When do catfish bite best

Time Matters: Maximizing Your Catfish Catch by Knowing When They Bite Best

Timing is crucial when it comes to catfishing. Understanding when these fish are most likely to feed can significantly increase your catch. Catfish are primarily nocturnal creatures, making dusk to dawn the best times to fish. However, they can also be caught during daylight, mainly when the water is cloudy or muddy.

Several factors can influence catfish behavior, including the time of day, weather conditions, and the specific season. Regarding weather, catfish feed more aggressively before a cold front. During the summer season, catfish tend to feed during the more excellent hours of the day, whereas, in the winter, the warmest part of the day is typically the best time to fish. Understanding these nuances can play a huge role in your catfishing success. We’ll look closer at when catfish bite best in the post below.

Which Species of Catfish are you Targeting?

While some people don’t go after a specific species of catfish, such as flatheads, it makes a difference when these species bite. Here are some of the more common species of catfish:

Flathead Catfish

Flathead Catfish, also known as “Yellow Cat,” “Opelousa Cat,” or “Pied Cat,” is one of the most popular species among anglers due to their size and the challenges they present. They are unique in their preference for live prey, making them more elusive and demanding to catch. Their feeding patterns vary with changes in water temperature

During the warmer months, they are most active during nighttime hours. However, they tend to feed more during the late afternoon to dusk in cooler weather. Recognizing these habits and adapting your strategies can increase the chances of landing a Flathead.

Blue Catfish

Blue Catfish, often called “Humpback blues,” are another beloved species among fishing enthusiasts due to their impressive size and fight. Unlike Flathead Catfish, Blue Catfish are opportunistic feeders and will consume a variety of food sources, making them easier to bait. 

Blue Catfish are typically more active during the colder months and feed throughout the day. During warmer weather, they tend to be more nocturnal, feeding from late evening through the early morning hours. 

Channel Catfish

Channel Catfish are one of the most widely recognized and targeted species of catfish, renowned for their adaptability and voracious feeding habits. Commonly referred to as “Speckled Cats” or “Fork-tails,” these fish are omnivorous scavengers, consuming a mixed diet ranging from small fish and insects to plant matter.

Channel Catfish prefer warmer water temperatures; thus, their feeding activity significantly increases during the spring and summer months. As the temperatures rise, they feed extensively throughout the day and into the night, with the peak activity occurring during dusk and dawn. However, in the cooler months, Channel Catfish tend to be less active and feed mainly during the warmer parts of the day. 

Best Time to Catch Catfish

To enhance your catfishing success, let’s dive deeper into understanding how the times of the day influence the feeding habits of catfish.

Catfishing at Night

Nighttime is arguably the best time to catch catfish, particularly during the warm summer. As nocturnal creatures, catfish are most active during the hours of darkness, which is also when they do the bulk of their feeding. This is especially true for larger species like Flathead and Blue Catfish.

Evening: The Feeding Frenzy Begins

As the sun sets and the water begins to cool, catfish will start coming out from their daytime hiding spots in search of food. This initial dusk period can often be a very productive time to fish as catfish are beginning their nightly feeding routine. Using strong-smelling baits can be particularly effective during this period, as catfish rely heavily on their sense of smell to locate food.

Night: Peak Activity Hours

Once darkness has set in, the catfish feeding activity typically reaches its peak. They often move into shallower waters to hunt, making them more accessible to anglers. Night fishing for catfish can require additional preparation, such as using unique lights or glow-in-the-dark baits to attract the fish. Still, the potential for a rewarding catch is significantly increased.

Daytime Catfishing

Early Morning: The Early Bird Gets the Catfish

In the early hours of the morning, as the sun begins to rise, catfish can still be quite active and feeding. The water is still relatively calm from the night, and catfish use this transition period to take advantage of the remaining darkness and cooler water temperatures. This is especially true during summer when days can become intensely hot. Therefore, early morning angling can yield excellent results, especially if you get to your spot just before dawn when catfish wrap up their nocturnal feeding. Using a variety of bait, like cut bait or live bait, can be effective during this period.

Daytime: Unconventional but Productive

While catfish are famous for their nocturnal activity, this doesn’t mean they don’t feed during the day. In fact, under the right conditions, daytime can be a surprisingly productive time to fish for catfish. Catfish retreat to more profound, cooler water during the day, especially in warmer months. Therefore, targeting these areas can lead to successful catches. Weather patterns also play a significant role during the day. Overcast or drizzly days can encourage catfish to feed, as the cloud cover mimics lower light conditions. Similarly, if the water is muddy or murky, catfish are likely to feed regardless of the time of day. Light tackle and smaller baits tend to be more effective during the daytime, as catfish are mainly resting and less likely to pursue large prey.

