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The Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish

Catfish aren’t known for being picky eaters. They’ll bite at many different types of bait – especially catfish bait that smells strong. While you can catch catfish at all times of the day, there are definitely specific windows that are the best time of day to catch catfish. Wondering what they are? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll start by letting you in on the secret of the best time of day to catch catfish. Then, we’ll go over the best temperatures for catching catfish, as well as the best seasons for catching catfish. You might have the best catfish equipment in the world, but if you aren’t fishing at the right time you most likely won’t catch anything. We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen!

The Best Time of Day for Catfish Fishing

While we had our own beliefs on the best time of day to catch catfish, we reached out to every catfish fishermen in our network to get their take on it. After polling many of our catfish fishing friends, we confirmed that the best time of day is an hour before sunset to two hours after sunset. This is when they come out from the deeper water they were hiding in the warmer hours of the day to hunt.

Catfish enjoy resting in the deeper parts of rivers and lakes because the water temperature is more suitable for them. It also keeps them out of danger from natural predators like larger fish and birds. Once the sun begins to set, the water temperature in the shallows cools and becomes more comfortable for the catfish.

This is advantageous for fishermen because these shallow areas are also much easier to get to when fishing from shore. If you’re not sure what type of bait to use, check out our catfish dough bait article to learn several recipes you can make at home.

Cast your bait out approximately one hour before sunset and wait at least 30 minutes in one spot. If you don’t get any bites, move to another location on the lake or river. Look for areas where the water gets deeper quickly, and areas where weeds or other underwater structure are nearby for baitfish.

Do Catfish Feed More at Night or During the Day?

Catfish feed at both times of day, but it depends on the season. In the warmer summer months, catfish hunt almost exclusively at dusk and at night due to being predominantly a nocturnal fish. This is because the water temperature is too hot for them in the shallow water during the day, so they rest in the deeper areas until it gets dark. Once the sun is down and the shallow water has cooled down, catfish will roam freely hunting for unlucky bluegills and shad.

During the winter, however, catfish tend to feed more during the day. This is because the temperature patterns flip – the best temperature for hunting occurs during the day, and at night the catfish go to the deeper areas to stay warm. 

What is the Best Temperature to Catch Catfish?

Now that you know that the best time of day to catch catfish is dependent on water temperature, what is the best temperature to catch catfish? Catfish enjoy relatively warm waters, with ideal conditions being around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This doesn’t mean you can’t catch them when the water is other temperatures, however. Catfish will be active in water temperatures between 50 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The Best Season to Catch Catfish

The best season to fish for catfish depends a lot on whether or not you have a boat and if you’re will to fish at night. Catfish can be caught year-round, you just have to adjust your style of fishing. Let’s go over the best ways to fish depending on the season.

The Best Time of Day in the Summer

Fishing for catfish in the summer is usually either boom or bust. Since catfish spend almost the entire day in deeper water, the only time you can fish for them from shore is around dusk and at night. If you have a boat, however, you can fish for them in the middle of the day. All you need to do is get your bait in front of where they’re resting. If you can do that, you’ll most likely end up catching more than one! Catfish tend to congregate in schools during warm days to stay out of the heat.

During the day, focus on holes, cut banks, or areas with cover or depth to attempt coaxing a catfish into biting. At night, the catfish will be actively cruising in shallower waters to find prey and are actively feeding in most cases.

The Best Time of Day in the Fall

Many fishermen argue that fall is the best time to fish for catfish. One of their main prey, shad, begins its spawning season which brings hungry catfish out in droves. Water temperatures are also cooler than in the summertime which emboldens catfish to come out from the depths earlier in the day. As the fall begins to transition to winter, another important factor begins to impact their eating habits. As with most fish, they will be preparing for the winter months by adding extra fat reserves. This means lots of hungry catfish at all times of the day. The best time of day to catch catfish in the fall is most of the day.

The Best Time of Day in the Winter

While most catfish fishermen think the fall is the best season, they would probably also agree that winter is the worst season. Full of extra fat from their feast in the fall, catfish tend to skip most bait that comes their way in the winter. We recommend waiting until spring to go catfish fishing. If you do decide to go fishing for catfish in the winter, be sure to check out our guide on winter catfishing from the bank.

The Best Time of Day in the Spring

Spring can be a decent time to catfish, especially if you wait for the latter half of the season. If the water temperature is still cold early on, then the catfish will behave like it’s winter and not be feeding. If it’s later in April and May, however, they’ll begin to be more active and feed more as the water temperature improves. The best time of day to catch catfish in the spring is later in the afternoon to dusk.

How to Catch Catfish

Giant catfish

Catfish are voracious predators, and are technically bottom feeders, and your bait selection will typically consist of live bait like shad, bullheads, or other fish. Cut bait and other bait like chicken liver can also be used, and some anglers have their own recipes and methods for certain bait types.

Typically a simple weighted rig is used to keep the bait on the bottom, and in other situations a float rig will be your best bet.

Catfish can be found in many locations, from deep holes, areas with submerged timber, the main river channel, or eddies and slack water areas.

A good sonar unit can help you find depression in the main river channel, or specific spots like stumps, rocks, and other pieces of structure than can consistently hold catfish, if you don’t have a sonar unit, the you should get one, the benefits of having one far outweigh the costs.

Before we part ways, we thought it made sense to quickly go over what you need to catch catfish and some basic techniques. Since channel catfish are the most common type of catfish, we’ll briefly cover the types of fishing tackle that work best for them.

For catfish fishing rods, we recommend using a surf fishing rod. Surf fishing rods will give you more flexibility when fishing from shore and allow you to cast your catfish bait far out into the lake where bigger catfish like to hide. The extra size of the rod will also help you battle a large catfish up from the depths.

As far as reels go, we also recommend using either a surfcasting reel or a heavier bottom fishing reel when fishing for catfish. Both options will work well with thick monofilament or braided fishing line (20-40 lbs).

For the best catfish rig, we recommend using a standard fish finder rig. The pyramid weight will help get your bait down to where the catfish like to hang out, and the thick leader will prevent a large catfish from breaking you off.

Parting Thoughts

Know the best time of day to catch catfish can be crucial in catfishing success or getting skunked. While they may not be picky in the type of bait they eat, they are particular on the time of day they like to feed. We hope after reading this article, you now feel more prepared for your next catfish adventure. Catch a monster catfish outside of the time slots we suggest? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Happy Hunting!


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