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The living may not be easy, but the catfish are thumping

  • Hannah Fischer of Johnston City caught this beauty over the weekend at an old farm pond in rural Williamson County.  It weighed just over 20 pounds.

    Hannah Fischer of Johnston City caught this beauty over the weekend at an old farm pond in rural Williamson County. It weighed just over 20 pounds.
    Courtesy of Derrick Fischer/Facebook

Williamson County Tourism
Posted on 5/1/2020, 12:01 AM

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- Catfish thump tasty morsels that anglers present to them, so summer must be upon us. It is the prime time for fishing for this muscle with fins.

A staple of southern cooking, catfish are also available in restaurants as well as local lakes. But it is more fun to catch your own. Here are some tips for catching your own in Southern Illinois.

One top catfish-producing lake is Crab Orchard Lake in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the catfish population of this 7,000-acre lake is self-sustaining and has not required supplemental stocking to maintain the fishery.

The Crab Orchard Lake contains both channel and Flathead catfish. It also contains a good population of bullheads, a member of the catfish family that does not gain the large size of the others.

Fishing for catfish is a laid-back type of angling. The rigs are simple and the baits, although often smelly, are simple as well.

It is a good idea to remember that catfish like the cover. They are bottom feeders that hold around rocks and stumps. Once one sets the hook, the fish will do its best to break off the line. Veteran catfish anglers prefer a line that is of at least a 12-pound test.

The tough line helps prevent the sandpaper-like teeth of the fish from wearing or weakening the line causing a break. With high-quality tough line, anglers can fish around rocky, stump infested, underwater terrain.

Most often the rig for catfishing is simply a baited hook suspended beneath a float, cork, bobber or whatever you call it. Cast to a probable location and allowed the rig to sink to the level where you believe the fish are located.

Bait can be alive or dead. Popular baits include minnows, leeches, crayfish, catalpa worms, leaf worms, red worms, night crawlers, frogs, and cut bait. Cheese baits, popular in the spring, are less successful in the summer heat.

During periods of overcast or drizzle, catfish cruise the flats in search of food the same as they do at night. Under such conditions, a three-way rig works well.

Attach one swivel to the line that goes to the reel, the second to a drop line of about eight inches with a heavy sinker on the end. Attach the third swivel to a line of about 30-inches with a hook and bait at the end. The rig allows the bait to float just off the bottom a location popular with catfish.

There are catfish in most of the other southern Illinois lakes including Rend Lake.

Another popular place to fish for them is Little Grassy Lake a1200-acres body of water to the south of Crab Orchard Lake but still in the refuge area. It produces many channel catfish on a regular basis throughout the summer.

Whether fishing from shore or boat, in the evening or morning, night or day, catfish are a marvelous fish for action. They can be as finicky as any game fish, and yet do not require a lot of expensive tackle to pursue.

For more information on lodging accommodations as well as outdoor activities in Williamson County, or to receive a free color Water, Woods & Wildlife in Williamson County Guide, contact VisitSI at 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, IL 62959. Call 800-GEESE-99 or email Current information is also available online at