One of Louisiana’s most popular and sought-after freshwater fish is the catfish.
Widely distributed throughout the state and easy to catch, catfish are a favorite with anglers and cooks alike. Though Louisiana offers abundant fishing opportunities, catfish have remained a staple among anglers for centuries.
Often, crappie and bass fishing receive more attention in the state, with tournaments and events centering around them. However, several catfish species here can be caught from backwater bayous to the Mississippi River.
In this article, we will cover the very best places to catch catfish in Louisiana.
Louisiana Catfish Species
There are three major species of catfish that are of high interest to anglers in Louisiana.
Ranging from sizes of several ounces to well over 100 pounds, Louisiana catfish are spread throughout lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, bayous, marshes, and coastal flats.
Each species has distinct features, feeding habits, and environment preferences, making it easy for anglers who know where to look to tell the difference.
This fork-tailed catfish earned its moniker from its slate blue back.
In the Mississippi River system, where they are native, blue catfish prefer deep tributaries and channels, seeking out the warm water in the winter and cooler water in the summer. However, these big catfish also do well in larger lakes and reservoirs.
With a preference for clean water, they’re often located over rocky, sandy, or gravel bottoms but also can be found in siltier conditions.
Juvenile blue catfish will feast upon invertebrates and small fish, while an adult blue catfish’s diet primarily consists of crawfish, mussels, and other fish.
Both a scavenger and a predator, these catfish will not shy away from taking a bite out of recently deceased fish or even small mammals.
Blue catfish reach sexual maturity at about 24 inches long. With a lifespan between 20 to 30 years, the average blue catfish weighs between 20 to 40 pounds. The biggest blue cats have topped 100 pounds, making them the largest catfish species in America.
Favorite among anglers, these large and aggressive catfish will take a bite out of just about anything.
Blue catfish primarily rely on their sense of smell when searching for food, and they prefer live or freshly killed bait with a pungent odor. Artificial bait can work, but using natural bait already found in the lakes and rivers where you fish tends to have a higher success rate.
Anglers can often confuse blue and channel catfish. To tell them apart, note that the blues have four barbels (the “whiskers”) while channels have more barbels and usually have spots on their bodies.
The ever-popular channel catfish comes in various colors and has an aggressively forked tail and jutting upper jaw.
Ranging from olive to sleet, this catfish has even been observed to have hints of gray or blue. They are usually speckled with dots along their back and have white bellies.
Channel catfish enjoy slower-moving water such as large rivers, reservoirs, and lakes. Arguably second only to bass in popularity, these catfish are delicious on the dinner plate and can be found in pretty much every waterway throughout Louisiana.
With a spawning season from late spring to early summer, male channel cats can often be found guarding nesting sites of recently laid eggs.
Channel catfish aren’t too picky in what they eat.
Natural baits such as cut-up fish, crawfish, and worms will always tempt them. Prepared baits, including stink baits and punch baits, also will draw the channels with a strong odor.
Channel catfish also are more likely than their cousins to strike artificial lures, which is why bass and crappie anglers hook them with some regularity.
Chumming to bring channel catfish to you can be very successful.
With many monikers, including shovel head, yellow catfish, pied catfish, and appaloosa catfish, the flathead has its namesake flatter head and a rounder tail than the fork-tailed blues and channels.
Flathead catfish are another massive catfish species that can reach lengths of up to 4 feet and top out at over 100 pounds.
Unlike most other catfish, flathead catfish almost exclusively hunt live prey. These ambush predators start as juveniles feeding on invertebrates, crawfish, and worms, and the adults will take on fish and even small birds and mammals.
These solitary predators prefer to lurk in deep spots in rivers and creeks.
They will hide out beneath fallen trees and under overhanging river banks, lying in wait to ambush their next meal.
If the water is murky and slow-moving, there’s a high probability that a flathead catfish is somewhere nearby, ready for its next meal.
Another type of catfish found in Louisiana is the bullhead, often called “mudcats.”
