small live crappie, shad, or crawfish.
Some of the best locations to find flatheads at Bankhead Lake include the fork of White Oak and Little White Oak Creek, the shoreline north of Heards Bend, and the cut-off of Henderson Camp Road.
Big Creek Lake
Also referred to as Converse Reservoir, this 3,600-acre impoundment in Mobile County is filled with channel catfish, bass, and sunfish.
Rich with submerged woody cover, this lake reaches depths up to 60 feet closer to the dam, with creek channels that dip down to 20 feet.
Because channel catfish love deep holes and currents, it’s essential to locate deeper holes with fast-moving water to target these hungry catfish. One of the better locations is the channel that leads into the Big Creek Dam.
Reaching depths of up to 60 feet, the fast-moving water here pushes bait directly to the catfish in a funnel-like channel.
Bottom rigs baited with minnows, cut bait, or liver are a great choice here. Anglers should moor outside the channel opening and cast into the current, letting the scent drift into the moving water and drawing the catfish out from near the dam.
Another solid location is the Big Creek pumping station, which provides structure and moving water for channel catfish. The station is in the southeastern arm of the lake, which is full of creeks and cuts.
These spots also make for great bass or crappie fishing, while anglers have their bottom rigs out for giant catfish.
Alternative locations anglers can target include the cuts on the northern portion of the lake’s western shoreline.
The mouth of Havoc Branch or the cuts on either side of Seales Nursery are upstream from the dam but still have a decent current with relatively deep channels.
As with the dam, mooring outside the channel and casting a bottom rig into the mouth is the best way to avoid spooking the fish while still placing your set-up in the best position.
Don’t be surprised if it takes some time to hook into a catfish, which scatter throughout the lake. Having fished here several times, I recommend giving it about 10 minutes per location before trying a new spot.
Always look for moving water and watch your fishfinder for deep holes to help you find the best site.
Cedar Creek Reservoir
This 4,200-acre reservoir in northwestern Alabama yields excellent catfish angling, especially for flatheads and channel cats.
Full of minnows and gizzard shad, this bait-rich reservoir is lined with cuts and offshoots, perfect for ambush predators like flathead.
For the channel catfish, the Cedar Creek Dam offers a moderate current near deeper water in an area known as the Granny Branch.
This lake snakes its way across the forested northwestern Alabama Hill Country with various creeks and small channels filled with cover, making it a flathead paradise in addition to an excellent bass lake.
Anglers’ best bet for catching these big, hungry ambush predators by boat is to work the shoreline around Lost Creek Boat Ramp, including Hester Branch, Smelser Spring Branch, and Dudley Hollow with a deep cork.
Using a live minnow, shad, or crawfish, anglers should target submerged structures such as fallen trees or undercut banks to rip into massive flathead.
Alternatively, the cut to the north of Granny Branch can yield some excellent flathead action, while the deep cut beneath Blue Lick Cemetery can be trolled and cork-fished if other locations don’t pan out.
Aside from Cedar Creek Dam, angling the I-49 bridge and the cut west of it are viable options for targeting channel catfish.
The bridge funnels the water through a small underpass with a decent current, and the water here is deep enough to house some monster channel cats. This area can be fished by boat or shore off Lost Creek Road or Britton Bridge Boat Ramp.
This 39,000-acre reservoir in Central Alabama provides some of the best fishing in the entire state.
Although it’s usually known for its excellent bass fishing, the channel, blue, and flathead catfish population at Lake Martin is a poorly kept secret.
Rich with minnows, shad, and small sunfish, Lake Martin’s clear water is home to drop-offs, ledges, and rock bluffs with undercut banks that make for some excellent catfish structures.
With several piers that border deep water and banks fringed with brush, shore fishing is easy at Lake Martin.
Fishing from the Elkahatchee Creek Boat Ramp is a viable option, thanks to a small fishing pier that faces into the channel under the Coven Abbott Highway.
Parker Creek Marina also features several fishing piers that put anglers on open deep water without leaving shore.
Like most lakes in the region, the lake comprises multiple offshoots and branches rather than one big body of water.
Fed by the Tallapoosa River and other streams, the Martin Dam Hydro Electric Plant keeps water moving through this big lake and provides an excellent location to catch channel catfish.
The lake’s northwestern and northeastern areas offer better flathead catfish locations, with cuts, bays, and channels dotting its shorelines.
The cut that ends at Madwind Road is an excellent example of this. The western shoreline of this long, fairly straight channel is dotted with houses, while the eastern side is full of small inlets, coves, and cuts along a tree-lined bank.
