Many fishermen, especially those of us who utilize live bait, are very picky about our tackle. Some swear by a particular color pattern, while others will only use a certain live bait to seek out their desired species. Catfish anglers are no exception. I’ve spoken with numerous catfishermen over the years and it seems each has sworn by different baits. This always seemed strange to me, since catfish are one species with an open mind—and an open mouth—when it comes to food. You don’t have to scour your local outdoor retail store to find effective catfish bait, though. In fact, several, high-quality and effective baits can be found right down the road at the grocery store.
One of the most popular store-bought baits for catfish is hot dogs. Nine times out of ten, when I’ve talked to a catfisherman about what kinds of bait they use, they’ll mention hot dogs as one of their favorites. I’ve been assured that pretty much any type of hot dog, even the cheese-filled ones, will work. However, some have informed me of their own modifications and additives. Many use a cooking syringe to inject anything from chicken blood to anise oil into the hot dogs, before cutting them into one-inch pieces and threading them onto reliable Octopus hooks.
Another popular bait for catfish is canned pet food. Yeah, canned pet food. Before you laugh, know that many catfish anglers utilize pet food as a great way to hook into catfish. With the use of surgical tubing fit over the shank of a bait hook and stuffed with Fido’s dinner, this bait can help you fill your cooler with cats as well.
Cheese and bread dough are great baits for catfish as well, and can be accented with a variety of additives, such as anise oil or pepper. Cheese is available in many varieties, most of which are flavored with all sorts of stinkiness that catfish love, like garlic, for example. Specialized catfish hooks, with springs along the shank, work well with cheese and dough baits, as the springs hold the bait in place.
Arguably the most popular grocery store catfish bait is poultry livers, either chicken or turkey. These favorites among catfish anglers can be picked up at the meat counter. Some anglers will let the livers sit out for a day to toughen them up, and then work them onto a circle hook, while others like to fill a mesh sac or pantyhose with them and attach them to a treble hook. Circle hooks work well because their design causes the fish to hook itself. I recommend only using treble hooks if you’re planning to eat whatever catfish you catch, as the fish tend to swallow the treble hooks.
It doesn’t take spending an arm and a leg to have a bountiful fish fry this summer. All it takes is a quick trip to the grocery store and some creativity to use such available baits to bring home a mess of catfish. And for those guests who may not like fish, you can always grill any hot dogs that you didn’t end up using.