16 Best Catfish Fishing Lakes & Rivers in Mississippi

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Catfish are one of the most popular gamefish species in Mississippi. So fun and easy to catch, you can find catfish in lakes and rivers throughout the state. And they make great fried filets.

This article will point you to the top places to catch catfish across Mississippi. At each lake or river, we’ll tell you about some of the best spots to drop your baits, the rigs that will get the job done, and even the time of year when you’ll fill your stringer the fastest.

Before that, we’ll tell you a bit about the different species of catfish you’ll find in the Hospitality State and when you’ll find the best fishing.

If you don’t need that information, you can jump straight to the best catfish fishing holes by clicking on Best Catfish Fishing Lakes in Mississippi and Best Catfish Fishing Rivers in Mississippi in the table of contents.

What Kinds of Catfish are in Mississippi?

Channel Catfish

The most common catfish anglers want to catch in Mississippi are channel catfish.

Channel catfish can top out at weights close to 50 pounds and reach 50 inches in length, but the smaller fish weighing a few pounds are ideal for eating.

You can easily recognize these catfish with black spots on their olive or brown sides and round anal fins. They have forked tails.

Anglers can find channel cats in many types of water, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers with slow-moving areas.

Baits that catch channel catfish include liver, nightcrawlers, pieces of fish (cut bait), crawfish, shad, stink bait, and others.

Blue Catfish

These are the most massive type of catfish in America, weighing up to 130 pounds in some parts of the country. The state record is 95 pounds.

These thick-bodied catfish have a straight anal fin and lack spots on their blue/gray skin. They also have forked tails, so the straight anal fin and lack of spots are the most telling features for anglers trying to figure out whether they caught the more common channel cat or a younger blue catfish.

Natural baits, such as minnows, cut shad, crawfish, shrimp, and crabs, work best for catching blue catfish.

Blue catfish typically inhabit larger bodies of water, including oxbow lakes, large reservoirs, rivers, and brackish water estuaries.

Flathead Catfish

Though not quite as giant as the blues, flathead catfish are another species that can grow to massive proportions.

The state record is nearly 78 pounds.

Flatheads are olive or muddy yellow-colored catfish that anglers can easily distinguish by their unique shovel-like head and rounded tail.

Flathead catfish are often found in rivers but also can live in reservoirs and lakes. They like lots of hiding places such as undercut banks, stumps, and fallen logs.

Live baits work especially well for flatheads, which are more aggressive hunters than most catfish. Live or fresh minnows, shad, sunfish, crawfish or even smaller catfish make excellent baits.

Bullhead Catfish

These smaller catfish rarely get over a few pounds and can live just about anywhere there’s year-round water, including tiny ponds and creeks. Anglers also will find them alongside larger types of catfish.

Due to their small size and, some would say, less tasty meat, these are less popular among anglers. We chose our best catfish locations based on the three favorite species listed above, but don’t be surprised if you catch some bullheads along the way.

There are several types of bullhead catfish in the U.S. The dominant two types found in Mississippi are black and yellow bullheads.

Bullheads are a great target species for kids. They are easy to catch with many baits, including worms, shrimp, pieces of fish, and other natural baits fished on the bottom.

If targeting bullhead catfish deliberately in waters without many larger catfish, size your hooks and gear down a bit for more hookups and better sport.

When to Catch Catfish

What is the best time of day to catch catfish?

The best time to catch catfish is at transition times such as dawn, dusk, and at night. Catfish tend to be nocturnal predators and shy away from bright sunlight, so when fishing in daylight, you should consider trying deeper water.

What is the best time of year to catch catfish?

You can catch catfish all year long, but the top seasons of the year to bag the most catfish in Mississippi are during the spring and fall, when catfish feed most voraciously.

Spawning Season

Catfish usually spawn from late spring through early summer at water temperatures from the high 60s to mid-80s.

For more on how to catch catfish, we’ll drop a link to our comprehensive guide at the bottom of this article.

Best Catfish Fishing Lakes in Mississippi

Ross Barnett Reservoir

Central Mississippi’s 33,000-acre reservoir is the state’s primary source of drinking water and is also home to many large catfish.

Blue, channel, and flathead catfish roam the reservoir at various depths and locations in this big Jackson-area lake.

Here, on bottom rigs like the Texas and Carolina, or fished beneath a cork, anglers find a lot of success using the typical worms, stink bait, and chicken liver.

