Complete Guide To Jug Fishing

Jug fishing is not a new method of fishing by any means, in fact, it has been around for quite a while.

Jug fishing is a method of fishing that utilizes jugs to float on top of the water as both a buoyant and indicator to fish.

While there is much controversy over this technique and it is illegal in many places, at the time of writing there are still 20 states that allow jug fishing.

What is Jug Fishing?

Jug fishing is a popular fishing technique that utilizes jugs with a fishing line attached, to catch fish; both in lakes and rivers. Jug rigs are baited, thrown in the water, and left there for some time, to be collected after fish took the bait.

Jug fishing is especially popular in the Southern states, where marshy and slow-flowing waters (being perfect for jug fishing) are abundant. The main jug fishing target is catfish.

The goal of jug fishing is covering a lot of water with a lot of baits, therefore multiplying your chances of getting a fish!

Is Jug Fishing Illegal?

Jug fishing is legalized in a lot of states, especially towards the south – but not all of them.

Jug fishing is so simple, yet effective, it can bring serious problems. A lot of people will deploy a huge amount of jugs every night to collect them in the morning, and due to the great success rate of these simple rigs, the catfish population can be severely damaged in a rather short period!

As a result, a lot of states decided to make jug fishing illegal to preserve catfish populations of their waters.

What States Allow Jug Fishing?

Many Southern states allow jug fishing. However, some states allow jug fishing without regulations, while some states allow jug fishing but only with certain limitations and rules.

Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Massachusetts are the states that allow jug fishing without regulations

We have also collected various state regulations and made a list that will surely help anyone getting into jug fishing. But please make sure to double-check, as these regulations can be changed every year!

StatesJug Fishing regulations
ArkansasLimit of 20 jugs.
ColoradoLimit of 10 jugs with 1 hook per jug;
must be tagged with the owner or user’s name and CID number,
and checked every hour.
ConnecticutLimit of 2 jugs, 3 hooks per jug.
FloridaOnly anchored jugs.
IdahoLimit of 1 jug; you must remain with the jug.
IllinoisPermitted only from sunset to sunrise;
jugs must have name and address written on them.
IndianaLimit of 5 jugs.
IowaLimit of 2 jugs, 2 hooks per jug.
KentuckyLimit of 50 jugs, only single-hook per jug.
MarylandLimit of 10 jugs, allowed from July 1 to February 28;
must be tagged with DNR ID number.
MississippiLimit of 50 jugs.
MissouriJugs must be in sight all of the time,
and have the angler’s name and address written on them.
MontanaJugs have to be checked every 24 hours,
and have the angler’s name and address written on them.
North CarolinaLimit of 70 jugs with 3 hooks per jug; use of live baits is prohibited.
OhioLimit of 6 jugs for waters under 700 acres of size;
trebles are prohibited;
jugs must be tagged with owner’s name and address.
OklahomaLimit of 20 jugs with 5 hooks per jug;
must be tagged with owner’s name and address.
South CarolinaPermit is not needed for up to 2 jugs (if owning a state fishing license),
but required from 3 to a maximum of 50.
Jugs must be marked with licensee name and a customer ID number.
Jugs have to be removed one hour after sunrise,
and not set before one hour before sunset.
TennesseLimit of 10 jugs.
TexasJugs must be white.
VirginiaLimit of 20 jugs with 1 hook each,
and it is obligatory to keep them in sight all time;
they also need to be labeled with a reflective marker.
Jugs must have the name, address,
and telephone number of a fisherman written on them.

How do you Jug Fish?

Jug fishing is very simple, especially compared to fishing with a rod and reel. All you need is a jug, some strong fishing line, a weight, hook, and bait. Line with hook and weight is tied to the jug, and the whole rig is then thrown in water!

Jugs are often tossed out before sunset and then collected after sunrise. This is because catfish are most active during the night, and the chances of catfish finding your bait are biggest from dusk till dawn. They are usually thrown in multitudes ranging from 5-6 to more than 50 – depending on state laws! On average, there will be 10-20 jugs on a boat.

