How to Catch Huge Red Tail Catfish

Redtail Catfish are a large catfish species found throughout the Amazon basin.  They live in deep pools with slower moving water in the many tributaries of the Amazon River.  They are one of the larger species, attaining weights of over 100lbs.  Their large mouths enable them to engulf whole fish up to several pounds.  Once when fishing in the Tapera River in Brazil my fishing partner brought a 15lb Peacock Bass to the boat and suddenly a 45lb Redtail came up and tried to swallow it.

Redtails are relatively easy to hook because they usually bite hard and immediately take off.  Once removed from the water, Redtails emit a distinctive croaking/wheezing sound.  Like most catfish, they are very hardy and can survive much more handling than most other fish.  They don’t have teeth or spines or anything unlike most Amazon fish and can be easily lifted by their pectoral fins although larger ones should have their bellies supported.  I have never eaten them so I don’t know what they taste like.

Redtail Catfish Tackle

Medium sized Redtails can be landed on the heavier tackle used for Peacock Bass.  However, if you want to be serious about catching them you are going to want stouter tackle.  Braided line helps with hooksets and a wire leader helps prevent them from chewing through line.  They will often try to get under sunken logs, so a heavy leader is nice to have.

Redtail Catfish Techniques

Redtails may on rare occasions bite lures, but most are caught by soaking live bait on the bottom.  Their bite is very pronounced; they don’t pick at the bait they gulp it and take off.  Hooks stay in their rubbery mouths pretty well and you should use a wire leader to prevent chafing from their sandpaper-like teeth.  They often run under logs and other structure so you have to be careful of that.

Redtail Catfish Lures

I do not know of any reliable lures for these fish.

Redtail Catfish Baits

Redtails will eat chunks of fish that live near them including Piranha, small Wolf Fish (Trairao), and various baitfish.  When I fished for them the locals seemed to have strong preferences for specific species of fish but I did not notice any difference in terms of bites for our group.  Trairao stay on the hook well.  Fresh baits seem to work better than older baits.  Circle hooks work well and prevent gut hooking.  If your baits are getting eaten by Piranha then you are probably too shallow.

Where to get the big Redtail Catfish

The Amazon is the place for the big ones.  Some pay lakes in Asia have stocked them as well but it’s just not the same.


Redtail Catfish in Bolivia caught on a Trairao


All credit for this great article goes to How to Catch Any Fish.

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