6 of the Most Common Types Of Catfish In Florida

John Malcolm
John MalcolmPublished: June 3, 2023
6 of the Most Common Types Of Catfish In Florida

Have you ever felt the rush of catching a dream catfish? Those of us in Florida are blessed with the chance to hook some of the biggest and tastiest catfish swimming in the waters. The only issue? Numerous types of catfish prowl in the Sunshine State, making it tough to know where, when, and how to snag them.

But don't panic; we've got you covered. We give you all of the details of the six most common catfish types in Florida, including the best baits.

Catfish TypeDescriptionPreferred Bait
Channel CatfishMainly known for their unruly behavior and eagerness to snap up various baits. They are also famous for their delectable taste.Nightcrawlers, chicken liver, shrimp
Blue CatfishTend to be substantially larger than other types of catfish. Typically found in moderate currents in larger aquatic bodies like rivers and lakes.Fresh-cut bait such as shad, mullet, or herring
Flathead CatfishFrequent target for anglers in Florida. Impressive fish that can exceed 80 pounds. Known for their wide and flat head.Live bait such as bluegill or shad
White BullheadPopular kind of catfish found all over Florida. Thrive in warmer waters and have a distinctive appearance with white bellies and dark spots on their bodies.Worms, chicken liver
Walking CatfishConsidered an invasive species in Florida. Can "walk" on land for short distances using their pectoral fins. Caution should be taken when handling them.NA (illegal to possess or transport)
This table highlights the various species of catfish found throughout Florida and their preferred bait.

Whether you're angling for the ever-present channel catfish or on a mission to track the elusive walking catfish, we've got you covered.

We'll provide in-depth details on each species, such as where you'll likely spot them and how they behave.

Catching a dream catfish.

Catching a dream catfish is a moment that anglers fantasize about. The exhilaration of feeling the fish tug on your line and the euphoria of reeling it in is gratifying. I remember my first time catching a behemoth catfish; it was a staggering 45-pounder, and I was pumped with adrenaline!

To snag a dream catfish, you must know their favorite haunts, bait preferences, and peak activity times. In Florida, catfish inhabit almost every freshwater body, from lakes to rivers.

Typically, the early morning and late hours of the day are most fruitful for catfishing when they are most active. That's not to say you won't get lucky in the middle of the day, though.

To lure a catfish, use a bait that caters to their taste buds. Worms, chicken liver, and shrimp are conventional baits for catfish. Nonetheless, live bait such as shad or bluegill is unbeatable.

Remember, catching a dream catfish requires persistence and patience. Success is about being in the right place at the right time with the right bait.

Where to find catfish in Florida.

When it comes to finding catfish in Florida, the options are abundant. It's easy to get lost in a sea of opportunities. After all, there are several different types of catfish in Florida and hundreds of waterways.  However, we're here to guide you in the right direction.

A few of the absolute best places to find catfish is St. Johns River, Tsala Apopka Lake, and Lake Okeechobee if you're down south. 

We've caught monster cats in all three of these bodies of water.  But there's plenty more out there.

Now, if you're feeling a little adventurous and want to venture into the brackish and saltwater areas - go ahead! Catfish are caught frequently in those spots as well.

Keep your eyes open for catfish in areas near inlets, docks, or other structures. They loiter in estuaries and mangrove swamps where freshwater streams meet the ocean - perfect for fishing.

One of our favorite places to find monster catfish is near bridges that cross these waterways. The steady flow of water compounded by the structures creates an ideal feeding location for catfish, making them more active. So, grab your gear and cast your line near the bridge's pilings or any artificial reefs nearby. 

When you think of Florida, your first thought is likely of the sunny beaches, but we recommend looking beyond the coast to find the perfect location to catch the dream catfish. So, there you have it - a little burst of information to guide you toward your next fishing adventure.

Best baits to catch these cats.

Catfish Powerbait Chicken Liver

Looking to catch one of the many types of catfish in Florida and not sure what bait to use? The market is overflowing with options, making it a daunting task to pick the right one. We have some tried and tested recommendations to help you land that giant catfish you've been dreaming of.

If you're targeting the channel catfish, we suggest using nightcrawlers, chicken liver, and shrimp as bait. These are the all-time favorites for the species, which are bottom feeders and always on the lookout for food.

These baits have a strong aroma that can easily attract the attention of the channel catfish. Our fishing experts always say when it comes to catfish, the stinkier the bait, the better.

Fresh-cut bait such as shad, mullet, or herring works best for those looking to catch Blue Catfish. These species primarily feed on small fish, so these baits will catch their attention.

If you're after the Flathead catfish, live bait such as sunfish, bluegill, and shiners are your best bet. These species are hunters and prefer live bait over dead ones whenever possible, so be sure to have some lively bait on hand.

White bullheads prefer pre-packaged cheese and dip baits, but some anglers prefer homemade recipes. Just be wary of finding the right formula to use. Walking catfish, also known as Mud Cats or Devil Cats, can be caught easily with dough balls, hot dogs, and chicken liver. If you can find walking catfish, catching them is fairly easy.

Notice we haven't hit on any types of fishing lures.  Although it's possible to reel in a catfish with a lure, your chances are greatly increased with stinky cut bait or live bait.  

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Using these baits can increase your chances of catching the catfish you've been dreaming of in Florida

Channel catfish.