Blue catfish are not as common as their two cousins at Lake Martin. However, anglers may still find success fishing for these largest Alabama catfish near the dam, off of Coven Abbett Highway, and Our Children’s Highway, where pilings and rock formations make up deep-water structure, a favorite of blue cats.
No matter what species of catfish you hope to catch at Lake Martin, your best bet is to stick with a bottom rig baited with live shad, minnows, or small sunfish.
Casting these baits into the mouths of channels, cuts, and even near the dam itself is a surefire way to attract the attention of a hungry catfish.
A 43,000-acre lake divided between Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, this giant impoundment on the Tennessee River provides some of the best big catfish angling between the three states.
Filled with brush piles and submerged trees, Pickwick Lake also has multiple deep water holes and is rich in minnows, shad, and crawfish.
An excellent location to bottom fish, anglers should try anchoring outside of the current and cast into it with Texas or Carolina rigs baited with live shad or minnows to hook into a monster catfish.
A favorite location of crappie anglers, the lake’s stump field is best known for producing solid slabs consistently. However, most people miss the trophy catfish that lurk a little deeper, preying on the sunfish and bream.
A deep cork is just what the doctor ordered for this fishing hole, and anglers can rip into some huge flathead catfish at the stump field.
When it comes to shore fishing from the Alabama side, the Waterloo Boat Ramp and Second Creek Recreation Area offer anglers easy access to deep water from shore.
By boat, anglers should also try the rocks lining Bumpass Creek Road, where they may find the occasional blue or channel catfish lurking amongst the boulders or near the underpass.
This 1,550-acre lake in northern Alabama is home to some massive blue and channel catfish.
A top hotspot is below Wheeler Dam, where swift current and various structures make for prime-time catfish angling.
With blue catfish regularly caught over 50 pounds, Wilson Lake has deeper holes in its lower half, and the upper end features a strong current due to Wheeler Dam.
Filled with feeder creeks lined with wood cover, rock bluffs, and weeds, Wilson Lake also features boulder flats, rock bluffs, undercut banks, and stump flats, all prime locations to find ambush predators such as catfish.
Early morning and late evening are the best times to target the feeder creeks and stump flats, where anglers can catch catfish, crappie, and bass side by side.
As mentioned, the dam is always an excellent choice. Especially when the sun goes down, catfish will school just beneath the tailwaters of the structure, and it’s a nightly feeding frenzy that anglers shouldn’t miss.
Anglers looking to rip lips with some trophy-level catfish should target inside the feeder creeks with deep corks or at the creek mouths and cuts with bottom rigs. In both cases, bait your hooks with shad.
Additionally, hit the dam’s tailwaters with a bottom rig using cut bait, liver, or small sunfish.
Other prime-time fishing locations include the mouth of Fourmile Creek, Trousdale Hollow, the intersection of Shoal Creek, and the mouth of McKiernan Creek.
Wilson Lake is an all-around fishing destination, including one of the best places in Alabama to go crappie fishing.
Also referred to as the Middle Pond, Yates Lake (a.k.a. Yates Reservoir) is a 1,980-acre body of water filled with various fish, including blue, channel, and flathead catfish.
Located between Lake Martin and Thurlow Lake along the Tallapoosa River, Yates Lake has earned a reputation for big striped bass, but its hidden gem is its quality catfish population.
While size matters in a lot of things, this smaller reservoir proves that good things can come in small packages. The Yates Dam makes for some incredible angling locations along the Tallapoosa River’s heavily forested shorelines.
With coves, cuts, and inlets lining the river above the dam, small islands, and rock structures beneath it, catfish angling has never been better.
Whether fishing from a boat or the shore, Yates Reservoir allows anglers to set their hooks into a myriad of species, all from one location.
Anglers looking to chase flatheads should work near the bank above the dam and target likely locations, such as near the mouths of Coon Creek and Sougahatchee Creek. Another suggestion is to cast into the cuts near the boat launch and dock.
A cork baited with nightcrawlers, shad, or small perch is a great way to see what’s hiding along the heavily forested shoreline.
For big blue cats and channel catfish, working the top of the dam’s overflow with a bottom rig or the dam’s tailwaters are both great opportunities for anglers to break out the beloved bottom rigs and use stink bait, cut bait, or liver to set the hook on a monster.
Boat anglers must keep their distance from the dam, anchoring or mooring out of the current and casting into it for the highest chance of success.
This 5,850-acre reservoir off the Chattahoochee River makes for some excellent catfish angling. Located in southeastern Alabama, Lake Harding is home to various species, including channel catfish, blue catfish, and a host of bass.