How to Make a Jug Rig

Jugs are usually made from various plastic bottles sprayed with orange, white, chartreuse, or black. Lately, a lot of jug fishermen use a PVC pipe with caps on both ends and a pool noodle wrapped around.

The fishing line is then attached to the jug. When choosing your line, go with a 50-pound test (or more) braid. It is quite easier to handle, as it does not get loopy as monofilament.

Bait is usually suspended around 5-6 feet off the bottom, so for most waters, you will need up to 10 feet of line. However, you might need more line during winter, and a lot less during summer.

Then you need a weight (usually bell sinkers), and one or more hooks. If you are fishing with multiple hooks, or hook above the weight, use 3-way swivels to avoid entangling.

It is important to use circle hooks (from 1/0 to 9/0) for jug fishing! Circle hooks will almost always hook catfish in the corner of the mouth, thus enabling the release of fish if it is under the measure.

Types of Jug Fishing

jug fishing

There are 2 distinctive types of jug fishing out there: anchored, and free-floating.

Anchored jug fishing rigs are made with a heavy weight placed under the hook. It has the purpose of preventing the movement of your jug rig, either to water movement, wind, or a fish. Jugs can also be attached to a stump or some other fixed object in the water.

This kind of jug fishing is great for targeting big catfish and also prevents losing your jugs, However, as the location is fixed, chances of catching a fish are significantly smaller compared to free-floating jug rigs.

Free-floating jug fishing rigs are made with the weight being put above the hook, with the purpose to sink the bait to the desired depth. These kinds of rigs are usually deployed in slowly moving rivers, or large lakes.

The goal is to search the promising water area with multiple jugs (often set on various depths), thus multiplying your chances of success!

While fishing with free-floating jugs, there are big chances of losing your jugs. This can happen either because you lost sight of a jug (which happens easily if you have a large number drifting), or because fish pulled it away.

For this reason, free-floating jugs are often fished during the day, especially on rivers.

When catfish takes the bait, the jug will start bobbing or will race away. Angler, therefore, needs to keep maneuvering his boat around the line of floating jugs and keep an eye on all of them to recognize the strike and collect the hooked fish.

What Bait to Use For Jug Fishing

The most common jug fishing target species is catfish. Therefore, the best baits used for jug fishing are the same baits you would use for normal catfish fishing!

Catfish are known for having a developed sense of smell and are quickly attracted to baits that release a lot of scents. This covers a lot of common fishing baits, but with some rather odd choices such as liver, or even spoiled hot dogs!

Here are some bait choices that are proven to work well under a jug:


Catfish are a predatory species, and fish are therefore quite logical bait for them. You can use a whole fish, either dead or alive (pay attention to your state laws – live bait is forbidden to use in some states!). You can also use chunks of fish, as they release much more scent and will attract catfish faster than whole fish!

Hot dogs

Although this may seem like a weird choice, hot dogs are quite established as a bait choice in the catfish fishing community. It is known that spoiled hot dogs are an even better option than fresh ones – leave them in a plastic bag for a couple of days (either on Sun or in a warm place), and they will develop a pungent aroma catfish find irresistible! And even spoiled, they will retain the texture needed for easy hooking.

You can also add some garlic powder in a bag, to add the extra smelly component. Some anglers will even stuff the hot dog with cheese and garlic, to ensure the level of attraction needed for a good catfish session!


There is no bait in the world used more than earthworms! They are a synonym for fishing, and also one of the most successful catfish baits worldwide. You can use them whole, chopped, or as a multitude on one hook. You can easily collect them in your backyard, or buy them in a fishing shop.


The liver, especially the chicken liver, is one of the oldest and most successful catfish baits out there. It has a scent catfish find irresistible! It had only one downside – it may be hard to secure it on a hook, as it has a strange, spongy texture and falls apart easily. Use it fresh and cold, and there will be no problem when hooking!

Apart from chicken liver, anglers will use any other kind of liver available – from turkey to deer! And they will all catch catfish!

string(10) "freshwater"
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