Goldfish for Catfish Bait - Yes or NO?

Goldfish for Catfish Bait

Goldfish is a fish that is pictured as a cute small fish swimming in a fish tank. But, in the world of angling, this fish has a different use.

Catfish anglers know that these omnivorous feeders will eat basically anything, from cheese to live bait, including goldfish.

So, how about using goldfish for catfish bait? This fish makes a really good live bait, especially for flathead catfish that is a species that prefers it. Their advantage is bright color, and their ability to live very long on a hook. Just make sure that it is legal before you use it.

Goldfish are easily available and fairly cheap which is another advantage important to anglers. Some even have ponds and breed them.

Hooking goldfish is also easy, and suitable even for less experienced anglers. And unlike some catfish baits, there is no horrible smell!

Here I will tell you more about goldfish as catfish bait, and also mention some alternatives if you don’t prefer them.



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What Do Catfish Eat in the Wild?

Catfish are not picky eaters. They eat anything that they can swallow. Due to the fact that catfish don’t have “standard” teeth, size of their food is limited with the size of their mouth.

Feeding habits also change as they grow and vary among catfish species.

When they are small, they will eat a variety of foods, including algae, insects, beetles, and fish eggs. As they grow, so does their food. They start eating snails, plants, crayfish, and small fish species. Worms and shrimp also get on their menu.

Very large specimens will feed on frogs, and even mammals that fall into water. Some very large catfish have been observed eating injured birds! But that is and exception, not a rule.

When food sources are scarce, they will scavenge. Among other foods, they may eat seeds, planktons, and nuts and fruits that fall into the water.

As you can see, catfish eat a variety of foods, and that gives you an opportunity to use all kinds of baits.

Are Goldfish Good for Catfish Bait?

Using goldfish for catfish bait can be very productive, especially for flathead catfish that prefer live bait. For channels, that are also popular among anglers, goldfish won`t work that well.

These fish are meaty, resilient, and easily accessible. You can hook them in various ways and use them in any body of water that is a home to catfish. If allowed of course, but I will mention that in the next chapter.

Live bait is excellent due to their natural movement. Injured fish will look completely natural and targeted species will not be suspicious and overly cautious around them. No matter how good your other baits are, this is something you can’t replicate.

When you hook a goldfish, it will releasee scent through the wound from a hook, and that adds to the effectiveness.

And lastly, we have bright color. All of this together makes it a perfect combination to attract hungry cats.

Goldfish for Catfish Bait - Using

Is it Legal or Illegal to Fish for Catfish With Goldfish?

Are goldfish good catfish bait or not is one thing but is it even legal to use them? The answer is both yes and no, depending on local rules and regulations.

Firstly, you have to check if live bait is allowed in waters you are fishing in. Some places have laws against it, and you can’t use any live baitfish, including goldfish. Sometimes, these places allow worms, so that may be a good alternative. If not, you can try using cut bait.

Another restriction may apply to goldfish specifically, not all live baits. Sometimes, certain live baitfish are forbidden because they are considered to be invasive species. If they get free and reproduce, they may negatively affect the local ecosystem.

If you observe state laws, in many USA states goldfish is considered invasive. About half of them has laws against it. Make sure to check up to date info on official authorities’ websites.

Some states allow goldfish as bait, but only dead one. When used dead, it will still have appealing scent and it will work similar to cut bait.

How to Use / Hook Goldfish as Catfish Bait?

Learning how to hook goldfish for catfish bait is easy. You just have to hook it properly. Improper hooking may result in losing your bait or killing it too fast. Both options are equally bad.

First of all, you need a hook suitable for live bait. Try with octopus hook. Of course, size of it must match a targeted catfish size, and the size of your goldish used as bait.

Dorsal hooking is one of the best. Hold the fish firmly but be careful not to injure it with your grip. Pierce it with the hook just in front of the dorsal fin from one side to another. Depth is the key. Shallow hooking will result in loosing it, while deep will kill it too fast. Hook must go above the spine.

Pull the hook through so that the fish is positioned at the bend.

This is the most effective way, and it lets the goldfish swim in a natural way. Some anglers use lip, or even eye hooking, but in my experience, dorsal works the best.

Even when hooked properly, you need to be careful. Avoid distant casting and making big splashes as you can kill or loose the fish on impact. Be gentle! When you present it in the water, make sure to position it away from obstacles where it may swim and hide, as that makes it ineffective.

Goldfish for Catfish Bait - Hook

5 Reasons Why Using Goldfish for Catfish Bait is Good

Now you know how to use goldfish as catfish bait, but if you are still unsure is it a good idea, here are top 5 reasons why you should try it!

#1: Goldfish live long on a hook

Don’t let their gentle appearance fool you. Goldfish are extremely resilient and can last on a hook much longer than many other baitfish!

#2: Bright color

Although catfish search for food by using their extraordinary sense of smell, they are not blind. Orange color of goldfish makes them stand out among all other available food sources.

#3: Work well in all waters

You can use goldfish anywhere from wild rivers to paylakes. You know how some baits only work in certain conditions? Well, goldfish is not one of them and it is very versatile.

#4: It can be used dead

If you are a beginner, there is a chance that you will kill a few of them too soon. But don’t worry, they will still be fresh, and catfish will gladly bite on them!

#5: They are a pleasure to use

If you are a passionate catfish angler, you know how horrible some baits can be (like liver, etc.). Goldfish is a pleasure to use. There is no smell, no disgusting residue on your hands, and your family won’t throw you out of the house if you accidentally drop it on the floor. That can`t be said for baits like stink bait.

Goldfish for Catfish Bait - Reason

Other Secret Catfish Baits [Good Alternatives to Goldfish]

When looking for an alternative to catfish live bait, you may think that using another live bait is the best option. And in some cases, that is true. Using other baitfish or even worms may be equally productive.

But, sometimes this approach doesn’t give the best results, and you should turn to completely different baits that will stand out with their scent and appeal to catfish. Your options are almost unlimited. You can also turn to DIY baits that are crafted to perfection for your local fishing conditions.

Here are the best alternatives to goldfish:

Soap bait
Cut bait
Chicken liver or gizzard
Dough bait
Stink bait
Dog food
Cheese bait
Punch Bait

These are the common ones, and you can use them as they are, or as ingredients to your perfect bait. You can spice them up and make them even more effective.

Catfish like garlic, vanilla, or even anis oil. Basically, anything that has strong scent can be considered as a good option.

Of course, if you really want to use live fish as bait, you can replace goldfish with perch, skipjack, shad, bluegill, or any other species naturally present in your local waters.


Using goldfish for catfish bait has many advantages, especially when fishing for flathead catfish. Not all catfish are the same and you have to choose baits in accordance with their feeding habits.

Flatheads prefer live bait, and goldfish is one of the best. It lasts long on a hook, and even though catfish rely on smell more that sight, bright color makes a small difference.

Before you head out and try it, check the local regulations and see if they allow it!

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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