When Do Catfish Bite Best?

Are you a catfish enthusiast looking for the best time to snag some big ones? If the answer is yes, then we have good news! You’re in the right place. Catfishing can be a delightful sport once you know when and where to cast your line. Through a combination of decades-old wisdom and modern technology, understanding how and when catfish bite best has never been easier.

This blog post gives you all the tips, tricks, and insider information to help catapult your catch rate to new levels! From identifying spots with high concentrations of fish to choosing gear explicitly designed for catfishing success, you’ll be ready to head out on your next fishing adventure with confidence by the end of this post. So let’s jump right in – it’s time to learn everything there is to know about successful catfishing!

1. Best Times of Day for Catfishing

When embarking on a catfishing expedition, timing is one of the most crucial factors. Like most predatory fish, catfish are more active during specific times of the day, making these periods ideal for fishing. Here’s a more detailed look at these optimal times:

Early Morning Fishing

As dawn breaks and the sun begins to rise, catfish start their feeding routine. The period from sunrise till around 10 am is known as a time when catfish are particularly active. The lower water temperatures during the early morning hours and the reduced light levels make this an ideal feeding time for catfish. So, if you’re an early bird, this is a perfect opportunity to cast your line and reel in some big ones.

Late Morning to Sunset

If the early morning isn’t your cup of tea, fret not! You can still have a successful fishing venture later in the day. From late morning extending to sunset, catfish remain pretty active, especially during the winter months. The diminishing daylight triggers a feeding response in catfish, making this another opportune time to fish.

Nighttime Fishing

Nighttime is often hailed as the best time to fish for catfish. These creatures are nocturnal predators, possessing excellent sensory adaptations that allow them to navigate and hunt efficiently in low-light conditions. During the summer months, the hour leading up to sunset, extending through the night until about two hours post-sunrise, are considered prime fishing hours.

Seasonal Considerations

Besides the daily timings, it’s also essential to consider the season when planning your catfishing trip. Certain times of the year are better suited for catching specific types of catfish. For example, late March, April, and early May are touted as the best times for catching blue catfish. On the other hand, late spring and early fall are prime times for flathead catfish, as they feed heavily in preparation for spawning.

2. What to Look for in the Weather Conditions for Catfishing

When planning a catfishing adventure, it’s just as important to consider the weather conditions as it is to know the best times of day to fish. Various weather factors can influence catfish behavior, affecting their feeding patterns and, consequently, your chances of making a successful catch. Here’s what you need to know:

Water Temperature

Catfish are most active when the water temperature ranges between 70°F and 85°F. Catfish tend to feed more during these warmer conditions, increasing your likelihood of catching them. However, don’t be discouraged if the water is more relaxed. Catfish can still be caught in colder temperatures. Active feeding begins when the water temperature hits the mid-60°F range, but with the right approach and patience, you can even snag some catfish when the water is around 50°F.

Seasonal Changes

The time of year plays a crucial role in determining catfish activity. For instance, catching catfish in cold water during winter may require more effort, but it can be worthwhile. On the other hand, spring catfishing can be challenging after a cold front, as the fishing can slow down depending on how early in the spring it is.

Weather Stability

Stability in water and air temperatures rather than dramatic changes often leads to better catfishing conditions. Catfish prefer predictable, stable weather; sudden changes can disrupt their feeding patterns. So, while a warm front will almost always improve fishing, a sudden cold snap could have the opposite effect.


Interestingly, rainfall can also affect catfishing success. During catfish bite during rain, the activity tends to slow down during a heavy downpour. However, the bite picks up once the rain stops, making the period right after a rain shower an excellent time to fish.

3. What Type of Bait is Best to Use When Catfishing 

Choosing the correct bait can make a world of difference when catfishing. Different species of catfish have varied preferences, but some universally effective baits can help you reel in the big ones. Here’s a rundown:


First on the list is the ubiquitous nightcrawler. This favored food for all fish species also tops the menu for catfish. Their wriggly movement and scent can attract catfish from a distance.

Gizzard Shad

Another top choice is the gizzard shad. These small fish are a staple in the diet of many catfish species, making them an excellent bait option.


Whether dead or alive, crawfish are a delicacy for various catfish species. They might be overlooked as bait, but they can effectively entice a bite.

Live Fish

Good hearty and lively baits like live perch, bluegill, sunfish, goldfish, or mudcats are preferred for catching flatheads. The movement and distress signals sent out by live fish can draw in predatory catfish.


Freshwater mussels and other mollusks like Asian clams, zebra, and quagga mussels also make good baits. Blue catfish are noted for their love of these.

Chicken Liver

Chicken liver is a classic catfish bait option. Its robust and meaty smell draws catfish from broad areas.


Believe it or not, hotdogs, especially when combined with Kool-Aid and garlic powder, can work wonders as catfish bait during summer.

