Catfishing at the Schuylkill Banks

Catfish: one of the most intelligent species around the World. It's certainly hard to imagine, but it's the truth! People usually discriminate Catfish without even knowing how wonderful these species are. Is it really appropriate to judge them by their looks? You can see some examples of misconceptions on the website below:
Note: all the rights on the link above belong to the author of the article.

Interesting, isn't it? Nothing new for me, hence I've read many articles on Catfish, and experienced myself dozens of situations involving Catfish. However, most of people tend to think that way; they tend to create "myths".

I never stopped Catfishing since I started it back in Brazil (São Paulo - Riacho Grande), when I was ten years old. Their size was always considerable (1-2lb, which was big for that area in São Paulo); and their power was always great. Even for the little ones, they put up an awesome fight. Being omnivores (as described in the website above), they ate almost everything - leaving us fishermen with the "surprise element". In other words, despite the bait we were using to fish, we never knew when a Catfish was coming up next!

Also, in both Brazil and the United States of America, this fish is considered a delicacy. However, note that one should watch the source of the fish before harvesting it, and make sure that the fish is not contaminated with heavy metals. There's a chart for fish consumption at the Boat and Commission website, in case people need some reference. Otherwise, harvesting the fresh fish for a decent meal is certainly an amazing idea.

Since I started fishing for Catfish in USA, the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers have been my main sources for them. They can get extremely huge, specially the Flatheads. They can be caught at any time of the day (Note: they do have peak times, though), and they eat almost everything. The Schuylkill River, in particular, never disappointed me in terms of Catfishing. Rarely were the days when I fished for 6 hours straight, and didn't catch a single Catfish! It's certainly very different from fishing Muskies and Bass.

My favorite spot, as you all should know already, is the Schuylkill Banks. It's a pleasant environment for fishing: there are bikers and people jogging around (way behind the margin of the river), beautiful ladies getting a tan on summer time, students chilling and studying on the grass, families with their children spending some family time, etc. Also, the environment is being taken care by the Schuylkill non-profit Organization, which tries to bring US the best possible environment - a clean and neat environment in Center City. It can be easily accessed (the trail has many parking lots at Kelly Drive, and the Art Museum; many Septa Bus stops along the trail, and the Septa Market-Frankford line at the 30Th street station); it has restrooms; water fountains; and some food trucks along the trail at Kelly Drive.

My main spot is between Locust street, and the Walnut Street Bridge. However, lately, I've been fishing in-between the Chestnut and Walnut bridges due to the floods that destroyed part of the landscape in my old spot. In other words, my old spot is full of mud.

When it comes to fishing style, Catfishing is best practiced with "Still fishing". As the name implies, it's simply the technique of casting out the line, and leaving the fishing rod "still". It's a technique that involves patience, and waits for the fish to find, analyze, and attack your bait; as opposed to casting and retrieving, etc. Note that there are a couple techniques to improve successes of still fishing, and increase the fish ratio per time. Catfishing, and Carp fishing, are the main "Still Fishing" targets as my knowledge knows.

Now, let's go for the baits I ever tried for Catfish (at the Schuylkill Banks), and my comments for it:


The basic bait. Highly recommended for all fishermen, but not so recommended if the target is only Catfish. The first problem is that other species of fishes are going to bite on the nightcrawlers (such as White Perch, Sunnies, American Eel, etc). The second problem is the size of the Catfish: small Catfish tend to eat nightcrawlers, while rejecting some other baits that only big Catfish consume. Therefore, the chances of getting smaller Catfish are higher on the nightcrawlers.

Chicken/Cow "Guts" (Liver, Gizzard, Heart)

The amount of oil that this bait disperses in the water when it touches it is AMAZING. No wonder this is one of the best possible baits for Catfish. Other than being smelly and nasty in its own ways, it has a factor that all Catfish like: Blood. The bloodier, the better! My recommendations would be either Chicken Liver, or even better: chicken heart (it stays better on the hook).


I know the idea is quite crazy, but this is a bait that brings you BIG CATFISH with no failure! If there's no bites, it means there are no big catfish around. The down of this bait is the amount of patience that the fisherman needs to have, specially if there are not a lot of big fish swimming around. The science behind it is quite simple: soap is made from animal fat, containing specific types of ions. Catfish is one of the only fresh water fish species that has a special sense called Electrosensing (Very similar to sharks): they can perceive certain baits with their bodies! It you are familiar with Sciences, you may understand this concept better. I'll leave this topic away for now.


Catfish eat almost everything, including fish and shrimp. If you want to go expensive, feel free to purchase some shrimp, cut it in small pieces, and make a nice presentation for the big ones! My advice would be to fish some smaller fish at the site (with nightcrawlers), and just cut it into pieces and use it to fish. My experience with Catfish was better with AMERICAN EEL. That's the most powerful fish bait that you may encounter. The reasons are very simple: (1) they are in the river - they are natural preys for the Catfish at the Schuylkill. (2) Their body is slimy and "scaleless" - just like us, Catfish don't like bony fish. However, a piece of White Perch will do just as fine.

Of course these are just a couple baits for Catfish. They REALLY eat almost everything! Chicken, pizza, dough, marshmallows, cheese, strawberries, banana, steak, bubblegum.... I fished Catfish with all of these before. So, get your own bait and give it a may end up the day with a monster!

Below are some pictures of Catfish that I caught recently on the Schuylkill Banks. They were all caught on American Eel, and the biggest one was 6.2lb. I took many pictures just for fun. So, why not post it, right? =)

10/16/11 (Last Sunday) - Beautiful day on the Schuylkill Banks.

Same as above - closer angle

Young Channel Cat on my net. Note that the black dots on its body characterizes its age: they disappear through adulthood.

The proper way of holding a Catfish. (1) Don't be afraid or disgusted by it. (2) Be extra careful with its fins. They are not deadly, but they will make you bleed!

Say Hi! =)

Not all pictures come up good. They will Struggle outside of the water (of course!). Trying our best to not let them fall on the floor is a big plus. After all, how would you feel if someone dropped you on the floor?

The big ones never give me a break.

"The Catfish and the Water". Artistic, huh?

Smallest one of the day - 1.5lb

Biggest one of the day - 6.2lb. I took a full body picture for this one to picture its "true size" compared to my whole body. After all, pictures can be certainly deceiving.

Beautiful one - specially its tail.

This is what happens when they fall on the floor.

Young Channel Cat.

Twin Brothers, almost identical as the next one - however, no marks on its body.

Bigger than the one above, with scratches on its body. Other than that, it's a replica, isn't it? =)

10/13/11 - Thursday Small Channel Cat.

Biggest one of the day - 5lb.

Hope you guys enjoyed the post. I would have written much more if I had time (believe me!), and revised it twice as much as I did right now. After all, I believe that editing is fundamental for any writer.

However, you guys will have to be satisfied with my writing for now, since my time is very limited at the moment. =)

Best of luck for all of us!

Long Days and Pleasant Nights,


Leo S.


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