By JOHN WISSE|
ODNR, Division of Wildlife
Itís a bull market of sorts when it comes to fishing for catfish on hot summer nights in the nationís Heartland.
Ohio has a number of catfish species, most notably the channel catfish and flathead catfish in addition to several varieties of bullhead catfish. The channel catfish has a slender body and deeply forked tail. The body is bluish silver in color and sometimes mistaken for the endangered blue catfish that is found only rarely in the Ohio River.
Channel catfish are native to the Buckeye State and provide many good angling opportunities. They can be found generally in farm ponds, most large streams and rivers, and in many inland lakes. They are more active at night and therefore provide good nightfishing opportunities. Channel catfish are bottom feeders and can be taken on prepared baits, nightcrawlers, shrimp, chicken livers, and other cut baits.
The average size for a channel catfish in Ohio is 12 to 14 inches, though fish weighing over ten pounds are not uncommon. The state record channel catfish weighed 37 pounds, 10.4 ounces when it was caught August 15, 1992 in LaDue Reservoir by Gus J. Gronowski of Parma.
These are good tasting fish and have long been a staple item for many people who live near lakes and rivers. As the nationís demand for fish consumption continues to increase, fish farming operations are steadily spreading across the state. Among the species of fish raised commercially and sold to restaurants is the channel catfish.
Among Ohioís larger gamefish species is the flathead catfish, also known as a shovelhead catfish. It has a square tail and is the only catfish species in Ohio to actually have a head structure that is indeed flattened between the eyes. Their body color is usually yellow-olive or a dark brown with dark brown blotches. Their belly is yellow or yellowish-white in color.
Flathead catfish also are native to Ohio and can be found in large rivers and a handful of inland lakes. They prefer to remain in deep pools with slow current and cover such as submerged logs and brushpiles.
The average size for a flathead catfish is 5 to 15 pounds, but they can grow much larger. The state record flathead catfish measured 53 5/8 inches long and weighed 76_ pounds when it was caught July 28, 1979 in Clendening Lake by Richard Affolter of New Philadelphia. Fisheries biologists believe there may be even larger flathead catfish swimming in the waters of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers.
Anglers need to use larger baits when fishing for flatheads. Typical baits include large chubs, and small sunfish or bluegills that are fished along a lake or river bottom at night where these fish may be feeding.
There are three species of bullhead catfish (black, brown, and yellow) known to inhabit Ohio waters. These are much smaller than channel and flathead catfish and range in size from one to four pounds. Also a bottom dwelling fish, the bullhead is an aggressive feeder and can readily be caught during the summer.