How to Catch Catfish in Flooded Rivers

How to Catch Catfish in Flooded Rivers

You can catch catfish in flooded river by fishing the current breaks, moving spots often, and using the correct rig. People get intimidated by flooded rivers, when you should really be getting excited. Fishing the flood can be one of the most fun ways to catch catfish.

The Best Weather for Fishing the Flood

The best weather for flood fishing is usually the warmer months. During the spring and summer, fish will be up relatively shallow. When the river floods, it is going to push all those fish up even closer to the bank.

This is a great time to go out and fish your local river. Many people get intimidated by a flooded river, but you should be excited. You can catch fish 5-10 ft off shore! It is an extremely addicting style of fishing.

The warm weather combined with the fresh water and also the food and nutrient runoff for fish to feed on is amazing. In flood conditions the fish often turn on a bit more than they were before.

The winter time however, is not the greatest time to fish the flood. Unlike in the summer and spring, the catfish are going to be deep and relatively inactive. When it floods in the winter, the fish (for the most part) are not going to move up into the shallows and be feeding heavily.

They usually spread out even more during the flood, and are very difficult to find. So warmer months for flood fishing = YES! Winter time for flood fishing = NO!

If you have trouble simply targeting catfish in general check out the easiest way to catch catfish. It helps to get a baseline knowledge of things before you go out and do it.

This of course all depends on your body of water, water temp, air temp, etc…

What Types of Spots to Fish

There are a few options for choosing a spot on a flooded river. There are current breaks or eddies, river mouths, and river bends.

Current Breaks – I find this the most effective way to catch fish during the flood. Current breaks are small pockets of water where the current is not as fast, and your baits can hold bottom.

Catfish are very often in these pockets of water, because they don’t want to be in the fast current. This is an easy area for them to ambush prey and pick up food that drifts by.

If you target that natural spot where the water settles, that is where the food is going to be settled.

Most of the time, the fish are in 5 ft or less of water, so do not be afraid to fish close! I have literally caught catfish 3 ft in front of me, in 2 feet of water. You just never know until you try.

River mouths – If your local river is completely blown out, it might be a good bet to head to the mouth of the river. When the river opens up like this, it is easier to find current that is fishable.

The current slows as the river opens up, and all the bait and water nutrients will likely be washed down to this point. The fish follow the bait, so there will be plenty of catfish around.

This is a great way to find that fishable water, with a lot of fish in one spot. This is essentially like a fish highway, due to all the bait and slower current in the area. Give it a try; you might just discover a gem spot.

River Bends – River Bends are a great way to find slower current to fish after a flood. The river naturally slows here for the water to turn and pass on. Fish do not like fighting against the current all day, so this is a perfect spot for them to be.

It is relatively easy to hold bottom, and there is plenty of bait being washed down and around the river. This is also a great spot to fish in-line with the current. This can help with drifting and holding bottom, ultimately leading to you catching more fish.

The Best Rig for Flood Fishing

The best rig for flood fishing has to be the 3 way rig. This rig helps you to not get line tangles, and is sturdy enough to handle any size catfish.

It is also designed to save part of your rig if you get snagged. The line tied to your sinker is usually lighter than you’re mainline, so if you get your sinker stuck, you can break it off and still save your hook.

With the fast flow of the current, it is difficult to fish with any other rig. The Carolina rig would continually get tangled, and would drag more than the 3 way.

Check out the Best 5 Bank Fishing Rigs for Catfish to see what rig is best for you.

Set yourself up for success from the beginning, so you are not tangling and losing rigs all day.

Move Often

This is kind of an important one. Likely during the flood, fish are going to be stacked up in the small eddies and current breaks. If you are not catching fish within 15-20 minutes in these spots, the catfish probably aren’t there.

The flood really pushes fish in to tight areas and focused locations on the river. Do not waste your time fishing for hours in one spot. What I like to do is spot hopping.

I catch a few fish in one small eddie, then I move to the next. If I don’t get any bites, I keep going. This is a great power fishing type style that can help you cover water, and catch as many fish as you can.

The same thing applies to a river bend or river mouth. If you have no luck in your river bend, move to another, or try casting in different spots. These fish will be focused!

If your river mouth is not producing, try the other side of the river mouth. Those fish are going to be hanging out somewhere; you just need to put in the time to find them.

Best Bait for Fishing the Flood

The best bait for fishing the flood is the baitfish that is common in your river system. The flood is going to wash out most of the small baitfish in your river. They will often try and seek shelter and calmer waters before they get swept away.

This is where the match the hatch comes into play. You want to match that bait source that the fish were already feeding on before the flood. There is no need to get fancy with any extravagant baits.

If shad are plentiful during the flood, use shad, if carp are plentiful, use carp. If for some reason these fish are not feeding on your local baitfish, try using a strong scented bait.

If you plan on using live bait this can be very effective. Check out the 7 Best Live Baits for Catfish to see what bait might be right for you.

Catfish mainly rely on their smell and sense to find bait. Flooded murky waters are catfish prime habitat, so give them a smell to track. There can be a lot going on at once in the water during a flood, so sometimes smelly bait is the way to go.

I would try mackerel, chicken liver, or shrimp.

Fish In-line with the Current

If possible, it can help to fish in-line with the current. Holding bottom after a flood can be very difficult, especially if you are fishing sideways on a river bank.

If you can find a point on a river bend, or a rock jetty, or something that can keep you in line, fish there. Your baits will not be drifting sideways through the river, so this will help with holding bottom, and limiting debris from being caught on your line.

Obviously if your current is just too strong, then you cannot fish these spots but, if you can they can be a huge help. If you can get on a point where the current breaks, and you are fishing in-line, you will be in a critical spot for catfish to feed.

The small baitfish that survive the initial washout with congregate here in current breaks, attracting all kinds of fish. Catfish will be plentiful here, so be ready to hook some fish.


Fishing the flood can be very fun, but it is tricky at times. I hope these tips helped you learn a bit about fishing flooded rivers. Do not be afraid to try other techniques I did not mention in this post

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