Since I can remember, I was always told that if you want to catch catfish, you have to go fishing for them at night. I have to admit…I don’t do a lot of fishing for catfish, but when I do, it’s usually at night. In fact on one of my recent trips, I thought to myself…do catfish really bite best at night or do they bite just as good during the day? What is the best time of day to catch catfish? After doing some research, along with a few experiments, here’s what I discovered.
While it seems as though catfish will bite at all times throughout the day, you will usually have better luck during the nighttime hours. The cooler temperatures during the night seem to cause the fish to be much more aggressive and willing to strike. However, if you have enough patience, you can still catch plenty of catfish during the day.
With that being said, it seems as though catfish react differently depending on which part of the country or even in which body of water you are fishing. For me here in Florida, I’ve had the most success during the evening hours, especially during the summer months. This might be different for you, depending on what part of the country you are from.
Why Catfish Might Bite Better at Night
Depending on who you ask, you are likely to get a few different answers, or in some cases, the same answer when it comes to the best time to go fishing for catfish.
When it comes to any type of fishing, we fishermen usually base our opinions/methods on what we’ve been told since we were little kids, as well as what has worked in the past. This is especially true if you’ve had even the slightest luck with a certain spot, method, or specific time of day.
When it comes to catching catfish, I would venture to say that most of us have been taught that the best time of day is sometime during the night time hours.
With that being said, catfish will bite whenever they get hungry! It doesn’t matter whether it’s dark out or not.
The thing is, the dark of the night doesn’t affect a catfish’s feeding pattern whatsoever!
Unlike some species of fish that are drawn to lights when it gets dark, it’s been my experience that catfish are not.
However, catfish are attracted to baitfish like shad, and shad are attracted to lights. This is why many anglers prefer to fish at night so that they can use the lights to their advantage.
Another reason catfish may bite better during the night has nothing to do with the catfish at all.
It has to do with us!
Catfish tend to feed in patterns and if you miss their most recent feeding, you are going to have to wait a while before they are ready to feed again. This where patience comes into play!
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot more patience when fishing in the cool of the night rather than the heat of those hot summer days. Here in Florida, that can mean temperatures reaching into the mid to high 90’s.
Something else that might have an effect on how catfish feed at night is the temperature of the water, especially during the summer months.
With the cool of the night also comes cooler water temperatures. I know that when I go nighttime fishing for sea trout and other inshore fish, these cooler temps can really turn the bite on and make an otherwise lethargic fish much more aggressive.
As I said before, I don’t go fishing for catfish all that much, so I don’t have any real evidence to back this up, but I would imagine the same holds true when fishing for catfish.
Don’t worry though! If you don’t like the thought of fishing in the middle of a lake in the wee hours of the night, you can still catch catfish during the day.
Catfish have an amazing sense of smell and have excellent vision and will eventually find your bait, especially if you’re using something really stinky.
Where to Catch Catfish During The Day
Most anglers will agree that overall, the nighttime hours are the best for targeting these whiskery bottom feeders, but the bite can sometimes be just as good (if not better) during the day!
This is especially true if you happen to be fishing during cool water periods such as after a good rain, or during the cooler months!
Another time that you might want to try your luck during the day is during the pre-spawn.
In most parts of the country, catfish start their spawning season in the spring. It’s during this time, catfish seem to be much more aggressive and will be more likely to feed during all hours of the day.
Outside of these two events, if you plan on targeting catfish during the day, you’re probably going to need a boat if you want to better your chances.
Once the summer hits, most catfish will fall into their normal patterns. This means that during the hot summer days, they will likely be hunkering down in holes that contain structure, deep-water channels, and drop-offs in order to be the hot surface temps.
While you can sometimes access these areas from the bank, you will typically need a boat.
However, you can catch catfish in any part of a lake, creek, pond or canal! You’re just likely to have more success if you can get to where they are likely holed up.
Another popular spot for catching catfish during the day is around bridges and piers.
If you can find one that you can access by foot, you’re good to go!
Do Catfish Bite Better in The Summer Months
Catfish will bite anytime during the year, but it’s been my experience that they bite better in the summer months. I know there will be other anglers that disagree, but that’s when I’ve had the most success.
With that being said, you have to know where to find them, especially if you plan on fishing for them during the day.
This can be a challenge as well as a blessing!
With the summer comes an increase in water temperatures. This increase can cause catfish to become lethargic and sluggish, making them unwilling to feed (aggressively at least).
This behavior can actually work to fishermen’s advantage!
When the water temps increase, most catfish will seek cooler waters. They will seek deepwater drop-offs, structure, as well as areas with current, which can provide them with cool fresh water, not to mention baitfish.
If you can access these spots, your chances are pretty good at not coming home empty-handed.
Most anglers who target catfish during the summer months choose to do so during the nighttime hours.
