What's The Best Time to Fish for Catfish? Complete Guide!

Best time to fish for catfish

When fishing, anglers must take into consideration a lot of factors influencing their chances to catch a certain fish species.

Fish are sensitive to seasonal water temperature changes. They are also sensitive to temperature fluctuations during day.

Some feed during day, some during night, and for some, both options are possible.

When fishing for catfish, anglers often ask what is the best time of the year to fish for catfish?

Catfish are interesting to anglers for various reasons, but one of them is the possibility to catch them in every season of the year. Despite that, some seasons are better than other. The same goes for time of the day.

To be successful during fishing for catfish you must know how to follow their behavioral patterns through the year and adjust your techniques. Except that, here you will find out if there are differences within the same season in different locations, which is often neglected by anglers.

If you are trying to find out what is the best time to fish for catfish, read the following chapters, and see how seasons and time of day affect different catfish species.

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Different Species and Different Times

There are numerous catfish species, and although their behavior is similar, they are not completely the same.

When talking about what is the best time to fish for catfish, we have to take those differences into consideration.

We are going to discuss these differences later on.

Before focusing on popular catfish species, we have to explain how catfish behave in general.

How they are affected by seasons and why, at what time of the day are they active and how that pattern changes during the year.

If you follow those basic rules you should be quite successful in catfish fishing.

Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter

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

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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. 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 mostly during nighttime, 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 time to catch a catfish.

At this time of the year they are active during night. The best time to fish for 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 deep 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 shallow water to eat.

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

From the end of the spring and beginning of summer, until midsummer, catfish spawn season occurs.

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 deep water and shade (sunken trees 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.

Fishing 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.

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Morning or Evening

So, what is the best time of day to catch catfish?

Morning and evening we can consider during late spring, summer and early fall, because in those seasons we fish from before sunset until couple of hours after sunrise. Anglers agree that this period is the best, but is it better in the evening, or in the morning?

Some anglers say that evening time is slightly better. Catfish will rest during hot days and as sunset approaches, they will start feeding. Some think that they are hungrier at evening time. They will keep on eating through the night and won’t be that aggressive in the morning. Also, in the morning, as temperatures start to rise, their activity will start slowing down.

That behavior also follows the pray behavior. Other small fish will also rest during days and become active at night.

Day or Night

When comparing day and night, we are comparing different seasons too.

In winter, days are better, especially afternoon. In summer, as we already mentioned, most fish during the night, when catfish comes closer to shore, out of its deep hiding places.

But if you search the right locations you can catch it during the day too.

If they are hiding it is not easy to find them. If you are fishing on smaller water surfaces full of catfish, once you find them, there will probably be a lot of them. That is the only advantage of daytime fishing for catfish.

Nighttime is much better for various reasons. First of all, you don’t have to search for them, they will come close to the shores or banks while looking for food, and they will find your bait.

Second reason is that they are most active after sunrise.

Also, nights are easier for the angler, because summer days can be too hot.

There is no universal answer to “what is the best time of day to catch catfish” question.

It depends on a season too.

Best Time to Fish for Catfish - Night Fishing

The best time to fish for flathead catfish

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 best time to fish for flathead catfish?

They 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.

The best time to fish for channel catfish

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

When asking what is the best time to fish for channel catfish, 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.

The best time to fish for blue catfish

One more popular catfish species is blue catfish. If you ask what is the best time 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 for River, Lake and Pond fishing for Catfish

Except seasons, we have to consider locations. As we know, fish react to temperature changes and small, shallow water surfaces warm up faster than deep and large ones.

Ponds are the smallest ones and tend to warm up faster. They are also shallow and don’t have steep shores and very deep water next to it. Here catfish will become active and come to shallow, warmer parts, close to shore, earlier than in deep, large lakes. Those will need more time to warm up, and catfish will be inactive longer.

The same applies for daytime. Water will become warmer earlier in a day so that will enable/disable your fishing sooner, depending of a season.

Rivers are usually cooler because water flows. In summer, you may have more luck in rivers, where catfish is more active, due to lower water temperature.

Anglers agree that in winter catfish prefer deep and still water, and in summer, shallower and flowing ones.

In summer, catfish, especially blue catfish is more likely to be active during day in stronger currents. The same activity in steady waters will be expressed at night.

Worst Time of Day to fish for catfish

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 to fish 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.

Does the moon affect fishing for catfish?

Answer to this question may seem very strange. A lot of different fish species react to moon phase. During full moon visibility is much better.

That is a reason that some common species are more actively feeding and anglers fish for them during full moon.

Catfish is different. Anglers say they bite better during very dark nights. You can catch them during any moon phase, and night fishing in certain seasons is always good, but with experience, you may figure out that darker nights are a bit better.

Dark nights, especially during new moon phase, are the best for presenting your bait at the bottom. Some anglers say during full moon, if they notice that catfish won’t bite, they present their bait off the bottom, or in shallower parts than usual, where moon lights the water better in order for the bait to visually attract the catfish.

There are numerous theories about the reason behind this unusual catfish behavior, and no matter which one is correct, they all agree it’s better to fish for catfish during dark nights, especially during new moon.

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Conclusion

We can’t simply give one answer when someone asks what the best time 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.

Catfish is mostly very predictable. If we manage to locate them, which sometimes is the hardest part, we have a chance to catch them.

If you want to maximize your chances to catch a big one, choose appropriate time for certain species, find a good location and take into consideration weather and moon phase.

There are different ways to try in order to see what works the best for you in a certain location.

Follow some basic guidelines and keep on fishing for catfish!

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