These are typically smaller and less prized than any of the “big three” catfish species described above. Mudcats are found in just about any creek, pond, and other forms of freshwater with year-round water.
Therefore, in this article, we focus only on the three species that anglers more often hope to catch.
Louisiana is full of premier fishing destinations. From its coastal waters to backwater bayous, the angling experience of Louisiana is like no other.
While a variety of species inhabit the waters of the state known as “The Sportsmans Paradise,” one of the most sought-after fish is the catfish.
Prized for the fight it puts up at the end of a rod and the delicious dishes it completes, catfish are an integral part of Louisana lore culture.
With catfish fries during Lent, noodling competitions, and trotlines dotting every major river south of Arkansas, it’s safe to say Louisiana loves its catfish.
While there are hundreds if not thousands of fishing holes for anglers to hook into catfish down south, there are a handful of locations across Louisianna that bring high-quality cats in high quantities.
This list covers 10 publicly accessible locations where anglers can find a great catfishing experience without having to pay a premium for a club or charter.
The vast majority of these locations can be fished from shore, but a select few require a boat.
From the banks of college campus lakes to the lock systems at major dams, Louisiana catfish can be caught anywhere, anytime.
So without further adieu…
Louisiana’s Best Catfish Fishing Holes
This 2,700-acre Reservoir near Epps, in the northeastern portion of the state, was created in 2001 and shortly after was stocked with channel catfish.
Devoid of blue or flathead catfish, this body of water is one of the highest producing locations of sizable channel catfish ranging from 4 to 6 pounds. Channel cats weighing more than 15 pounds have been recorded at Poverty Point.
Since crappie rather than channel catfish are the primary target of anglers, the lack of predators, heavy shad population, and excellent habitat make Poverty Point this whiskered predator’s paradise.
Additionally, excellent catfish spawning success adds to the thriving population of channel catfish waiting to be caught.
Whether you are angling from a boat or on shore, poverty point has a marina and fishing pier open to the public to make your water experience easy.
Just outside of Farmerville, one of Louisiana’s premier catfish habitats drains a watershed 75 times larger than its 13 1/2 mile by 1 1/2 mile lake.
Filled with luscious grass flats, flooded timber, and many arms, Lake D’Arbonne is home to numerous mid-size channel catfish plus a few monster flatheads recorded weighing over 50 pounds.
Blue catfish are rare in Lake D’Arbonne, but the channel and flathead catfish maintain a strong bite year-round.
Consuming everything from hotdog bites and pieces of corn to shiners and worms, the catfish of Lake D’arbonne can be found throughout the lake but are most prevalent near high concentrations of shad, their favorite meal.
Anglers have found a high level of success utilizing 2- to 3-inch shad tight lining or beneath a cork, either fishing from shore or a boat.
To maximize your success on Lake D’Arbonne, fish the deeper parts of the lake in the middle of the day, then work closer to the bank in the morning and evening.
Lake D’Arbonne also is among the premier crappie fishing lakes in Louisiana.
Red River (Locks System):
Whether you are angling for quantity or quality, the Red River harbors a lot of catfish.
Wing dams intersect channels to ensure the river stays at a depth of no less than 9 feet. As a result, eddies and deep holes form around the rocks of these structures, which become catfish havens.
With an incredibly dense blue catfish population, thanks to the rocky submarine terrain, the Red River provides the best angling for catfish in central Northwest Louisiana.
The basins of each lock system provide the perfect feeding grounds for scavengers and ambush predators such as blue and flathead catfish.
Red River locks 4 and 5 hold some of the best catfishing in the entire state. With blue and flathead catfish recorded weighing over 40 pounds, there is an abundance of these monsters beneath the surface.
In 2004, Dwight Hendrickson caught a 93-pound blue catfish out of Lock 5, and anglers consistently bring in more than 15 catfish on a good day.
Between Creston and Campti, Liza Reservoir in northern Louisiana that legend claims holds the best catfish in the entire state.
