Bluegill for Catfish Bait - Yes or NO?

Bluegill for Catfish Bait

Luckily, catfish are not picky eaters, and they focus on smell and taste of their food much more than on the looks of it.

The best catfish bait is the one that either has a strong odor, or the one that resembles natural food, and that includes other fish species.

Bluegill for catfish bait is one of the best options because in the wild, catfish prey on such fish, especially the grown-up specimens. Bluegills are easily available to anglers, and more pleasant to use too due to lack of smell that some catfish baits have.

You can use them alive, or even dead as cut bait. Just keep in mind that this is not equally effective during all year, and the best time to use bluegills is summer.

Of course, you must check local rules and regulations to see if it is even legal to use these excellent baits.

In the following chapters I will tell you everything you need to know about all this!



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What Do Catfish Eat in the Wild?

Anglers frequently ask do catfish eat other fish and the answer is YES, they do.

As omnivorous species they eat a variety of foods including live organisms that live in the water, as well as some land animals that accidentally fall in.

Catfish diet changes as they grow, and from small foods like algae, as they grow they include bigger foods on their menu. From crayfish to insects and plant material, even decomposing ones, catfish (depending on a species) will eat almost anything. Fully grown specimens will eat mostly other fish and larger prey available that can satisfy their nutrition needs.

Only limiting factor here is the prey size. Due to lack of standard teeth, catfish can eat only prey that can be swallowed whole.

This is one of the reasons why using bluegill for catfish bait is very effective.

What does catfish eat in the wild is a complex question because it depends on catfish species, size and age, and available foods in local waters.

When it comes to baits anglers often ask do catfish eat boilies or similar artificial baits. Luckily, they do, but those are made a bit different than those for carp. As I said, the smell is important. But I will mention specific alternatives a bit later.

Is Bluegill Good for Catfish Bait?

Bluegill is not just good, it is excellent!

This baitfish is present in high numbers in many waters and it is included in catfish diet on a daily basis. Great nutritional value and availability make it an excellent bait.

Catfish are not too cautious when it comes to food, but even unusually cautious specimens will gladly bite on your bluegill bait because it looks as natural as it can to them.

Besides summer, which is the best time to use these baits, you can also try it in winter, when food sources are scarce and lazy catfish wants an easy meal.

It can be used whole, both alive and dead, as well as cut into pieces. Even frozen bluegill for catfish bait works, but it needs a bit of help! Frozen and defrosted fish loses it scent and texture, and becomes mushy. To make it more attractive, simply dip it into any of liquid attractants for catfish available in many tackle and bait stores.

Another alternative is goldfish, but keep in mind that it is not legal in all waters.

Using Bluegill for Catfish Bait - Good or Bad

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

Is bluegill good catfish bait is one thing, but is it legal is something else.

There is not YES or NO answer, and it depends on local rules and regulations. Responsible angling includes having a valid fishing license and obeying all the laws.

Some waters prohibit the use of live bait, and that includes live bluegill. If only live bait is prohibited, you can still use bluegill as cut bait which is also very effective. But, in some paces you can’t use it at all.

If you observe rules and regulations in the USA, here are some examples:

  • In Alabama, only bream is allowed as live bait.
  • In California there is no state rule applicable to all waters and it varies from one body of water to another.
  • In Florida, you may use it if you catch it yourself.
  • In Nebraska, all baitfish can legally be used as bait.

As you can see, there are different rules. It is your personal responsibility to inform yourself about this, and all details are available online on official regulatory body websites.

How to Use / Hook / Cut Bluegill as Catfish Bait?

How to use bluegill as catfish bait depends on the way you plan to use it. It is not the same to use it alive and cut.

Live baits work better with flathead catfish, than with blues or channels. Hook them through the middle part of the back. The trick is not to go too deep to prevent killing them, but also not to shallow to avoid losing them. The hook must pierce them above the spine. You can either present them at a bottom or suspended under a float. Circle hooks are recommended here.

The best thing about live bait is that it usually gets you larger fish!

How to cut bluegill for catfish bait and use it depends on bluegill size and catfish size. Pieces must be of a size that suits local catfish size. It is better to cut smaller pieces than too big ones.

Cut the bluegill in three pieces, from head to back, and mount them on a baitholder hook. Use a lead to make this bait sink to the bottom. Although not exclusive bottom feeders, catfish frequently scavenge the bottom to find food. It works wonders for channel and blue catfish.

Sometimes, using whole dead bluegill can work well too. In calm waters, circle hooks should be used to hook a bait behind a dorsal fin through the back. Flathead catfish love it. In waters with strong currents, hook them through the mouth and upper lip with the hook pointed upward. It makes your bait move with the current well and reduces snagging.

Using Bluegill for Catfish Bait - How To

5 Reasons Why Using Bluegill for Catfish Bait is Good

There are many reasons why using bluegill for catfish bait is good, but here are the top 5!


Bluegills are very resilient fish. Hooked and treated right, they can survive all night alive on a hook! From hot summer waters to colder ones in winter, bluegill can withstand harsh conditions.


These baitfish live almost everywhere and are widely available to both anglers and catfish. This means that you can easily catch them while local fish are used to eating them. This perfect combo makes it work every time!

Attracting ability

For some reason, many catfish prefer bluegill over any other cut or live bait, especially in summer. These small fish have a special scent that makes catfish go crazy!

Size range

Using too large bluegill won`t land you a record braking catfish, at least in majority of situations. Small to medium size are the best to be used alive or whole (up to 5 inches long). Larger bluegills can be cut into pieces and be used as equally good bait.


Bluegills are very versatile bait. You can use them in all waters, from stagnant to moving, and from muddy to clear. They work well alive, dead, cut, or even defrosted as I previously mentioned!

Using Bluegill for Catfish Bait - Catch

Other Secret Catfish Baits [Good Alternatives to Bluegill]

Although very effective, bluegills are not the only bait that can be used for catfish.

There are many alternatives, from live to DIY baits, and they can all be used to land you a big one in various conditions.

Natural alternatives

By natural, I mean those baits that are not man made, at least not completely. Among the best are shrimp, chicken, and liver. All three will work wonders in specific situations, especially for blues and channels, but also for flatheads occasionally.

DIY alternatives

There are many baits that can either be bought or prepared at home. Makin them yourself saves money and enables you to really make a perfect one that suits your local fishing conditions. Two of the best are boilies and stink bait for catfish.

Human food alternatives

As you already know, catfish are not picky and will eat anything that smells interesting. You can visit your local supermarket and get some hotdogs for catfish bait. Those have to be spiced up a bit (like with Kool Aid) but are more pleasant to use than stink bait. Besides, some catfish love them. Another option you have is using cheese for catfish bait. There is a high chance that you already have that at home, and you can take advantage of it for some unplanned fishing trip!

Unusual alternatives

If you are a dog owner, I have good news for you! Your furry friend’s food can be used to catch catfish.

Dog food may seem crazy, but it works wonders! Another option is soap. Ok, not all soaps work, but there are options that work well and attract catfish! Just make sure to check if the local law allows it!


Using bluegill for catfish bait can be very effective, especially in summer. Their versatility makes them one of the best baits you can possibly choose.

Catfish anglers love them for multiple reasons, including the ease of use and lack of horrendous smell that stays with you for days after fishing.

Before you test this bait, check out local rules and regulations to find out is it legal in your area!

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