This is in part to anglers trying to avoid the heat, but also because as with fishing in the day time, catfish, especially flatheads, can be predictable during the night as well. They will typically be more active, inhabiting shallow waters looking for baitfish.
Anglers who fish at night during the summer months also like to use lights to their advantage.
While catfish are not necessarily attracted to lights like other types of fish are, they are attracted to baitfish and baitfish are attracted to light!
If you can bring in the baitfish, you stand a very good chance at luring in the cats!
Will Catfish Bite in Cold Weather
With the cold weather, comes cold water temperatures! While the drop in temperatures can cause catfish and other fish to become more lethargic, they will still pounce on a freshly cut chunk of shad or other baits that you usually use.
Depending on where you are fishing, you might need a boat in order to reach them though!
Once the water temperatures drop below 50 degrees, catfish will seek deeper water for warmth. This could include, creek and river channels, to deep water drop-offs in lake and ponds.
Keep in mind that the cold not only causes catfish to become more lethargic but it also causes the baitfish to move a little slower as well.
A big cat will not pass up a chance to snatch up a slow-moving threadfin or shad for an easy meal.
Catfish will often return to the same spot year after year, so once you find your honey hole, you should be able to rely on it to produce cats every winter.
Remember to dress for the cold and exercise lots of patience, as the bite tends to be a bit slower during the winter, especially the time between each feeding frenzy.
Can You Catch Catfish From The Bank
After rereading this article, it almost sounds like you have to have a boat in order to get where the catfish are.
This is just not true!
While a boat can make things a little bit easier for getting to where the catfish may be holed up, especially during the day, it’s not an absolute must that you have one in order to take home a stringer full of cats.
Fishing from the bank can be extremely productive, especially if you know where to fish.
While catfish will occasionally venture into the shallows, your best bet in catching them is in deeper water.
If you don’t have a boat, this can sometimes be a problem!
However, if you have a good rod and reel that can cast a mile, you should be okay.
It might also be a good idea to invest in one of those new castable fish finders. Not necessarily to see the fish, but to map out the bottom. A fish finder will give you contours and different depths of the waters you’ll be fishing.
Who knows, you could have a deep water drop-off that’s holding catfish only a few yards out from where you are fishing and not even know it.
I’ve also heard of shore anglers having great success when fishing alongside dams, river bends, around fallen tree stumps.
However, my all time favorite place to fish when fishing from the bank are river or stream mouths and around runoff drainage pipes.
In fact, my best day of ever fishing for catfish was after it had rained for several days and a creek that I sometimes fished was at max capacity and overflowing into a nearby lake.
My dad and I fished where the creek emptied into the lake and totally killed the cats that day.
Honestly, that day was the most successful day of fishing that I’ve ever had!
Best Baits for Catching Catfish
Catfish are a bottom feeder that will eat just about anything that you throw their way, including:
- Chicken Liver
- Cut Baits
- Hot Dogs
Gulp also has a prepared catfish bait on the market that works pretty good. The Gulp bait is artificial shad guts and has a bad smell to the human nose but catfish seem to love it.
When it comes down to eat, catfish are not picky eaters!
With that being said, you can increase your chances if you use the bait that the particular type of catfish you are targeting likes most.
Most anglers will either target blues, channels, or flatheads.
While you can catch all of them on the same bait, each prefers something different!
Blues – For blues, it’s fresh caught shad or skipjack in most cases.
Channel Cats – The best baits for channel catfish are prepared baits, like dip and punch baits.
Flatheads – Flatheads love a good hearty, live bait such as live perch, bluegill, sunfish, or mudcats.
My personal favorite when it comes to catching any kind of catfish is cut up hotdogs.
It’s a simple, yet extremely effective bait!
What Size Rod and Reel do I Need for Catfish
The size of rod and reel that you use when fishing for catfish depends on the size of catfish that you are targeting.
If you’re going to your backyard pond to try your luck, then you more than likely can use any lightweight fishing rod and reel.
However, if you plan on fishing for the big boys, then you’re going to need something with a little more backbone!
Unless I’m fishing for catfish bigger than 20 lbs (not very often), I will use my normal saltwater setup. That includes a 5000 spinning reel on a 7ft medium/light fast action rod. I also use 15-pound braided line.
If I were to fish for really big catfish, I would probably opt for a spinning reel in the 7000-8000 range and pair it with a medium/heavy action rod. I would also spool it with a 30-50 lb braided fishing line.
There are many ways to skin a cat, or in this case, catch a cat! The trick is to find out what works for you and the only way to do that is to go fishing as often as possible.
With that being said, the best time of day to go catfishing, in my opinion, is still during the nighttime hours!
However, like I’ve stated throughout this article, with a little planning, you can catch catfish anytime during the day.
Do you have any thoughts as to what’s the best time to go catfishing? Do you have any tips that you would like to share?
If so, please leave a comment below!