However, fresh-cut shad is a great option to fill up your stringers. With the lake’s substantial population of threadfin and gizzard shad, these small fish have become a staple in cats’ diets and make great bait on any rig for all species.

If you are looking for the freshest shad, bring a cast net to target bridge pilings, boat launches, and the spillway, where you can quickly fill up a live well before heading out for large catfish.

Locations like the Natchez Trace and Pelahatchie Bay are great cold weather locations to find shad schooled up in shallows with hungry cats not far behind.

During the warmer months, McMillan Lake, Rice Lake, or north of Highway 43 are perfect starting points and often yield sizeable cats from fishing around the stumps and sand bars that line the bottoms.

On the south side of Pelahatchie Bay on the southeast end of the reservoir, various ditches and creeks drain into the main body of water, making for excellent angling after heavy rain.

Grenada Lake

Notorious for its trophy crappie, Grenada Lake is also home to plenty of large flathead catfish that lurk among the dead trees and stumps that litter the floor of this lake.

The north end of Grenada Lake is catfish heaven, with monster flatheads over 40 pounds commonly caught from this watershed located roughly halfway between Jackson and Memphis.

Grenada’s population of threadfin and gizzard shad make bait selection an easy choice, and dropping these baitfish beneath a cork near stump fields and root systems is a sure way to hook into a big cat.

Another great terrain feature to target at Grenada Lake is dropoffs. Cats will lurk on the downside of these spots, waiting for the current to push over some food or for an unsuspecting baitfish to swim too close.

You can find plenty of jugs in these waters, and if you see a large group of them, it’s probably an excellent location to try your luck.

Carver Point Boat Ramp is an abandoned launch that produces plenty of solid cats from spring through early fall. Here, the baitfish are funneled up the ramp and hang in the shallows eating algae while the big cats lurk in deeper waters waiting for the fish to swim to them.

Horse Trough is a creek that feeds into the main lake and has plenty of submerged cover at depths ranging from 10 to 35 feet. Use your fish finder to underwater rock piles and set your cork deep, baited with shad. 

Sardis Lake

This 98,500-acre body of water in northwestern Mississippi is a catfish paradise with a healthy shad population and submerged cover such as grass beds, stumps, and fallen trees. 

Sardis is one of the best lakes in the state to target after heavy rainfall. The multitude of cutoffs, creeks, and ditches that line the shore provide a haven for bait fish and have plenty of large cats lurking around their mouths to take advantage of food the higher water delivers.

This lake usually doesn’t have a heavy current, so stink baits, chicken liver, and cut bait work best on bottom rigs.

The pockets of deep water that dot the main lake are excellent targets for bottom rigs. Fish flats areas with plenty of cover using a deep cork.

The rock pit near Engineer Point is a barrier of rocks that creates a steppe-like submerged environment for catfish to lay up and prey on small crappie and shad trying to escape the wind.

Fish this rock pit area with a cork at varying depths and let it float around the backside, which is out of the wind.

The dam is another prime fishing location with the current and heavy structure providing catfish an excellent ambush location.

The dam is the one location on the lake with a decent water current, so anglers can use bottom rigs to scent up the waters and hook into monster cats.

Enid Lake

Best known for its world record crappie and state record gar, Enid Lake consistently produces quality over quantity catfish.

Located in northwestern Mississippi, the 6,100 acres of water have plenty of cover just beneath the surface, including stumps, submerged trees, and many grass beds.

Home to some of the best channel catfish fishing in the state, Enid Lake has plenty of offshoot creeks and cuts lining its shore.

These areas are usually rich in baitfish and crustaceans and cover with little current. You are likely to catch channel cats in droves at these creek mouths.

Unlike many other lakes, anglers will have far more success baiting their lines with night crawlers and stink baits rather than shad.

Just south of Point Pleasant, beneath the Water Valley Landing, the dropoff at the mouth of the forked creek is a great location to use a bottom rig. Targeting this location when the water is down is a great chance to catch the fish feasting on crustaceans and small fish pushed toward deeper water.

Up towards Prophet Bridge, the water is primarily shallow but heavy in structure and undercut banks. The Yocona River Channel and Bynum Creek funnel the bait and make great ambush points for catfish, so floating a cork down there is a great idea.

Arkabutla Lake

One of the most notorious crappie lakes in America, anglers too often overlook the catfish population in Arkabutla Lake.

