What Kinds of Fish Can You Catch with a Bobber?

A fishing buddy of yours has been eager to get you into bobber fishing. Your interest is piqued, but you don’t want to end the day empty-handed. What kinds of fish can you expect to catch with a bubble bobber, cigar bobber, or another bobber style?

Here are the fish you can catch with a bobber on your line:

  • Catfish
  • Carp
  • Northern pike
  • Shellcracker
  • Salmon
  • Crappie
  • Steelhead
  • Bass
  • Yellow perch
  • Walleye
  • Trout

This explanatory guide will describe each of the 11 fish species above as well as share tips on how you can use a bobber to catch more of them. There’s lots of great information to come, so make sure you keep reading! 

An Introduction to the Species of Fish You Can Catch with a Bobber

For surface-level fishing and even depth-based fishing to a degree, bobbers are an exemplary tool to have in your angling arsenal. This list of fish that you can catch with just a bobber and a few other accessories is proof of that. 

Related Reading: 7 Best Fishing Bobbers (and yes, it makes a difference!)


Okay, so catfish are not fish that you can catch exclusively when bobber fishing, not in the least. The ray-finned catfish are among the least picky fish species out there, so you can catch them just about any way. 

This is beneficial to anglers who have a taste for catfish, as you can nab them using inedible lures. That’s why we like bobber fishing for catfish so much! 

Catfish are mostly bottom-feeders, but that depends on the part of the world in which you find them. Despite that the catfish earned that nickname due to their cat-like whiskers–which are technically called barbels–not all catfish have barbels!

A standard bobber is enough to generate interest in the catfish in your lake or river if it’s not feeding on detritus on the bottom of the seafloor. The bobber should include a weighted foam float with two swivels, a leader line up to 50 pounds, a split shot, and a three-pronged hook. 


The oily fish species known as the carp populates in freshwaters. Although they’re native to Asia and Europe, the carp is common in North American waters as well. 

In fact, they’ve propagated to such a degree on American soil (err, waters) that they’re largely regarded as invasive. That’s true too in Australia and some of Africa.

Carp species include mud carp, black carp, mrigal carp, catla or Indian carp, crucian carp, bighead carp, grass carp, common or European carp, and silver carp. These species are not exclusive to the US, and many require worldwide travel to find.

You can catch some significantly sized carp using a bobber, especially if you have a rig with a hook on the leader, a weight, and then the bobber attached to the rig. The bobber will float initially and then begin to sink when the carp bites! 

Northern Pike

The carnivorous fish species known as the northern pike prefers freshwater and brackish waters alike, which are not the same as saltwater bodies. Found across the Northern Hemisphere, this fish can reach lengths of 22 inches on average, so it’s quite a fun catch!

Northern pike has dark coloration, which can make the fish harder to spot in the water. With a slip bobber, you might be able to attract more pike. We also recommend a steel leader and a minnow with the bobber. 

To pull in the northern pike, a monofilament line is a good choice. Buy monofilament that’s at least 12 pounds to ensure it has the strength to reel in the pike without snapping on you. 

The minnow used in your rig should be between four and eight inches long to whet the appetite of this large northern pike. Keep your bobber and minnow three feet from the surface of the water and wait and see what you catch! 


The shellcracker has many names, including the sun perch, cherry gill, and Georgia bream. Most call it the redear sunfish due to the trademark red coloration around the sides of this fish species’ head where the ears are. 

A common find in North American waters of nearly any sort, there, shellcrackers usually feed on snails and mollusks. The fish uses its teeth to crack the shells of these creatures, which explains the shellcracker nickname. 

When catching shellcrackers, the smaller the bobber, the better. You also don’t want a lot of weight on your line so you can smoothly and seamlessly reel in the fish. Try outfitting your line with a #2 hook for best results.

To determine when a shellcracker is biting, watch your bobber. It should be a clear giveaway! 


If you’re fishing in rivers where salmon live, you can indeed rely on your trusty bobber to catch these fish. 

Salmon are common throughout the North Atlantic’s tributaries and can even be found in the Pacific Ocean. North America’s Great Lakes are a pretty reliable place to track down this fish, and in South America, Patagonia is another good spot.

Some salmon species are on the bigger side, such as chinook salmon or Atlantic salmon. These fish species are about four feet long on average, with a five-foot salmon considered a large one. Other salmon species are fewer than two feet in size.

Either way, once you get into feet when describing the length of a fish rather than inches, it’s a big one that’s certainly worth catching!

When selecting your setup to catch salmon with a bobber, you want a fishing rod that’s at least 10 feet long. The rod length keeps more of the fishing line out of the water, which is what you need. Your level of line control will be exceptional.

A super-braided fishing line that’s at least 30 pounds is a must, as salmon is quite a heavy fish species. Add a bobber stop to your main line and then a bead. The sliding bobber should be capable of handling at least an ounce of lead. 

Sliding bobbers can get deeper into the water where salmon like to hide. You should also use an egg sinker. If just one, then the sinker should weigh an ounce. For two egg sinkers, they can weigh half an ounce apiece. 