4. Investing in the Right Gear for Catfishing – Tips to Consider

Equipping yourself with the right gear is essential for a successful catfishing trip. From rods and reels to hooks and lines, your chosen gear can significantly impact your fishing experience. Here are some tips to consider when investing in catfishing gear:

Choose the Right Rod

A sturdy, medium-heavy to heavy power rod is ideal for catfishing. The length of the rod can vary based on personal preference and fishing conditions, but generally, a 7 to 9-foot rod is suitable for most situations.

Select the Appropriate Reel

Regarding reels, you’ll want something durable and capable of handling heavy loads. Baitcasting reels are a popular choice among experienced anglers due to their strength and control, but spinning reels can be an excellent option for beginners due to their ease of use.

Pick the Perfect Line

The line you choose should be strong enough to withstand the weight of a large catfish and the stress of a lengthy fight. Monofilament lines are a good choice for their versatility and affordability, while braided lines offer superior strength and durability.

Don’t Skimp on Hooks

The type of hook you use can make a big difference in your catch rate. Circle hooks are often recommended for catfishing because they’re designed to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, making it easier to release them unharmed if necessary. A size 4/0 to 8/0 is a good starting point for most catfish species.

Consider a Catfish-Specific Bait

While many different types of bait can attract catfish, there are also baits specifically designed for catfishing. These baits often come in a paste or dough form and contain scents that catfish find irresistible.

Keep a Good Tackle Box

A well-organized tackle box with various hooks, sinkers, swivels, and other essentials can be a game-changer for fishing trips. It allows you to adapt to changing conditions and try different setups until you find the best.

5. How to Find the Perfect Spot for Catfishing

Finding the perfect spot for catfishing can often be the difference between a successful day of fishing and going home empty-handed. Catfish are creatures of habit, and understanding their behavior can help you pinpoint where they’re likely to be. Here are some tips to help you find that perfect catfishing spot:

Look for Structure

Catfish love structure. They typically hang out near places that provide cover, like fallen trees, rock piles, bridge pilings, and deep holes. These structures offer protection from predators and serve as excellent spots for ambushing prey.

Consider Depth Changes

Areas where the depth of the water changes abruptly, such as ledges, drop-offs, and river channels, often attract catfish. These areas are prime feeding grounds as they funnel smaller fish and other food sources, making them attractive to hungry catfish.

Check Out Inlets and Outlets

Inlets and outlets, where water flows into or out of a lake or pond, can be fantastic places to fish for catfish. The moving water brings in food, making these areas hotspots for feeding catfish.

Don’t Ignore Shallow Flats

Shallow flats, particularly those near deeper water, can be excellent places to catch catfish, especially in the early morning or late evening. During these times, catfish often move to the shallows to feed.

Use Your Nose

Catfish have a keen sense of smell and are attracted to areas with abundant food. If you smell something fishy, there’s a good chance catfish could be nearby.

Watch for Birds

Birds diving into the water can be a telltale sign of baitfish activity, which can attract catfish. Watch for bird activity when looking for a place to fish.

6. What Kinds of Techniques Can Be Used While Catfishing

When it comes to catfishing, there are several techniques you can employ to increase your chances of landing a big catch. Here’s an overview of some effective methods:

Bottom Fishing

Bottom fishing is one of the most common techniques used when catfishing. As the name suggests, this method involves casting your bait and letting it sink to the bottom of the water body where catfish are often found. A weight or sinker is typically used to keep the bait at the desired depth.

Drift Fishing

Drift fishing is a technique where you allow your boat to drift naturally with the wind or current. Your baited lines are cast out, and as you drift, the bait covers a broader area, increasing your chances of attracting a catfish. This method is particularly effective in larger bodies of water.

Jug Fishing

Jug fishing involves a jug (or a similar floating device) with a line and hook attached. The jug is a bobber, and when a catfish bites, it pulls the jug under the water. This technique allows you to cover a wide area and fish multiple spots simultaneously.

Trotline Fishing

A trotline is a long line with multiple baited hooks attached at intervals. One end of the line is tied off to a stationary object, and the line is stretched across a part of the water where catfish are likely to be. This method is excellent for catching multiple fish at once.


Noodling, or hand fishing, is using your bare hands to catch catfish. This method is not for the faint-hearted, as it involves reaching into underwater holes where catfish might be hiding and pulling them out by hand.

Having navigated the intricacies of catfishing, from their feeding habits to choosing the right gear, we hope you now have a comprehensive understanding of when catfish bite best. A successful catfishing expedition involves more than just casting your line and waiting. It requires a keen understanding of catfish behavior, weather conditions, the right equipment, and patience.

With these insights, you can embark on your next catfishing adventure with newfound confidence. Whether you’re an early bird hoping to catch some at dawn or a night owl looking forward to moonlit fishing, remember that the most critical aspect of catfishing is to enjoy the experience. So, get out there, cast your line, and let the thrill of reeling in a big one fuel your passion for this beautiful sport. Happy catfishing!