With flatheads over 60 pounds regularly caught, Black Lake’s leviathan catfish are as old as the ancient body of water itself.
This 13,800-acre lake connects to the Red River through the saline bayou and contains blues, flatheads, and channel catfish in high numbers.
With a high volume of prey such as shad, this lake also has excellent crappie fishing to fill your menu if the catfish bite is slow.
During colder weather, the catfish sometimes leave Black Lake and cross into its neighbor Clear Lake in search of deeper water.
The high quantity of submerged structures, such as stumps and downed trees, make Black Lake a paradise for an ambush predator like flathead catfish.
Atchafalaya River (Morgan City)
While most of these locations are solid to angle year-round, the lower Atchafalaya River at Morgan City reaches a fever pitch between mid-April to the end of June.
Anglers have recorded several dozen catfish within a few hours in the Atchafalaya River here.
A nearly perfect setup for the yearly catfish run, just off the Morgan City floodwall, provides a structure for catfish to lay up in and feed on prey brought by the current.
Another place to catch catfish nearby are the bridge trestles, which provide a safe haven for large catfish waiting for an easy meal.
Best angled from by boat, using river shrimp for bait has been found to yield the best results in the average 18 feet of water.
Chumming is another popular technique to draw the catfish near the boat at Morgan City.
While some anglers prefer to drop anchor near the shipyard, the railroad bridge and floodwall provide some of the best fishing in the Atchafalaya River.
This limited season means it gets hot and heavy during the early summer days, with upwards of 45 catfish caught in a couple-hour span.
In addition, other species such as sturgeon, stingray, gaff top catfish, and freshwater drum have been recorded feeding alongside these catfish.
Bordering Texas, this freshwater feeding ground for bass and crappie holds a staggering number of beautiful blue, channel, and flathead catfish.
With plenty of shorelines filled with rocks, logs, undercut banks, and root structures, Toledo Bend provides a premier catfish habitat in an easily accessible location.
Though all species could be caught throughout Toledo Bend’s staggering 185,000-acre footprint, each species has a preference.
Channel catfish often prefer smellier baits, such as stink bait or soured grain (which makes good chum).
Flatheads prefer live bait such as shad, small perch, worms, or even crawfish. Fresh cut bait also works well when suspended about a foot from the bottom below a cork.
Another favorite technique is to run trotlines.
Locations such as at the dam, Negreet Creek, and Housen Bay often produce some of the best catfish Toledo Bend has to offer.
Although largemouth bass is the most popular species at Toledo Bend, catfish in excess of 72 pounds have been caught here on trotlines.
Toledo Bend also made our list of the best catfish fishing lakes and rivers in Texas.
Formerly a saltwater paradise, Lake Pontchartrain on the north side of New Orleans boasts a healthy population of brackish and freshwater species from speckled trout, flounder, redfish, drum, bass, and of course, catfish.
In fact, the world record sheepshead at a staggering 21.25 pounds was pulled from Lake Pontchartrain.
During the coldest months, when most of the speckled trout and flounder action has died down, both redfish and blue catfish can be caught in droves from Lake Pontchartrain.
When cold fronts hit the large lake, both the redfish and sizable blue cats will strike just about anything due to the low concentration of bait in the water. With blue catfish recorded over 70 pounds, it’s not uncommon to pull in several 15-pound catfish daily.
Focusing heavily around the Causeway, railroad trestles, and old US Highway 11, anglers will find a high concentration of large catfish looking to ambush prey.
Biting on everything from soft plastic grubs to two pieces of shrimp, both redfish and blue cats are often caught in conjunction near submerged structures.
Although many anglers prefer the warmer weather, and catfish can be caught year-round in Lake Pontchartrain, they truly hit their stride as the weather turns colder. Anglers can capitalize on both the bull red run in the fall and rack up a few sizable blue catfish in the process.