By the way, an egg sinker is not a dairy product like the eggs in your fridge. Rather, they’re called casting eggs in full. They’re long and cylindrical fishing accessories akin to eggs that are recommended when fishing with lightweight flies, jigs, and bobbers. 


Another type of sunfish, the crappie genus includes freshwater fish species scattered across North America. These are catchable, cookable panfish that aren’t that large but are abundant enough that you’ll still feel inclined to fill your cooler with ‘em.

You can use a stationary bobber connected to your line for catching crappie. Another option is a slip bobber. If you’d rather set up a bobber jig rig with the bobber over your jig, that’s a third option. 

The great thing about bobber fishing for crappie is that you have your pick of fishing in shallow and deep water alike. 


A variety of trout, the steelhead is native to North American and Asian tributaries, especially those with very cold temperatures. They’re also found off the Pacific Ocean. They spawn in freshwater bodies, although they can migrate in oceanic conditions. 

Double-check that you can fish for steelhead before you head out on your fishing boat. In many parts of the US, this species is considered threatened, including the Upper Columbia River, the South-Central California Coast, the Puget Sound, the Middle and Lower Columbia River, the Central California Coast, and the California Central Valley.

In Northern and Southern California, steelhead is endangered.

If you get the okay to fish for steelhead, a fixed bobber is a great pick. The bobber rigs up easily and responds exceptionally well. Slip bobbers are somewhat heavier than fixed bobbers and will move as the water deepens. 


Who doesn’t love reeling in a big, fat bass? From smallmouth to largemouth bass in North America and less common species such as black bass, bass fishing is so popular that it’s regarded as its own sport.

With some worm bait and a basic bobber, you can impress all your fishing buddies by catching yourself a bass or several. Your rig should be commensurate in size with the bobber. This prevents your bait from vanishing in the water, which can keep you from catching any fish. 

You don’t have to put a whole nightcrawler on your hook if they’re hard to come by. You’re just giving the bass free food and not necessarily catching them for your efforts. We recommend using dead worms in chunks if you can stomach the thought! 

Further Reading: Do Fishing Bobbers Work for Bass?

Yellow Perch

The North American fish known as the yellow perch has nicknames from American river perch to preacher and striped perch. All refer to the same fish species, which reaches average sizes of four to 10 inches long. 

The yellow perch is indeed yellow, although not exclusively. The fish usually has vertical stripes down its body in a dark color. Shades of orange and green can be present across the fish’s body in addition to its yellow coloration. 

The Mississippi River is one known locale for catching yellow perch, as are the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. In the Rocky Mountains’ northern region just slightly to the east, you may find yellow perch as well. 

A slip bobber should produce reliable results when fishing for yellow perch. This fish species is known to hide deeper in the water at times, and the slip bobber can reach those same depths for more effective fishing. 


From the yellow perch to the yellow pike, the walleye is another catchable fish using a bobber. Living in freshwaters throughout North America and parts of Canada, the walleye also has a golden sheen, which is why it’s known as the yellow pike by some.

Growing to sizes of 31 inches long in maturity, the walleye is certainly a coveted catch. The fish prefers all sorts of watersheds and is sometimes manually stocked into bodies of water. 

We hope you kept your slip bobbers handy, as you’ll need them when catching the walleye as well. Your jig should be on the bigger side but not overly large. Otherwise, without enough weight, the fish might not see your bait. 


The last fish species you might see on the other end of your fishing hook when bobber fishing is the humble trout. These freshwater fish are related to char and salmon. 

Some types of trout such as the lake trout live only in freshwater rivers and lakes. Others like the abovementioned steelhead will spawn in freshwater after sometimes spending years in coastal conditions. 

You’ll spot more trout if the water is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, as many species prefer cool water. Others might be out and about in warmer waters, but this is rare. 

Here’s the setup you should emulate when bobber fishing for trout. You need split-shot weights, a bobber stopper, a fluorocarbon or monofilament fishing line (rated for six to 12 pounds), a plastic fishing bead, a mid-sized sliding bobber, and a bait hook sizes #8 or #12.

The bobber stopper will allow you to control the depth at which your rig is. Our advice? Keep the split-shot weights about a foot from the hook to create the kind of depth you need to attract trout to your line. 

Further Reading: Do Fishing Bobbers Work for Trout?

Final Thoughts

Bobber fishing can be an extraordinarily rewarding experience. Using a bobber as part of your rig, you can catch small panfish all the way up to huge fish species such as salmon and trout. 

The key is knowing where your target fish are found and then selecting a rig that can match the water’s depths so you can get your bobber on the fish’s level. You’ll often need more than merely a bobber as part of your rig, but also weights, a bobber stopper, eggs, and a high-quality line.

The next time you go freshwater fishing with your buddies (or, to a lesser extent, saltwater fishing), stock up on some of the equipment we recommended in this article, especially several types of bobbers. You could just come back with a cooler full of fish!

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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