What's The Best Time to Fish for Catfish? [Catfishing Guide!]

Best time to fish for catfish

Are you an avid catfish angler looking to reel in some monster fish?

If so, you may be wondering what the best time to fish for catfish is. Catfish are notorious for being nocturnal feeders, making nighttime fishing a popular choice among many anglers. However, there are also prime times during the day when catfish are most active and likely to bite.

Whether you prefer hitting the water at dusk or dawn, or even during the midday heat, knowing the optimal periods to fish for catfish can greatly improve your chances of landing a big catch.

In this comprehensive catfishing guide, we will explore the factors that influence catfish feeding behavior and provide tips on when and where to fish for these elusive bottom-dwellers. Get ready to enhance your catfishing game and reel in some trophy-sized cats!

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Best Time of Day for Catfishing

Whether you're a seasoned angler or just starting out, knowing the best time of day for catfishing can make all the difference in your success.

From the early morning hours to late at night, each time of day offers unique advantages for catching these elusive fish.

Daytime

During the day, particularly in the hot months of late spring, summer, and early fall, catfish often seek refuge in cooler, deeper waters to escape the heat.

Sunlight plays a significant role in their behavior, leading them to rest and become less active as temperatures rise.

While daytime fishing for catfish can be challenging due to their preference for cooler, shaded areas, it's not impossible. Anglers might find success in smaller bodies of water where catfish congregate, making it easier to locate them.

However, the key disadvantage is their reduced activity levels, making them harder to catch as they tend to avoid the warm water near the surface.

Nighttime

Catfish are notably more active at night, making this the prime time for fishing.

The reduced light levels provide better visibility for catfish and less competition for food, prompting them to move closer to shore or riverbanks in search of prey. 

This nocturnal activity aligns with the behavior of their prey, which also becomes more active after dark. Additionally, the cooler temperatures make it more comfortable for both the catfish and the anglers.

Night catfishing offers the advantage of not having to search extensively for catfish since they are naturally drawn to shallower areas to feed, making it an ideal time to catch them.

Best Time to Fish for Catfish - Night Fishing

Best Seasons for Catfishing

Temperatures change during the year. Water warms up and cools down. And, catfish behavior changes with the seasons.

SPRING

During spring, temperatures become higher, water is warming up, and the days become longer.

In early spring, just after winter, water is still cold, and fish are active only during warmest part of a day. It is possible to catch catfish at that time, but same rules apply like in winter.

In early spring catfish will feed actively from very late morning until sunset, because that is the warmest time and warmer weather. As days are still short, your fishing will be limited to just a few hours a day.

After early spring is transitional time. Water becomes warmer, fish are more active. After cold times, they feed very aggressively. At this time of the year sudden drops and rises in temperature are common, and days like that should be avoided for fishing.

Fish will be everywhere, not in expected places and it is very confusing for anglers, especially beginners. The only good thing is that you have similar chances in any time of a day.

When weather stabilizes and the temperature starts to rise, catfish will become extremely active. They will come close to the shores, unlike in winter, and that is a great time to fish from river banks or lake shores. At that time their increased activity will be expressed at night.

During this part of spring you should fish at night, from sunset to sunrise. In spring nights are still long, and our fishing timeframe in a given day is longer than in winter.

The reason why catfish are very aggressive when it comes to food in spring is that they are trying to gain weight. They lost some in winter, and spawn season is coming in summer.

SUMMER

Summer is a good / excellent time to catch a catfish.

At this time of the year they are active during night. The prime time to catch catfish in summer is about one hour before sunset, through the night, until about two hours after sunrise.

Days are too hot and catfish will be hidden in deeper water, in shade. Night fishing in summer is also pleasant for anglers because they are not exposed to heat and sun. Fishing from the shore will be successful as catfish will come to shallower water to eat.

During night fishing you have to be patient because catfish will need more time to see your best catfish bait.

From the end of the spring and beginning of early summer, until midsummer, catfish spawn season occurs (in warm water).

Fishing during spawn season is less successful. Fish behavior is different, and to be honest, they should be left alone during spawn. That is the only way we can have healthy and long-lasting population of fish.

After the spawn season usual fishing pattern for summer can be followed.

Some anglers say it is possible to fish for catfish during daytime in summer too. In order to be successful, you should have access to deeper water and shade (sunken trees and deep holes are the best for that). Catfish will be hidden there and if you present your bait, catfish could bite. They will be less active but hungry. In order to be able to approach a perfect spot for some daytime action, you should have a boat.

 Best Time to Fish for Catfish - Trees in water

FALL

Early fall is similar to late summer. Night fishing, from sunset to sunrise is usually very successful.

After that period, similar as in spring, transition starts to occur. Temperatures change fast and fish behavior is unpredictable. At that time you will have hard time fishing, but you could try any time of day.

Most anglers avoid this time. It doesn’t last long and it is not worth the effort.