A hidden gem amidst Sportsman’s Paradise, Vernon Lake might be better known for its bass fishing, but it holds some monster catfish beneath its surface.
With channel, blue, and flathead catfish running rampant in the 4,200 acres of water, this artificial lake in western Louisiana is a primetime catfishing location.
However, there are two major reasons why this lake is underutilized.
The first is a mercury advisory issued in 2006, and fish today still can have high levels of this toxin in their system, particularly flathead catfish.
The second is the high prevalence of stumps, which provide excellent shelter for ambush predators such as flatheads but can cause problems to boaters looking to find the perfect fishing hole.
With a bass and catfish population that rivals or exceeds nearby Toledo Bend, Vernon constantly produces 5-plus-pound pound catfish day and night.
Surprisingly, anglers have found shallow water near piers to yield a healthy crop of catfish chasing the mayflies on the surface, almost like trout up north.
A smaller, freshwater answer to Lake Pontchartrain on the other side of Interstate 55, Lake Maurepas is under-fished despite its significant catfish population.
In addition to having the world-renowned thin fried catfish from Middendorf’s Manchac on its shores, this 15,000-acre lake is teeming with crappie, bass, and slabs of channel catfish.
With 40 miles of shoreline dotted with Cypress trees, this lake is full of offshoots and bayous chock full of hungry cats.
Often playing second fiddle to its brackish water cousin Lake Pontchartrain, this freshwater lake provides a scenic angling experience with plenty of large catfish.
Finding grass beds or stumps to drop anchor over are primetime locations for channel catfish.
Additionally, the shoreline near Blind River at the southwestern end of the lake is thick with bass and catfish nests during the spawning season.
Not far from Covington and Mandeville, Ponchitowala Creek is a little-known gem that holds sizable channel and blue catfish within a quick drive from New Orleans.
Near the Greater St. Tammany Regional Airport, this creek receives overflow from the I-12/190 pond’s impressive crappie and bluegill population. The panfish not only make for fun fishing in their own right, but they also feed large channel and blue catfish.
Heavily forested on both banks, this creek is home to impressive alligator gar and big cats.
To fish Ponchitolawa Creek, anglers may have trouble finding clearings along the shoreline to cast from, and will likely see better results from a canoe or kayak.
For land-based anglers, the I-12/I90 pond accessible from the Hwy 190 Service Road provides excellent deep fishing spots within casting distance of the shore.
Here are some other catfish fishing spots we thought were worth mentioning in this article. They might not be as good as our top picks, but they can provide some good action.
This formally was one of the premier catfishing locations in Louisiana. However, due to increased salinity, Lake Salvador became more of a haven for redfish and speckled trout.
Despite the change, anglers may still find some monster blue cats in the canals and backwaters near the Intracoastal.
College students looking to throttle the line for a few hours and come back with a few solid catfish, Louisiana State University’s lake in Baton Rouge might not be the cleanest water, but it sure has catfish.
With plenty of bank in structure to angle from around, University Lake allows those who prefer fishing from shore to pull in decent catfish.
This 1,024-acre lake in south-central Louisiana is always overlooked and undervalued when it comes to angling for catfish.
Able to withstand a much higher salinity level than other popular catfish species, blue cats thrive in this small lake in Saint Martin Parish.
This body of water eventually feeds into the Atchafalaya River and, finally, the Gulf of Mexico, and anglers have pulled blue catfish bordering on 100 pounds from its waters.
Louisiana is quite possibly one of the best states to catch catfish in North America.
Due to the climate and wealth of rich waters, Louisiana has quite a few locations where anglers can find a large quantity of quality catfish.
With three major species of catfish swimming in these waters, anglers can fish almost anywhere from the shores of New Orleans to backwater bayous all in one state.
From year-round success to seasonal spikes, each location in Louisiana has its own unique attributes that make angling for catfish all the more enjoyable.
Be sure to follow regulations and obtain a fishing license before heading out into Sportsman’s Paradise.
Catch More Catfish
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