Are Catfish Bottom Feeders? Detailed Guide for ...

Are Catfish Bottom Feeders

When talking about catfish, a lot of people think they are bottom feeders. And to some extent, that can be true, but not completely.

There are a lot of catfish species that differ in their behaviour and appearance, as well as the feeding habits. Some are truly bottom feeders but those are rare and they are not the ones interesting to anglers.

In order to successfully catch a catfish, anglers must know what and where they eat, to be able to present their bait correctly. Some of the most frequently caught catfish, like blue, channel, flathead, and even wels in some areas, are not exclusively bottom feeders.

Catfish will feed in all water layers, including the surface, in certain conditions.

Here we are going to discuss:



Get my FREE fishing e-book where you will find my PRO Tips!

Free Fishing Ebook

What is a Bottom Feeder Fish?

Bottom feeders are those fish species who spend most of their time, and all the feeding time on the bottom. Those fish can live in any fresh or salt water, from small ponds to oceans. Those species often hide underneath the mud, as they have the ability to burry.

This behaviour is not only limited to fish. Crabs, shellfish and other organisms such as plants can also be bottom feeders.

Fish that are considered to be bottom feeders mostly have slightly different anatomy than other fish species. Their mouth has a specific shape that enables collecting food on the bottom, and their body is usually flatter.

Mouth that is pointed downwards enables bottom feeding fish to collect food from the floor, which is below them. Flat ventral region enables them to lay on the bottom and hide effectively. Of course, there are some bottom feeder fish species that are the example of this rule, but catfish are not one of them.

Some bottom feeders are detritivores, which means they feed on dead organic material that is available on the bottom.

There are some catfish species that are a part of this group too. Others can eat plants from the bottom, or even be predators and feed on other bottom feeding animals. Catfish are very versatile and we can find species of catfish that feed in all ways mentioned.

Are Catfish Bottom Feeders?

As already mentioned, catfish vary in their behaviour and feeding habits, depending of a species. Most of the catfish species that anglers are trying to catch, will feed in different water layers, including bottom.

To know where to look for them, anglers must know at what time they are on the bottom and when they come to the upper layers.

During the day, most of catfish will be hidden on the bottom and act in a way that bottom feeders do. They will be covered with mud. As the night comes, they will start swimming freely and even show up on the water surface.

Catfish will also follow small fish that they feed on, as well as your bait.

Their position depends of a season too. In hot summer days, and in cold winter, they will be in deeper water, on the bottom, as that layer cools down and heats up slowly. It is cooler in the summer and warmer in winter, than shallow or surface areas.

In spring, catfish will actively search for food, so they will come to shallow water as it warms up, and they will feed in all water layers.

Catfish have the anatomy of bottom feeders but they are more than capable of searching for food and feeding in different water layers.

They are not picky eaters either, most of them will eat anything, from the bottom algae, other fish, even to rodents that accidentally fall into the water. That makes them very resistant and adaptable species.

From this, we can conclude that catfish are not exclusively bottom feeders.

What do Bottom Feeder Catfish Eat the Most?

Catfish, depending of a species and location, eat a variety of food.

When they feed on the bottom, they will eat almost everything available there.

The only requirement for food source is that it can fit into their mouth, as they have no teeth so ripping parts of a larger prey is not an option for them.

Bottom feeder catfish will eat various algae and plant material. They will also consume other fish eggs if available, and scavenged debris from other living organisms. Catfish that feed on the bottom will also eat small fish species that spend time in the same place. Occasionally, the catfish will eat crustaceans that live on the bottom too.

All of the above are food sources normally found in the water. However, different plant material from the land can end up at the water bottom, and it can become a food source for catfish. Different kinds of seed, fruit, grains and similar are eaten by catfish, if available.

Their sensitive barbels enable them to smell and taste any kind of food source, and because of their mouth shape they can collect it from the bottom.

Catfish are omnivores, and they are not picky when it comes to food. They are also opportunistic, and feed in a variety of ways. They can stand in one place waiting for food to come by, roam on the bottom searching for food, or they can behave in a predatory manner when targeting fish.

Are Catfish (eat) Always on the Bottom?

As already mentioned, no, catfish are not always on the bottom.

Some people mistakenly think so, probably because of their body shape, and the fact that catfish spend a part of their time on the bottom.

Bottom, especially muddy, deep and containing natural obstacles like sunken trees, is a good hiding place. When buried under the mud, they are almost invisible to other fish. And as mentioned, deep water layers are good for cooling down during hot days, when sun heats up the surface. That bottom position is also good to lay low and wait for food passing by, as the plant material swept by the current, or small, unsuspecting, fish that gets eaten.

When asking are catfish bottom feeders, most people see them as just bottom dwellers.

Bottom is also an excellent place to spend winter there. Catfish do not hibernate trough the winter, they still feed and some anglers even fish for them at that time. Shallow water, and surface can be very cold, and even freeze if the winter is very cold, but deep layer remains warmer, and during winter, catfish will spend almost all of the time on the bottom.

