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how do I get started at fishing for these fish. I live in Southern Indiana and have access to a big lake accross the road. My brother and I used to fish over there when we were kids. We caught alot of croppie one day, just using regular bacon. Catfish is my favorite.

Janice; Crappie are almost entirely minnow eaters.  They probably thought your bacon was small minnows.  They are caught in virtually all of the United States and probably a large percentage of them are caught on live minnows.  To start fishing with live minnows is relatively easy.  All you need is a cane pole or fiberglass pole made for the purpose, some line (as small diameter as is safe in your waters depending on the amount of brush and snags)  I use 6lb in open water and 8lb in brushy water.  I like to use a small bobber that can be slid up and down the line by hand.
Then a small weight, just enough to keep the minnow from swimming up to the surface and keep the bobber floating high and upright.  A #1 gold crappie hook tied to the end of the line.  The line should not be more than a few inches longer than the pole to make it easy to handle.  Plus a bucket of lively crappie minnows.  These can be purchased at most bait shops and while different species are used in different areas the ones you buy locally are best for your nearby waters.

If you are fishing from shore pick a place where you can swing your minnow to good looking places.  If there is a dam with rip rap be sure and try it.  Look for a bit of brush or where there is a little deeper water in close to the shore. Start by determining the depth of the water and set your bobber so the bait is just a few inches off the bottom.  Try several places around the spot at this depth.  If you have no bites within 10 minutes move the bobber up a foot or so and try again. Ten minutes later if no bites try two feet shallower.  Keep trying shallower and shallower until you are fishing 18 inches deep.  If you aren't catching fish in a half hour move to a new area and start over.

Another way of fishing for crappie is to use a spinning rod and reel using jigs and small lures made especially for crappie.  Jigs can be used either by casting them out letting them drop then swimming them at various depths until you find fish.  I usually tie on two jigs to add casting weight.(check state laws, two lures may be illegal.  I like chartruse or white feather jigs myself but there are many colors that will catch crappie.  If fishing from a boat the jigs may be simply dropped over the side and jigged up and down at various depths.
If fishing deep water with a spinning rig and minnow use a sliding bobber.  To do this put a bead above the bobber then put the line through the bobber so it slides freely up and down the line.  At the tackle shop you can buy tiny spring like bobber stops that can be placed on the line above the bead to stop the bobber from sliding further than the desired depth.  A little more weight may be necessary to pull the line through the bobber.                                                     Cast the line out and let the weight pull the minnow down until it reaches the bobber stop.  Again keep trying different depths as crappie are often suspended from just under the surface to the bottom and they like   

Now for catfishing.  There are many different species of catfish in this country.  Some of the most prdominate species are the channel cat,blue cat, flathead cat, and the various                                                     
bullheads.                                                   Most of these fish are bottom dwellers and will eat just about anything they can get their mouth                                              around.               
The exception to this is the flathead catfish which is almost exclusively a feeder on live bluegill and other panfish.  The bullhead is probably the most widespread catfish and is a favorite of kids because they bite almost anything you put in front of them at times.              a

The channel catfish is the most commercially valuable and often the most liked by catfish houses all across America. The blue cats are mostly large river fish as are the flatheads.   I would suspect that you will be fishing for either channel cats or bullheads.  Channel cats are a little more picky about what they will bite but not a whole lot.  Everything from soap to cheese, to cut bait,to worms has been used to catch both species.  Probably the easiest method of fishing for catfish of any kind except the flatheads is to use a casting or spinning rod and reel with a fairly heavy slip sinker above a swivil and a leader of monofiliment about twice the pound test of the main line and a hook from 1/0 to about 5/0 depending on the size of fish expected, or a treble hook of similar size.  Some treble hooks are specially made with a spring like fixture on the shank to hold such things as cheese baits and other bait mixes. There are dozens if not hundreds of such baits on the market.  

For channel cats look for moving water and a little or big change in depth.  You can either cast up current and allow the bait to wash back toward you.  Or drift the bait from a boat.  It should not move very fast.   In a lake find places where there is  even the smallest amount of current.  Put your bait in that area and move it very very slowly.  Channel cats are often called fiddlers because they often nibble and "fiddle" with the bait before taking it.  For this reason you must be patient. Wait until the fish moves away with the bait before setting the hook.

Bullheads can be caught on most of the same things that channel cats eat but are not fond of current.  They like ponds and sluggish waters.  In a lake find places where there is  some change in bottom contour.  These fish like an old creek channel or a mud bank where they can tunnel into the side.  They don't want the bait to be moving around much either.   Let it lie on the bottom for several minutes then move it a little.  Catfish mostly feed by smell so it may take a while for them to follow the scent and find the bait.
If you want to fish for flatheads or bluecats you need to go to big river fishing.  The Ohio River has both species.  I suppose one could fish from the bank using a casting outfit although most such big waters call for a  boat.                        

I hope this has  been some help in getting you started fishing again.  Actually what you did as a child will likely work even today.  

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