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Hey Everybody, it’s catfish time in the Volunteer State!

Posted: September 12th, 2018 by Bill Dance

Several rivers across Middle Tennessee can provide anglers excellent catfishing. However, the Duck River provides probably the best opportunities to all types of catfishermen. Catfishing is the third most popular kind of fishing in Tennessee behind black bass and crappie. Biologists last sampled river catfish every few years to keep tabs on the populations. Across several middle Tennessee streams, biologists observed about 29 channel catfish/hour at an average length of 13 inches. The channel catfish looked great throughout middle Tennessee, but the Duck River was a certain stand out. The Duck River is 284 miles long and spans much of the region from east and west. Concerning catfish, the Duck needs to be split into four major sections to account for changes in river characteristics from the underlying geology and the addition of tributaries.

The first stretch to discuss is from the Normandy Dam to the Halls Mill area which is swift and rocky and tends not to be ideal for catfish. Electrofishing surveys recorded only 2.5 catfish/hour and the average size was 12.0”. The habitat is more suited towards smallmouth bass, rock bass, stocked rainbow trout in the winter, and the occasional walleye.

By the time the Duck River has passed Henry Horton it has increased in size after picking up a few tributaries and the catfishing certainly picks up as well. This middle stretch includes Milltown, Leftwhich, Iron Bridge, Yanahli, and to the Columbia Dam. The catfish abundance in this stretch is close to average (25.6 catfish/hour) but fish size is excellent. The average length was 17.9” and electrofishing data recorded lots of fish over 20” that weigh 2 to 4 pounds. There are lots of public access points and private canoe outfitters in this area making it a great spot for a floating catfish trip. In the summer fish undercut banks in shallow swift water that is high in oxygen. However, in the cooler months catfish can be anywhere but try drifting meaty baits at the transition from swift water to pool. There are lots of hungry catfish in the Duck, if you do not get a bite within 20 minutes, try another spot.

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