Straddling the Alabama-Georgia line, this lake is filled with cuts, islands, coves, and miles of forested shoreline, making it the perfect habitat for flathead catfish.
Locations like the Bartletts Ferry Dam and several bridges are also great blue catfish angling locations.
Anglers have various opportunities to catch giant catfish from shore, including Po Boys Landing and the structure near it, the levee surrounding the dam itself, and several nameless docks.
Anglers can catch plenty of decent-sized catfish from shore, but they often catch the largest catfish in the cut to the right of the Bartletts Ferry Hydro Dam or in the dam’s tailwaters in the Chattahoochee River below the dam itself.
Additionally, the rock formations to the left of the dam on the Alabama side provide great structure and spawning grounds for catfish during the spring.
Anglers will have the most success near these spots with bottom rigs, baited with small sunfish, shad, minnows, cut bait, or liver.
Anglers who are fishing from a boat often stick with a cork baited with bait fish.
Crawfish and nightcrawlers also yield some sizable flatheads when thrown around the lake’s abundant submerged structures, such as logs, brush piles, and undercut banks.
Jones Bluff Reservoir
This 12,510-acre reservoir is home to blue, channel, and flathead catfish you can catch from a dock or a boat.
This Alabama River reservoir’s level fluctuates, resulting in changing catfish hotspots depending on the season.
Also referred to as R.E. Bob Woodruff Lake, this reservoir has rocky undercut banks lining the shores closer to its dam.
Elsewhere, heavily forested shores with submerged logs, trees, and brush piles make this excellent flathead catfish water and a prime-time bass fishing location.
Anglers should be cautious of the current, which is quite powerful in the dam’s tailwaters. However, boat anglers can moor out of the main river flow by ducking behind the small concrete structure on the dam’s right side and casting into the stronger current.
The dam’s tailwaters and the rocky shorelines are home to large channel and blue catfish, feasting on the baitfish brought by the current.
Anglers can make their way to the R. F. Henry Lock and cast from the rocky shoreline on either side of the lake with heavy tackle and bottom rigs to catch these monster catfish.
Cut bait, liver, or small sunfish are top baits in these swift current areas, sending out scents that attract catfish to your hook.
Farther downstream, anglers will find success angling for flatheads along the Alabama River’s banks by fishing along the heavily forested shoreline and working deep corks over submerged structures.
Minnows, nightcrawlers, and even crawfish are great baits to lure out these yellow-bellied giants.
Walter F. George Lake
This 45,180-acre reservoir straddles the Georgia and Alabama line and is rich with angling opportunities for blue and channel catfish.
Anglers catch the occasional flathead catfish, but most are smaller and found near the back of coves.
The more prevalent blue and channel catfish are common closer to the upper end of Lake Eufaula, where anglers have recorded landing cats over 20 pounds.
Anglers can catch some catfish from the docks, but most anglers there are fishing for panfish and using nightcrawlers or even crappie pellets under a cork when a surprise catfish strikes.
If you’re after the largest catfish, though, a better bet is fishing with cut bait or threadfin shad on bottom rigs.
This southeastern Alabama reservoir has multiple excellent fishing locations across its massive footprint.
For instance, the water between the twin spans between Eufaula, Alabama, and Georgetown, Georgia, is a prime catfish location. The bridges funnel the water through with a current just south of Chewalla Creek.
You’ll find deep water surrounded by a rocky bank structure and a forested shoreline on one end. All in all, this area is a solid choice if you’re looking to hammer some big blues or channel cats.
Chewalla Creek offers muddier waters to the northwest with plenty of structure, offshoots, and cuts for anglers to target flathead catfish. Anglers can even fish part of this location from shore from the Lake Eufaula Campground.
Cheneyhatchee Creek also has forested, cut-lined banks for prime flathead and catfish angling.
White Oak Creek is another spot where anglers can trace its tributaries far past the campground and into murky, structure-filled water perfect for flatheads and largemouths.
Other excellent fishing locations include Pataula Creek, the Walter F. George Lock, Hardridge Creek Boat Ramp, and the Sandy Branch Public Use Area.
This long river comes in from Mississippi near Pickensville and flows southward along the western side of Alabama.
The Tombigbee produces excellent catfish angling along its path, which includes five dams and locks before joining the Mobile River and emptying into Mobile Bay, where the attention turns to redfish and other saltwater fishing.
Flatheads and blue catfish are the two most common species caught here. Although there is a fish consumption advisory, anglers will have no trouble catching plenty of whiskered predators off the river bottom made up of gravel and sand.