This crescent-shaped lake is lined with cutoffs and creeks, but it’s the shallow flats where anglers have been massacring the cats.

This 33,000-acre lake in northwestern Mississippi is strewn with brush piles and submerged stumps, and the channel and blue cats make good use of it.

With a record 81.2-pound cat pulled from the lake, you have a great chance of hooking into a whiskered behemoth here.

The most popular method here is shad under a cork or on a bottom rig, with shore fishing surprisingly being just as good as from a boat. 

Water levels here can vary widely. Anglers who target a dry spell or drought and fish the shoreline will be surprised to find plenty of big cats lurking at the dropoffs as water conditions push the smaller fish to them.

The river channel yields plenty of sizable cats, as does just in front of the dam, with the water pushing baitfish straight to the hungry catfish.

Using your fish finder, locating brush piles near Hernando Point is an excellent spot to tight line or cork fish, with plenty of large bass swimming alongside monster cats.

The intersection of Hichahala Creek and the Coldwater River in the southeast portion of the lake has multiple ditches and cuts where crappie and minnows lay up.

Fishing the mouths of these inlets with a cork or setting up a bottom rig at the entrance with cut bait or shad is a great wait to see what monsters are just beneath the surface.

Pickwick Lake

At the intersection of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, this 43,000-acre lake is mainly known for its trophy bass and crappie.

Even though its catfish population doesn’t make the headlines, this Tennessee River impoundment is one of the best locations for big catfish. It combines deep water, submerged trees, and brush piles, all populated by shad, minnows, and crawfish.

Here, anglers can fish from the docks of the EastPort Marina, where a few Carolina rigs baited with shad will fill up a stringer without ever launching a boat.

While the stump field is a favorite of crappie anglers, throwing a deep cork in this area with fresh cut bait or whole shad is sure to bring in some monster cats lurking amidst the underwater structure.

The Pickwick dam is a great place to bottom fish. Make sure to anchor just outside the current and try to cast into the transition where the bait will be close to the current but not directly in it. Here, many catfish will school up and feed as the current brings in baitfish and other food.

Okhissa Lake

A little-known 500-acre lake outside of Bude is reputed to have some tremendous bluegill and sunfish angling, but its best-kept secret is its channel catfish population.

With a myriad of coves and offshoots dotting its shorelines, plenty of shallow water cover is perfect for hiding catfish.

While this lake is not home to monster cats, it is home to a horde of medium-sized channel catfish, typically between 2-5 pounds. That’s the ideal eating size.

This lake is a rarity as kayakers can outfish motorboat and shore anglers by reaching the flooded timber along the shoreline.

Anglers can catch catfish here using a worm or stink bait beneath a cork and targeting flooded timber and the vegetation that grows between the trees. Natural baits such as worms also will pick up the bass and other species in the same areas.

For motor-powered boaters, try using your fish finder to locate submerged stumps and downed trees. Dropping a deep cork-rigged bait next to this favorite catfish structure is an excellent way to catch several cats out of one spot.

If this method doesn’t yield any monsters, try targeting the points near offshoots and creeks with bottom rigs baited with worms and stinkbait. The bite is usually steady here, so if you’re not getting nibbles within the first few casts, you may want to pack up and try a new location.

Be sure to check with the U.S. Forest Service’s website https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mississippi/recarea/?recid=28867 because the lake at times has closed due to draw-downs and maintenance.

Lake Washington

This northwestern Mississippi oxbow lake is 500 acres of catfish paradise.

The standing cypress trees, duckweed, sand bars, and shoals diversify the lake’s habitats and make it a great location to angle for catfish year-round.

In other words, Lake Washington is your go-to lake if you’re looking to fill up an ice chest quickly with eating-size catfish for a fish fry.

While minnows, shad, worms, and cut bait can all work at Lake Washington, stink bait draws in catfish from all around.

While this is a great spot to angle for catfish year-round, targeting specific locations depending on the season is essential.

The spawning season spans from spring to early summer, meaning you should hit the sloughs, creeks, and shallows at this time of year.

Catfish aren’t as hungry during this time, but they are incredibly territorial so floating your bait under a cork over a nest is a great way to get a bite.

During the summer, catfish usually head to deeper water, so using bottom rigs off Sand Island and the deeper portions of the lake’s southern half is a great way to hook into some big cats.

During the cooler months, catfish only venture into the shallows during the warmest parts of the day, so heading out a little later is ok.

