Channel catfish move close to shore and are eager to bite in many lakes and the large reservoirs across Iowa. After eating light during the winter, channel catfish go on a feeding frenzy in early spring cleaning up small fish that died over the winter.
When the ice goes off, a winter’s worth of dead forage fish drift into shallow water for channel catfish to devour. Search for actively feeding fish on the windblown shorelines and points where dead fish are piled up and the shallow water warms quickly. Keep the wind in your face and try different locations until you find actively feeding fish.
Use cut bait or shad sides fished on the bottom. To keep the bait on the hook, try using a 1/0 to 3/0 bait holder hook and enough weight (3/8th to ½ ounce) to cast into the wind. Bring along disposable latex gloves to handle the bait and help keep the smell off your hands.
Ice out catfishing can be good in any lake that has an abundant catfish population. Iowa’s flood control reservoirs, Rathbun, Red Rock, Coralville and Saylorville usually offer the best action. Try catfishing in Storm Lake, East Okoboji, Clear Lake or Black Hawk Lake in northwest Iowa soon after the ice is gone. Small impoundments in southern Iowa, like Greenfield City Reservoir, Big Creek, Lake Darling, Green Valley or Lake Icaria, also offer good early spring catfishing.
Catfish are one of the most abundant game fish in Iowa and can be found in almost every body of water across the state. Check the weekly fishing report to find out where the catfish are biting.