Spring, fall, and summer nights are the times that catfish is active. At that time, you can find them everywhere. You may even notice groups of catfish together, near the surface. Feeding opportunities determine their behaviour. With temperature changes, food becomes available in other layers, especially of small fish species and catfish will follow them.

What Other Fish are Considered as Bottom Feeders?

There are other fish species, except catfish that are bottom feeders. Some of them are exclusively on the bottom, while others, same as catfish, have the ability to spend time and feed in different water layers.

Some of the well-known bottom feeders are:

Bass – there are numerous bass fish species, in both fresh and salt water, around the world. They are one of the most popular game fish species, especially largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Carp – carp is another popular game fish species, found in ponds, lakes and rivers. They are native to Europe and Asia, and considered invasive species in North America, Australia, and certain parts of African continent.

Certain sharks – sharks are a group of fish sharing certain characteristics and there are various shark species, from very small to huge ones. Some of them, like the family of carpet sharks, are bottom feeders.

Grouper – Groupers are actually a fish family that include two genera; Epinephelus and Mycteroperca. They all have certain characteristics similar, such as large mouth, wide body and they are slow swimmers, not covering very large distances.

Snapper – snappers are also a family of fish, mostly living in salt water. Red snapper is one of the most popular game fish from this family. Snappers can grow quite large, and they live in tropical and sub-tropical areas.

Flatfish – as the name suggests, those fish have a flat body that can easily be hidden on the bottom, under the sand. Many flatfish species have both eyes on the one side of the head. There are more than 800 flatfish species, divided into 16 families.

Of course, those mentioned above are just a few in a very long bottom feeder fish list.

Is it Good (and Safe) to Eat Bottom Feeder Fish?

Everyone has probably heard that bottom feeders are not good to eat, and some go as far as saying they are not healthy enough to be consumed. Some say they smell and taste like mud, and that by eating them, people actually eat whatever the bottom feeders ate from the floor.

Bottom feeders have been consumed in many countries across the world, and have been a part of human diet for centuries. And no one had any bad side affects from eating them.

The quality of the fish meat depends of a location a lot, and about environment, which is the same as with many other animals consumed people.

It is possible to prepare bottom feeders like catfish in a thousand different ways, and people saying it tastes bad probably don’t know how to do it properly. Anyone who wants to eat bottom feeders should definitely try them.

Those fish species are very tasteful and anyone can find a recipe that suits them. From just frying them, to complicated preparation, there is something for every skill level too.

What are the BEST Baits and Methods for bottom fishing?

Now we know the answer to “are catfish bottom feeders” question. If catching them on the bottom, anglers must choose the right bait and fishing method.

Bottom fishing, as the name says is catching a fish by presenting the bait at the bottom, using weighted baits or lures, where those fish naturally feed.

First of all, anglers must locate the fish. They like to hide in mud, near the natural obstacles underwater that they use as a hiding point. For experienced anglers, finding such a place is not very complicated.

Presenting the bait on the bottom is also suitable for beginners, as they don’t need to use floats, which can sometimes be more complicated. There are a few methods to catch a bottom feeder:

Drift fishing - one of the most popular methods for bottom fishing is drift fishing. Anglers present their bait at the bottom and then move it across to make the fish bite. This method is mostly practiced from boats.

Fishing from the shore or pier – anglers fishing from the shore can’t cover as much area as those fishing from a boat, but it can still be very effective. And here the location is extremely important, as the anglers can just present their bait in front of the fish and wait for the fish to bite.

Choosing a bait is also very important

If you are fishing for catfish, make sure you use suitable / best baits. They are not very picky and they are attracted by strong smell. When bottom fishing for catfish, use one of the following baits:

Chicken liver
• Pellets and boilies
• Crawfish
• Shad
• Dip baits
Stink baits
• Worms

The rule with catfish is, the smellier – the better. You can try with different ones. Stink and dip baits can be bought in fishing stores and they already contain smell that attracts catfish.

If you are trying to catch other bottom feeders, choosing appropriate baits is crucial. For bottom carp fishing try using one of the following:

• Boilies
• Sweet corn
• Pellets

Another popular bottom feeder is bass, which reacts very well on lures like:

• Crank baits
• Jerk baits
• Worms
• Swimbaits

When fishing for bottom feeders try to use different baits and see which one is the best for a certain location and season.

Are Catfish Bottom Feeders - Best Bait - Boilies


Are catfish bottom feeders? Hopefully, after reading previous chapters, you got the answer. Catfish are not exclusively bottom feeders, but they do feed, and spend time on the bottom, especially in certain seasons and daytimes.

Catfish feed on a variety of foods, and can also be caught by using different, but strong-smelling baits.

Except for exciting fishing experience, catfish make a very good meal, if prepared in the right way. They are tasty and safe to eat.

Next time you will be fishing for catfish, try using fish as baits. Those are very effective when it comes to catching larger specimens, so the one that ends up on your hook may pleasantly surprise you!

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind 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 ...

Affiliate Disclaimer:

Slo-fishing is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. We also participates in eBay Partner Network, FishingBooker, ClickBank and Teespring affiliate programs. We are compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.