Catfish is one of the most underrated fish in the country. They grow big, taste great, and the catfish population has exploded in recent years, leaving many anglers wondering, when is the best time to fish for catfish? In this short guide, you’ll learn when is the best time to fish for catfish to increase your chances of success.
What Is The Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish?
The best time of day to catch catfish is from sunrise to 10 am. This time window is before the sun is directly overhead and the water temperature is still cooler than the previous night. Catfish will be more active as they forage before the overhead sun warms the water, while predatory fish will seek cover.
The next best time to catch catfish in the last two hours before sunset. The angle of the sun is usually covered by trees, which makes the water temperature start to cool.
It’s important to understand that the time of day and amount of sunlight has an impact on the lake’s entire food chain.
During the hottest times of the day, the baitfish and feed the catfish eat will seek cover. This means less food intake and activity throughout the food chain system in the lake and can slow down the rate of bites.
It is much easier to catch catfish from a boat during the day because you can go to deeper waters. You can fish from the shore, you just need to be able to cast accurately into deep water. Start at the deepest fishing spots and humps in a river or lake, and work your way up the shallows until you find the right depth. This requires a deeper understanding of the waters you’re fishing in but can be just as beneficial.
Catfishing at Night
People go catfish fishing at night for two good reasons – the weather is much cooler and the fish will be found in shallower waters. Why? Simply put, catfish follow their stomachs, and their stomachs follow their feed. On hot summer days, the top water gets too hot for bait fishing. They also feel safer in open water under the cover of darkness. However, catfish are scent-based hunters and have no problem tracking feed in the dark.
What Is The Best Time of A Year to Catch Catfish?
Likewise, most people have limited views on when to catch catfish. You might think catfish fishing is just a summer thing. Of course, summer is the best time to find catfish, but you can catch them all year round. It’s not uncommon to even catch a Strait cat on the ice! It depends on the species, but a general rule of thumb is that they prefer deep, slow-moving water in winter and shallow, fast-moving water in summer.
Spring is the same as fall, depending on the season you are fishing. For catfish in early spring just after the snow has melted or the last freezing night, the catfish still behave similarly to their winter customs.
Later in the day, you may catch more catfish than in the evening and morning. Catfish become more active as the water temperature rises. Late spring, summer approaching, night fishing. Sunset to sunrise tends to be the hottest time for me.
These fish will come to your bait to be more aggressive and you can fish well from shore. You can catch cats at noon, but I find they tend to be in deeper water.
In summer, the best time to catch catfish that is actively hunting seems to be at night. From one hour before sunset to two hours after sunset seems to be the optimal time window.
Catfish will emerge from those deeper holes where they live during the day and then enter shallow bays and flats to chase bluegill, bass, and herring. I fish a lot from the shore so evening is the best time to get hungry catfish.
Just remember to let your bait soak longer at night before moving, as the catfish will be out hunting, so give them some extra time to find your hook.
If you have a boat and can find deep falls with stacked lumber, you can kill catfish by tying them tightly together during the day. To learn how to catch catfish in summer and warm weather, see this article.
In the fall, catfish can be bitten by herring. The herring starts school and the catfish goes into hunting mode. I find it’s great to go from sunset to sunrise in the early fall, when cats are outside looking for your food, they’ll find your bait.
Later in the fall, as water temperatures plummet and look more like winter, there is more fishing in the middle and late part of the day. Use live or cut bait for these fish. I like to use live baby bluegills for big flathead cats and cut herring for blues and channel cats. Early fall is one of the best times to catch a good cat.
In winter, catfish try to stay warm. This means they will once again be “in the mud”, at the bottom of the deepest burrows near reservoirs and creek mouths. At these locations, look for the deepest holes.
If you catch catfish in the winter and they have mud on their stomachs, you now know why. Probably the best time of day to catch winter catfish is from late morning to sunset. Catfish fishing at night in winter will not work well. It will be too cold outside.
For catfish, locating the catfish is the most important part of fishing as long as you use natural bait. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time of day. Fishing is easy once the first part is done right.