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Jug Fishing 101

Updated on March 9, 2016
mgeorge1050 profile image

Alan is a veteran of the US Air Force, a master electrician, and a long-time hobby farmer.

Fresh Catfish for Dinner

Lots of folks out there love to harvest their own fresh catfish from local waters. If you are one of these folks, then you obviously already know how delicious catfish taste. What you may not know is that jug fishing could give you an increased harvest when done correctly. No matter what type of bait you prefer, jug fishing can help you keep more hooks in the water.

Before you plan your first jug fishing trip, make sure and check local fishing regulations. There are some limits on where jug fishing is allowed. Even in places where jug fishing is allowed, you should pay close attention to how many hooks you can have in use at one time. Also, make sure you know the creel limits on the catfish you plan to catch.

Results of Jug Fishing

Big Blue Catfish
Big Blue Catfish

Keep it Cheap

While jug fishing from the bank can be done, in this article I will focus on jug fishing from a boat. There are also many different variations on the basic jug fishing setup. The two methods I will present here have worked well for me over the years, but you should experiment to find what you like.

Using these few materials, you can construct as many jug lines as you need for a few cents each. All of these things can be easily found at home or at the local department store.

1. Nylon String

2. Empty Milk Jug with Lid

3. Trotline Hooks

4. Brick (with holes)

Nice catfish caught on a jug.
Nice catfish caught on a jug. | Source

The Setup

The two jug fishing setups I use allow me to fish in two different ways. Depending on how you plan to use your jugs, you may prefer one or the other. Since they are so cheap to make, I will usually keep a few of each kind on hand, just in case. I have provided a crude drawing of each rig at the bottom of this article as a visual reference.

The first type of setup is a weighted jug line, and provides a stationary rig. I often make these up right on the boat, as the length of the main line will change with the water depth. Start by finding a good location to setup your jug line. Push your string through a hole in your brick and tie the brick to the string. Lower the brick into the water, using the string, until it rests on the bottom. Cut the string, leaving about five feet of extra string above the water. Tie the empty milk jug to the end of the string as a buoy. You will now have a main line being held stationary by the brick, and being marked and held up by the milk jug buoy. Now you can simply pull the main line up, tying on trotline hooks at appropriate intervals. Bait up your hooks and lower the brick back down to the bottom. I would advise checking your jugs every couple of hours if you are able. The same brick that keeps the line stationary also gives the catfish something to pull against. If you leave these types of jugs baited for too long without checking them, you will lose your fish.

The second type of setup is a free floating rig. This type of jug line has nothing to hold it in place, so it will need to be monitored closely. The wind or even the smallest of fish can cause you to lose this rig in no time if you aren't watching. Take about six feet of string and tie one end to an empty milk jug. Tie a trotline hook on the other end of the string. Now just bait the hook and toss the whole thing in the water. When a fish takes the bait, you should notice the jug start to move and 'swim' around. Chase down the jug and retrieve your bounty.

Big stringer of catfish
Big stringer of catfish

Give Jug Fishing a Try

When you catch your first huge catfish, make sure to slowly work the hooked fish to the water's surface. Trying to muscle a fish to the surface too quickly can result in a lost trophy, so try to be patient. The first time I ever pulled up a twenty pound catfish, I got so excited I pulled too hard and lost him. I thought my wife was going to throw me off the boat! Don't worry though, with a little practice you will be landing big catfish like an old pro.

Always bring some extra jugging materials with you on the boat when you are running your lines. You will have issues like tangled lines or a busted jug from time to time. Having extra materials on hand makes it easy to repair a faulty jug line and have it back in service quickly.

No matter which setup you use, having more hooks in the water will result in more fish. People out there that say jug fishing is a 'lazy man's way to fish' have obviously never ran fifty jug lines all night long. If you love to eat catfish, you are going to love jug fishing!

Tips for Catching Huge Catfish

Weighted Jug Line
Fresh Cut Bait Fish
Shallow Flats near Deep Channels
Free Floating Jug Line
Live Bait Fish
Deep Channels
Standard Trotline
Cut Bait and Chicken Liver
Deep Channel Bends
Nice Catfish
Nice Catfish
20 pound blue catfish pulled up by 5 year old boy.
20 pound blue catfish pulled up by 5 year old boy.

Catfish Tip

Get a cast net and learn how to throw it. Catching bait fish in the same water you will be fishing in is a key to harvesting monster catfish.

Are You New?

Have you ever been jug fishing?

See results

Jug Line Rigs - Crude Drawings

Weighted, semi stationary jug setup.
Weighted, semi stationary jug setup.
Free floating jug setup.
Free floating jug setup.


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    • mgeorge1050 profile image

      Alan 3 years ago from West Georgia

      Thanks Thelma, that biggest one was 37 pounds. It was safely released just after the photo was taken. I always release any catfish over about ten pounds and keep the smaller ones for the freezer. My family and I have a jug fishing trip planned for the first weekend in June. I hope I will have some new pictures to post.

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 3 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Boy that is some catfish you are holding! Another good hub.

    • mgeorge1050 profile image

      Alan 3 years ago from West Georgia

      Thanks Shelley, I really appreciate your wonderful comments. I discovered this style of fishing about five years ago. I was immediately 'hooked' on jug fishing!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 3 years ago

      Never heard of jug fishing, so appreciate you writing about it. Wonderful pictures and an astonishing haul. Thank you for sharing. Up, interesting, beautiful, and useful.