As weather stabilizes and temperatures start to drop, fishing time shifts. Similar to winter, you will have more luck during daytime. As temperatures lowers even more, usually in very late fall, the best chance you will have from late morning until sunset, when temperatures are highest.

Also, try to pick locations with warmest water to locate active fish.

Fishing for catfish during fall can be really good. The best part of the fall is after transition period, before very low temperatures. At that time weather and temperatures are stable and catfish feed aggressively, some species of catfish more than others. The reason for that is preparation for winter. They eat as much as they can in order to be fat and healthy to survive less active and food poor time of the year that follows.

As days become shorter and winter approaches, you will have just a few good hours in a day to catch a catfish.

WINTER

During winter water is cold, it can freeze too.

Catfish will be located in the deep waters in the mud and cover because those locations are warmest. That behavior is in a way similar to daytime hiding in summer. Deepest water changes temperature slowly, there is no big fluctuations during day. Upper layers of water can cool down or warm up quickly. That is the reason catfish will stay in the deep.

They will come to shore only during warmest times of the day, which is from midday until before sunset. That is a very short period for you to try to catch it. It would be good to have a boat in order to come closer to their hiding places to increase your chances.

Catfishing at night will give you bad results and it should be avoided. Some species of catfish are also more active than others in winter time so, you need to know what to search for.

Although catfish are calm during winter and don’t feed aggressively, it is wrong to think you can’t catch them. Absence of natural food will make them interested in your bait. If you can consider weather changes and try fishing during rain or snow because it will make them more active.

When talking about seasons, don’t follow the calendar and expect that on a first day of summer spawn season will begin. Or that cold winter won’t last until end of March. Catfish react to temperature. If a given year is different than usual, adapt to those conditions.

Best Time to Fish for Catfish - Winter and Cold Water

Different Times Affect Different Catfish Species Behavior

All catfish species have certain similarities and act in a predictable way.

There are some differences though, and in order to be very successful in fishing for catfish we must consider those differences.

So, what is the prime time to catch catfish?

Channel Catfish

You can try catch channel catfish year-round, and unlike flathead catfish, this one can be caught in winter. Still, the prime time to catch channel catfish is from late spring, before spawn, when they feed aggressively, until fall, when air and water temperatures drop.

When asking what is the best time to catch channel cats, we see the answer is similar to the answer for most common catfish species. Their high-activity periods overlap, and start of those periods varies slightly.

Best Time to Fish for Catfish - Channel

Blue Catfish

One more popular catfish species is the monster blue cat. If you ask what is the ideal moment to fish for blue catfish, the answer a bit different than previous two.

Unlike flathead, blue catfish can be caught in winter. Very good blue catfish period is between mid-winter and early spring, especially for very large specimens. That time of year can be very cold, and fishing can become hard and demanding, so make sure you are well prepared.

Usual period when they bite well, no matter the size is second half of March through April. When spawn season starts, fishing for catfish significantly worsens. After slightly worse summer period, end of summer and first half of fall are very good too.

Best Time to Fish for Catfish - Blue

Flathead Catfish

Flatheads can be caught during day and night, same as other catfish species. During day they will hide in deep shade, during night they will look for food. So, it’s a matter of location. Considering time of year, they will be active from May to October. Mid-summer is not as good, but still you can fish for them.

In theory, you can catch them all year round, but periods when they are feeding most aggressively are the best. Winter time is less likely you will have any success. Anglers also agree that evening bites are more frequent than early morning. When comparing with channel and blue catfish, flathead is the slowest one during winter.

Best Time to Fish for Catfish - Big Fish

So, now that we understand the optimal time for various catfish species, let's delve into the general behavior of catfish.

We'll discuss how they are influenced by the seasons and why, as well as their activity patterns throughout the day and how these patterns shift over the course of a year.

By adhering to these fundamental guidelines, you're likely to achieve considerable success in catfish fishing.

What is the Worst Time of Day for Angler for Catfishing?

So, lets talk about the what is the worst time of day to go catfishing? The answer to that question depends of a season ...

In cold parts of the year, such as very late fall, winter, and early spring, the worst time for catfish is during night. They won’t be active, and even if you locate them, there is a slim chance they will bite.

So, avoid coldest periods in a day.

During summer, it’s the other way around. Worst time is the hottest period in a day, which is around midday. You will have to put a lot of effort in locating them, presenting your bait and hoping that inactive catfish will be interested. So, in summer you should avoid midday time.

During transition periods in spring and fall, any time of the day is equally bad. Especially if you are a beginner. Fish will behave strangely and usual methods of locating them, and usual fishing techniques won’t give good results.

Conclusion

We can’t simply give one answer when someone asks what the ideal moment to fish for catfish is. It depends of season. It also depends of a catfish species we are trying to catch. It depends ...

The good thing is that we can be successful through the year, but some seasons will be more lucrative. The basic rule is to search for catfish in warmest waters in winter, and coldest in summer.

There are different ways to try in order to see what works the best for catching catfish. Follow some basic guidelines and keep on fishing!

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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