Using bottom rigs, anglers hit locations such as the swamp, Cypress Gardens Ramp, and Okey’s ramp with stink bait for good results. The bite will probably be slower than you would like, but a little patience will pay off will a full stringer.

Lake Bogue Homa

This 882-acre lake in southeast Mississippi is trophy channel catfish water. So if size is the prize, look no further than Lake Bogue Homa for big channel cats.

Consistently producing cats above 8 pounds, cut bait is the way to go here.

Bank fishing is popular, with plenty of dropoffs just a few yards from shore and lots of structure nearby. 

The northern portion of the lake is dotted with small islands, cutoffs, and flooded trees, making for excellent catfish angling during the warmer months. Try floating a cork fished above stink bait or cut bait around the stumps and root systems to draw out hungry cats lurking amidst the submerged structure.

During the cooler months, anglers should look to the lake’s southern portion, where fishing around structures in deeper water with bottom rigs will yield results.

If you’re fishing from shore, the lake’s western side has plenty of shallow cuts filled with structure just off Rushton Road.

On the eastern side, the Bogue Homa Estate Road deadends a little over a hundred yards from a bank with a steep dropoff into deeper water, making it a great location to throw Carolina or Texas rigs.

Tunica Lake

Another great location to angle for blue cats during colder weather is Tunica Lake, an oxbow lake off the main Mississippi River channel.

On the border of northwestern Mississippi and Arkansas, and just south of Tennessee, Tunica Lake is a winter hotspot for big blue catfish.

Though the lake boasts a population of channel and flathead catfish, it’s the consistent catches of blue catfish weighing 12 pounds or more that keep anglers from all three states coming back when the weather turns cold.

Here, the popular setup is a Carolina rig with shad or cut bait. Cast near undercut banks or gravel beds, and you’re sure to hook into a big blue.

There are three key types of locations to target on Tunica Lake when angling for catfish: Drop-offs, current transitions, and structure. 

Mouths of creeks are often a fantastic combination of the three, and the northern portion of the lake has plenty.

The northern end also has rock piles such as dikes and concrete slabs to combat erosion. Here, big cats make their home just out of the current, where they can snag a meal brought in by the moving water.

Lake Tangipahoa

A lake I grew up fishing, there is nothing like walking out of a beautiful cabin or through a stellar campsite and having a good fishing hole at your fingertips.

With plenty of blue, channel, and flathead catfish roaming its water, this 490-acre state park lake is an angling paradise.

With a solid population of shad, both gizzard, and threadfin, it’s an easy choice in deciding what to bait your Carolina rig with.

The dam is a popular fishing spot for catfish. The moving water and rock piles on the southern shore create a prime habitat for hungry cats out of the current while bringing in an influx of bait fish.

The pier on the southwest shore is within sight of the dam, and the angling here yields any and everything. Chumming the waters and fishing with cork or Carolina rig along the shoreline to the right is a great way to catch channel and flatheads feasting around the submerged structure that lines the bottom.

Bay Springs Lake

This 6700-acre lake in northeastern Mississippi is home to various fish, including sizable flathead and blue catfish.

Primarily known as a bass fishing paradise, there are plenty of medium and large catfish swimming waters in Bay Springs Lake.

Shad and cut bait are the preferred baits here, with Carolina and Texas rigs yielding the best results. Locations such as the cuts and canals around Crow’s neck, the northern offshoot near Mackey’s Creek Cemetery, and off the Jamie Whitten Lock are all great locations to try at Bay Springs Lake.

Catfish are an incredibly popular species with anglers in Mississippi. Caught in bodies of water ranging from massive lakes to farm ponds, these fish are prized for their ferocity and delicious flavor profile, making them a favorite of local fish fries.

For more on how to angle for catfish, see our (how to angle for catfish article) to help you increase your chances of filling up an ice box with these delicious fish.

Make sure to check local regulations and purchase your fishing license before heading out on the water in search of Mississippi catfish.

Best Catfish Fishing Rivers in Mississippi

Pearl River

While many in Louisiana know of Pearl River as a freshwater fishing heaven, the Mississippi side of this river yields some excellent angling as well.

The seasonal water fluctuation yet reliable current makes for a wide variety of fish from bass and catfish to even the occasional red drum.

While trotlines and jugs are popular methods of angling for catfish, tight lining and bottom rigs work well when casting to deep bends in the river, where a change in the current forms a transition.