Best Season for Catfishing

Seasonal variations significantly influence catfish behavior and feeding patterns. Knowledge of these changes is crucial for a successful fishing excursion.


As water temperatures rise in spring, catfish begin to move from their winter habitats in search of food, making it an excellent time for anglers. The temperature increase stimulates feeding in preparation for the spawning period that typically begins in late spring and extends into early summer.


Summer is often cited as the prime time for catfishing, especially for the larger species like Flathead and Blue Catfish. The warm water temperatures and longer daylight hours lead to increased feeding activity, particularly at night. This is also the season when catfish spawn, and fishing around nesting areas can often yield good results.


Autumn can also be a productive time for catfishing. As water temperatures drop, catfish feed more heavily in preparation for the colder months ahead. They will typically move into shallower waters during this period, which can make them more accessible to anglers.


Winter is generally the most challenging season for catfishing, as the cold water temperatures can significantly reduce catfish activity. They tend to retreat to deeper waters and feed less frequently. However, targeted efforts during the warmest part of the day can still result in successful catches, particularly for species like the Channel Catfish, which are more tolerant of colder temperatures.

Catfish Baits

Choosing the right bait is a crucial aspect of successful catfishing. The choice of bait can vary depending on the species of catfish you’re targeting, the season, and the time of day. 

Natural Baits

Natural baits such as nightcrawlers, minnows, shad, and sunfish are commonly used for catfishing. These baits are effective because they are part of the catfish’s natural diet. Freshly cut pieces of bait fish such as shad or herring can be particularly effective for giant catfish.

Prepared Baits

Prepared or commercial baits are also popular among catfish anglers. These include chicken livers, dough baits, and stink baits. These types of baits are often strong-smelling and tend to attract catfish through their keen sense of smell.

Artificial Baits

Artificial lures can also be used successfully for catfishing, especially for active feeders like Channel Catfish. Lures that mimic the movement and appearance of small fish can be particularly effective. 

How to Build the Best Catfishing Rig

Building the best catfishing rig involves selecting the appropriate equipment based on your fishing conditions. 


  • Rod and Reel: Opt for a medium-heavy rod around 7 to 9 feet long. Pair it with a reliable reel designed for heavy lines and capable of handling the size of the catfish you’re targeting.
  • Line: A braided or monofilament line with a test strength of 15-20 pounds is typically suitable. Consider using a heavier line if fishing in areas with many structures or for more giant catfish.
  • Hooks: Circle hooks are often preferred for catfishing as they are designed to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, which is perfect for catch and release. The size of the hook would depend on the size of the bait and the species of catfish you’re targeting.

The Rig

  • Slip-Sinker Rig: The slip-sinker rig is one of the most popular catfishing rigs. This rig is excellent for bottom fishing and is quite simple to set up. First, thread your main line through a sinker of appropriate weight based on the current. Next, thread a bead to prevent the sinker from sliding down to the hook. Follow this with a swivel that will allow the bait to move naturally with the current. Attached to the other end of the swivel is a leader line, at the end of which you tie your hook with the bait.

Remember, the key to a successful catfishing experience is not just about having the perfect rig but also understanding the behavior and habitat of your target species. So, always experiment and tweak your setup based on your specific fishing conditions.

Catfishing in Different Locations

Catfishing In Rivers

Rivers can provide excellent opportunities for catfishing. The presence of a current creates natural feeding channels for catfish, making location selection more straightforward. Look for areas where the current is broken by structures such as logs, boulders, or artificial features. These spots provide a break for catfish from the current and often attract a concentration of food. Deep pools, confluences of tributaries, and undercut banks can also be productive spots. Remember, catfish are opportunistic feeders and will position themselves in locations where food is likely to come to them.

Catfishing In Lakes

Lakes present a different set of challenges and opportunities for catfishing. Without a current, food distribution can be more random; therefore, catfish may roam more extensively in search of a meal. Key lake locations include drop-offs, underwater structures such as hollow trees or rock formations, and inlet streams. Night fishing can be incredibly productive in lakes during summer, as catfish move into the shallows to feed. Using electronics like fish finders can significantly enhance your ability to locate promising spots and track catfish movement in lakes.

Final Thoughts

Catfishing can be incredibly rewarding and enjoyable, especially when you equip yourself with the right tools and knowledge. Understanding the behavior and habitat of catfish is critical, as these factors can significantly influence your strategy and chances of success. Feel free to experiment with different baits, rigs, and locations until you find what works best. 

Frequently Asked Questions