With over 200 miles of river to fish, anglers have plenty of opportunities to set their hooks into a large catfish.
One of the better locations is the bridge and swampy area between Leroy and Jackson. Here, anglers will find a heavily flooded forest that shelters catfish from the stiff current of the river but is still deep enough water to rip into some big cats.
Another great location is the Lower Cutoff south of Jackson. The flooded forest here creates small estuary-like pockets of deep water surrounded by structures off the main channel of the Tombigbee River. Anglers can find plenty of sizable flathead catfish lurking around the submerged stumps and fallen timber in murky water.
Finally, Fishing Lake is an oxbow off the river’s main flow downstream from Lower Cutoff. This oxbow is another solid choice for anglers looking for a giant catfish. Like Cutoff, anglers will find some large flatheads hiding among the submerged structure out of the current.
Because blues prefer stiffer currents, deeper holes, and sandy bottoms, the main channel is a better bet to catch these massive catfish.
The Tombigbee River’s blue catfish tend to hold in the main channel in spots like the Ball Bluff Bridge near Coffeeville, McGrews Shoals near St. Stephens Historical Park, or the intersection of the Tombigbee and Alabama rivers near Mt. Vernon.
When fishing for blues in the main current of the Tombigbee River, anglers should stick to fishfinder or Carolina rigs that will keep your set-up pinned to the bottom and the bait in the water column.
Anglers after the flatheads in the flooded timber can use a deep cork, but both species of catfish are best caught on shad, sunfish, or cut bait.
This Tombigbee River backwater in western Alabama near Aliceville could have been lumped in with our coverage of the river. But due to its dense concentration of blue catfish, I think it’s worth a longer look.
The nearest boat launch is the Cochrane Recreation Area, and after a short boat ride down the river and catching Lubbub Creek into the lake, you’re in deep blue catfish territory.
Anglers catch the occasional flathead here around flooded timber, but locations such as Kearnens Bar and Summerville Bar let anglers moor their boats and cast into deep water with a stiff current.
Anglers may be able to catch shad at the back of the lake by cast net or buy them from a bait shop. These small fish are the best bait for the bottom rigs used at this location.
Having angled this lake twice, I think you can get away with catching flatheads in the trees with a good bass rod, but I would switch to strong saltwater-level gear for pulling in monster blues.
Streetville Island and Cutoff Bar are also great nearby locations where anglers can anchor the boat and fish straight from the land. At the same time, Catfish Bar, just downstream, lets you fish a wide river bend over deep water.
A 280-mile-long tributary of the Alabama River, the Coosa River is a heavily developed body of water with multiple impoundments, dams, lakes, and of course, lots of big catfish.
The diverse ecosystem of the Coosa River features mussels, crawfish, fish, birds, and snails, offering a rich feeding environment for fish of all species.
The best catfish angling on the Coosa River is at Lay Lake and Lake Mitchell.
Lay Lake is a 12,000-acre reservoir fed by the tailwaters of the Logan Martin Dam. Home to striped bass and catfish, this area is rich with shad and features a stiff current over plenty of deep holes where anglers can hook into some truly impressive fish.
Here, the mouth of Yellow Leaf Creek and the shoreline north of Dry Branch towards the dam are both easy-to-access locations you can fish at Lay Lake.
Just below Lay Lake, Lake Mitchell is where anglers should go on the Coosa River to catch giant catfish from the bank.
Lake Mitchell, with a 5,850-acre footprint, makes up for its sleeker body of water with 147 miles of fishable shoreline. Rich with juvenile bass, sunfish, and crappie, this lake is the perfect feeding ground for monster catfish.
Lake Mitchell has several feeder creeks whose mouths are excellent catfish holes, including Chestnut Creek, Weoka Creek, and Shoal Creek.
In both of these Coosa River locations, anglers can catch big blue and channel cats on bottom rigs. Because shad and sunfish fluctuate in number and size throughout the year, check the waters to see what’s schooling before baiting your rig.
Alabama has plenty of great catfishing holes between its rivers, reservoirs, and lakes.
Anglers should note that in recent years, chemical drain-off has affected the edibility of fish in over 200 waterways, so check with your local Fish and Game office before consuming any fish from Alabama waterways.
Before heading out in search of your trophy Alabama catfish, make sure to purchase a fishing license and check all state and local regulations. Stay safe and good luck out on the water.
Catch More Catfish
This article offers a ton of great information on where to catch catfish at Alabama’s best fishing holes. But if you’d like to up your game, check out our complete guide to catfish fishing techniques, including the best baits, tackle and plenty of tips.