Channel Catfish in the St. Johns River in Jacksonville

Channel catfish are the most abundant catfish species found in the Florida waters. Our team had an unforgettable experience battling these stubborn creatures on our latest fishing trip.

We discovered that using cut baits such as shrimp, squid, and chicken liver did the trick in luring them in.

During one of our fishing escapades on the St. Johns River, while casting near the shoreline, one of us got an unexpected bite on their line.

To our delight, it was a massive channel catfish that weighed approximately 10 pounds and put up quite the struggle. Trust us; it was like trying to reel in a small car! Despite the battle, we were ecstatic to have caught such a magnificent fish.

Channel catfish are mainly known for their unruly behavior and eagerness to snap up various baits. They're also famous for their delectable taste.

Blue catfish.

Blue Catfish Held by Woman

Many anglers in Florida set their sights on blue catfish because they tend to be substantially larger than other types of catfish. I have a friend named Mike, who recently hauled a massive blue catfish from Lake Talquin. His grandfather had taught him a secret bait recipe, which he successfully employed. It was a sight to behold as he deftly handled his rod and basked in the excitement of finally snaring such a prized catch.

Of course, if we could get this bait recipe out of him, we would've.

Unfortunately, he's tight-lipped on it.  However, we've got some other options for blue cats.

Blue catfish are related to channel catfish and are typically found in moderate currents in larger aquatic bodies like rivers and lakes. A great place to try to catch blue catfish in Florida is the St. Johns River, located in the northeast of the state.

To increase your chances of success, try using chicken liver or shrimp as bait near submerged logs or drop-offs.

Once you've hooked a blue catfish, things can get exciting thanks to their aggressive nature. It's essential to use the right equipment, such as medium-heavy rods with strong lines, to withstand their impressive strength. Also, remember that blue catfish possess sharp fins capable of causing injury if not handled carefully.

Going after blue catfish is an adventure, but you must be prepared with the correct gear and bait. With a bit of research on your local lakes or rivers, you may experience your own fishing thrill.

Flathead catfish.

Flathead Catfish in Florida Lake

The Florida flathead catfish is a frequent target for anglers in the Sunshine State. These impressive fish can exceed 80 pounds, making them majestic creatures.

Lucky for you, there are several locations in Florida where you can find these elusive fish and feel the exhilaration of the catch.

One of the most common spots for catching a flathead catfish is the St. John's River in North Florida. We tend to see more flatheads north of the route 16 bridge that crosses the St. Johns.

When angling for flatheads, live baits such as bluegill or shad are often used to attract these fish. Additionally, fishing at night is known to produce the best results. While setting up a fishing line and waiting patiently is necessary, catching a flathead catfish can be challenging and requires focus and patience.

Flathead catfish can be easily identified by their signature wide and flat head, a feature that functions to help them find food buried deep in the river bed. When caught, flatheads fight with incredible strength, making the experience of catching them even more rewarding and fun. So, if you're up for a thrilling challenge, put your angling skills to the test and try your luck at catching a Florida flathead catfish.

White bullhead.

White Bullhead Catfish Being Held by Man

White bullheads are an incredibly popular kind of catfish found all over Florida and are known for thriving in warmer waters and their tasty meat. They have a distinctive appearance, with white bellies and dark spots on their bodies. We have caught countless white bullheads during freshwater fishing adventures in Florida's canals and lakes.

Regarding bait, we've had the most success luring in white bullheads with worms, which can be found in your backyard or bought from local bait shops.

We've also caught a few with chicken liver. Intriguingly, white bullheads tend to feed during the night and early morning, making daytime fishing a little less fruitful.

For this reason, night fishing is always our preferred choice. And if you happen to snag a big white bullhead, be sure to bring it ashore for a delicious family meal.

White bullheads are a fantastic and easy catfish species to catch in Florida. Even kids can get involved in fishing with this fun catch that doesn't require excessive skill or patience.

Walking catfish.

Walking Catfish in Florida

Have you ever heard of the Walking Catfish?

This strange type of catfish is native to Southeast Asia, and in the 1960s, it was accidentally introduced to Florida. The Walking Catfish can "walk" on land for short distances by using their pectoral fins to wriggle their way to a nearby pond or stream - pretty bizarre, huh?

While the Walking Catfish can be a unique and exciting catch, they are considered an invasive species in Florida.

Without any natural predators, they have the potential to disrupt the natural ecosystem by depleting resources and out-competing native species for food and space.

This suggests that it's essential to think twice before catching them, primarily because of their environmental impact.

If you decide to catch a Walking Catfish, be cautious while handling them because they have sharp spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins that can cause injury. Ensure you dispose of them appropriately and never release them back into the wild. It's illegal in Florida to possess or transport these fish.

Catching catfish in Florida.

Catching a dream catfish in Florida is an experience that's sure to get your heart pumping. Knowing the right locations and baits to use can make all the difference.

With these six catfish species calling Florida home, knowing which ones to target can be challenging. They're all fun to catch and absolutely delicious.

John Malcolm

John Malcolm

Expert Angler

John is a highly skilled angler with over two decades of experience and a passion that has led him to participate in numerous tournaments, including reeling in a remarkable 9lb bass on Lake Okeechobee. His dedication to fishing and willingness to share his expertise make him a respected ambassador for the angling community, inspiring others to appreciate the sport.

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