Cypress knees, rock or wood formations, and undercut banks are honey holes for big cats.

Locations such as Cooper’s Ferry Park provides an excellent view of the town of Monticello while putting anglers next to old bridge pilings that shelter catfish holes.

Here, anglers can tightline or drop a Carolina rig just outside the current, but beware of the many trotlines in these waters.

Other locations, such as the limestone banks or stump field, provide submerged structures for anglers to draw out catfish. Because of the stiff current, anglers need to use baits with a strong odor to attract fish from all over the river. 

Leaf River

Leaf River near Hattiesburg holds a variety of fish, including nearly every species of bass found in the state.

However, you’ll be pleased to know that you can catch plenty of channel catfish here.

Anglers who know what to look for can float this river in kayaks or motorized boats and fill up a stringer fast.

Lower down the river and closer to the coast, shad is the preferred catfish bait. Placing shad and shrimp on bottom rigs is a great way to see if any big cats are lurking nearby. Fishing those baits with Carolina or Texas rigs near eddies or current transitions are good options.

Farther upstream, minnows and shiners make up most of a catfish’s diet. Targeting submerged logs and fallen trees with a cork or tight-lining over the structure can have you pulling up monster catfish in no time.

A smart way to stay on the structure is to use a short rope and tie it onto the above-water portion of the log or tree, keeping you on your honey hole.

Locations such as the Highway 11 underpass or where the Leaf and Bowie join are great spots to catch catfish in Hattiesburg. Still, this river is best angled opportunistically by floating it and targeting structures you find along the way.

At some points, the river is shallow enough to beach your vessel and wade into the shallows to work the main channel. 

A fish finder can help you locate structures and schools of bait to help take the guessing game out.

Biloxi River

A smaller river that runs to the Mississippi Coast, the Biloxi River is most known for its saltwater angling, which yields redfish, flounder, and speckled trout near the Mississippi Sound.

However, there are plenty of freshwater fish, including large channel, blue and even gafftopsail catfish.

 With minimal bank fishing available, the Biloxi River is best fished by bass boat or kayak, allowing anglers to work both sides and the deeper channels in search of hungry catfish.

The handful of locations that allow anglers to cast from shore includes the bridge crossings for Lorraine and Three Rivers roads. 

Instead of targeting specific locations by boat, this river is best fished by drifting and picking target locations using your fish finder. The influx of salt water can affect fishing, so pay attention to water levels and check local reports to see salinity levels.

The best fishing from a boat occurs about 8 miles upstream from the entrance into Biloxi Bay. Here, the tree-lined shore, submerged logs, and undercut banks provide plenty of havens for hungry catfish waiting for meals brought by the current.

Anglers using cut bait and shad will have the most success, but the best rig depends on location.

A deep cork is a solid choice if you’re drifting the river. Floating your cork along the banks and over or around cover will drift your bait just past the hungry catfish’s nose with fewer snags.

If you are shore fishing or moor your boat near a structure, try using a bottom rig to place your bait in or near a current transition, such as a bend in the river or a deep pocket.

Mississippi River

The Mississippi River can yield plenty of trophy catfish for anglers looking to test their mettle.

Big fish like big rivers and the strong current of the Mississippi enforces the Darwinistic rule of “only the strong survive.” 

With limited possibilities for angling from the bank, many anglers moor their boats on sand bars and get out to wade or sand on these outcroppings to fish nearby dropoffs.

Angling for catfish in the Mississippi means heavy tackle, and Carolina rigs baited with cut bait, liver and shad are the best options.

The river is punctuated with large holes where anglers can find hungry catfish lurking in search of an easy meal brought in by the heavy flow of water. As with the sand bars, catfish will use this underwater terrain to gather just out of the current. So wherever you catch one catfish, there are probably more.

Monster blue and flathead catfish are common in these parts, reaching up to 40 pounds or more. However, the channel catfish caught here rarely weigh more than 15 pounds but can still be caught alongside their larger cousins.

Targeting sand bars, deep holes, and rock formations built by the Corps will provide the best fishing for anglers looking to hook into a monster catfish on the mighty Mississippi.

The Mississippi’s catfish often feed best on a rising tide; however, anglers must be careful as tides bring a stiff current that has taken down more than its fair share of wading anglers and boaters.

When fishing a big river with potentially hazardous currents and dropoffs, anglers should come prepared. Wearing a life jacket is wise whenever you might end up in the water unexpectedly.