Catfish are a hugely popular prey for anglers across the United States, and luckily, the fish is widely available. However, in Florida, catfish fishing can be even better than many other locations in the country, mostly because of the weather conditions maintaining warm waters throughout the year, which produce fertile spawning grounds for catfish.
In Florida, however, you’ll find a different variety of catfish than in many other areas of the country.
Florida catfish fishing is most likely to produce either yellow bullhead catfish (referred to frequently as buttercats) or brown bullheads. While these are not the largest species of catfish in the world (usually ranging from about one to four pounds), they are plentiful in Florida.
In the same size range, though less common, you may come across white catfish in some of the rivers to the north of Lake Okeechobee (in fact, these are often mistaken for channel cats because of their size and appearance). Other than these, the common channel catfish is also widely found in Florida. These fish are found in almost every type of body of water and can reach enormous sizes, with a world record of 60 pounds.
Also, while not native to the area, flathead and blue catfish (the two largest species) have made their way into the panhandle.
While good Florida catfish fishing can be found statewide, there are certain areas of the state that have a high concentration of catfish and provide the best opportunity for anglers in search of whiskered fish.
For example, The St. Johns River Basin is a great place to find a great number of yellow and brown bullheads, as well as some channel cats and white catfish. The best portion of the river for a good catch lies between Lake George and the Buckman Bridge at Orange Park on Interstate 295. However, for the best catfish fishing of all, pay a visit to Lake George itself.
While the lake is only about 14 feet deep, you’ll find a large number of bullheads and channel cats. Look for your trophy fish in he grass beds around the edges of the lake, or find channel cats in piled up structures offshore at depths of at least five or six feet. You may also want to check the various holes, some of which reach as deep as 20 feet or more, for larger channel and white cats.
Another great location for Florida catfish fishing is Oklawaha River. Here, you can expect success below Rodman Dam, as well as at Black Creek in the Middleburg area. Because of the amount of timber, the number of holes, and the twists and turns of these systems, you can find a decent number of channel cats year-round, with excellent results occurring in the early part of summer.