Catfishing is a popular hobby for fisherman, but unlike other fish, there definitely are good and bad times to catfish. So, you need to know what is the best time of day to catch catfish.
The answer isn’t “whenever you can go” or “when you get off of work.” While yes, in theory, it’s possible to fish for catfish whenever you want, but if you want to increase your chances of success – don’t we all? – then you need to know the best time of day to catch catfish.
It’s important to know what affects the catfishing.
The time of day, the season, and the weather conditions all dramatically affect when you may land catfish. In general, the best time of day to catch catfish is one to two hours before sunset and two to three hours after sunrise. However, in the winter, this changes, and you can catch catfish in the winter from late morning until just before sunset.
This aren’t hard rules though!
Keep reading to take a deeper look at the best time of day to catch catfish.
What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish?
The best time of the day to catch catfish is from sunrise until 10am. Most people assume that nighttime is ideal, but fisherman have the most success from 6 am to 10 am, depending on when the sun rises in your area.
This time frame is ideal for catfishing because the sun is coming out but it’s not yet directly overheard, and the water temperatures are still cool from the evening before. Catfish are active at this time because they want to eat before the sun warms the water too much, forcing the prey fish to seek cover.
If you can’t get out during this time to try catfishing, the next best time of day to catch catfish is the last two hours before sunset followed by the two to three hours after sunset. Trees often cover the angle of the sun, causing cooler waters. As soon as the water temperature starts to get cooler, catfish come out to feed.
It’s easy to see that the time of day and amount of sun that the body of water receives plays a significant factor in your success rate and the activity level of the catfish. Baitfish and prey fish that catfish seek will look for cover during the middle and hottest parts of the day.
The Best Time to Catch Catfish Based on the Seasons
As I mentioned, figuring out the best time to catch catfish is more than just the actual times – seasons matter as well. Let’s examine each season and how it pertains to catfishing.
Spring has a big range of temperatures, and that will change the times you should go catfishing. In early spring, the ice is still melting with freezing temperatures at night time, so catfish tend to behavior similar to winter. If you want to go catfishing in early spring, your best bet is to go during the middle to latter part of the day because the warmer water temps will cause them to look for food.
Since days are still short at this time frame, fishing is limited. You’ll only be able to hit up the rivers and lakes for a few hours each day.
As spring progresses and temperatures change, catfish become more active towards the late evening. Fishing from shore is ideal in the spring since they’ll gravitate to the warmer shore waters.
Spring is a major transitional season. The water starts to warm up, causing the fish to become more active, feeding quite aggressively. Then, a cold snap hits and the water temperature drops rapidly. Ideally, it’s best to avoid days when temperatures drop and rise suddenly.
The best fishing happens when weather stabilizes, and the temperatures start to steadily rise. You’ll notice catfish moving closer to shore, so skip the boat and fish from river banks or lake shores. The fish are on the prowl for food since they want to gain weight after losing it during the winter. Spawn season is on its way!
Summer is typically the best time of the year to catch bigger catfish.
In the summer months, catfish hunt the most at nighttime, typically an hour before sunset until two hours after sunrise. This is a great window for fishing.
We might love hot summer days, but catfish head for deeper water and cool temperatures. It also means fishermen get to skip the sun beating down on our necks and fish during the cool temperatures at night.
Our family loves heading out for some night fishing. However, you have to be patient since it takes more time for catfish to see your cut bait like chicken liver or live bait.
At this time, catfish come out from their deeper holes in the lakes and rivers, seeking bluegill, perch, and shad. Fishing from the bank and boat yield great results. Another option is to catfish in the daytime by boat if you find where they are; they tend to be bunched up together.
Catfish Spawn Season is in Summer Too
Catfish spawn season starts at the end of spring until the beginning to mid summer, and fishing during spawn season is typically less successful than other seasons.
Fish behave different during spawn season; they have one focus at this time. After the spawn season, the typical fishing pattern is ideal.
Another great season for catfishing is fall, and this is when we really see the color shad becoming a favorite for catfish. Shad start to gather together, and catfish love to hunt during this season.
Early in the fall season, catfish often behave very similar to summer because the temperatures are still relatively the same. The best time of day to catch catfish in early fall is from sunset until sunrise.
In late fall as winter approaches, water temperatures plummet, and your catfishing plan of action starts to resemble that of wintertime. Plan to fish more towards the middle or later parts of the day with live or cut bait to catch all the catfish.
Catfish aren’t nearly as active in the winter as they are in other seasons. They hide in the winter, trying to stay as warm as possible. They tend to keep their belly on the bottom of the deepest hole they can find, so if you’re heading out on a winter catfish trip, look for the deepest holes you can find.
That’s why, the best time in winter to catch catfish is in the late morning up until near-sunset. Don’t attempt to catfish at night in the winter; you won’t have the results you want. However, if you experience any rain or weather event that causes the air temperatures to go up, it’s time to get out and catfish; channel catfish and other big ones start to come out, looking for a bite to eat.
The Time of Day to Catch Catfish Based on Species
Most catfish anglers realize there are several breeds of cats, and all species of catfish have similarities and differences. Most act in predictable ways, but it’s important to know the differences to increase the chances of landing a catfish.
Fishing for Flathead Catfish
Flatheads may be caught during day and night, the same as other species. They hide in deep shade throughout the day while searching for food in the evenings and nighttime.
Flatheads are most active from May to October, but their activity levels decrease in midsummer. This is due to the water temperatures increasing, and winter is when you are less likely to have any success at all. Flatheads are slower in the winter than blue or channel catfish.
Fishing for Blue Catfish
Blue cats are different than flathead and channels.
It’s possible to catch these fish in the winter, unlike flathead. In fact, prime blue catfishing is between mid winter and early spring; you’ll catch large fish during this time frame. However, fishing during this time is hard.
Let’s be honest; who likes to fish when it’s freezing outside?
You’ll find good bites from mid March throughout April. Then, when spawning season hits, the fishing for blue catfishes worsens, but it picks up in the first half of fall again.
Fishing for Channel Catfish
Catfish anglers fish for channel cats all year around, but if you head out in the winter, you’re more likely to catch a channel than a flathead. However, they are most active from late spring until the fall with a decrease in the spawning season.
Do Catfish Feed More at Night or During the Day?
It’s a common idea that catfish only feed during the nighttime, but that is inaccurate. Catfish don’t feed anymore at night than they do during the day.
Remember, catfish are opportunistic predatory fish, so they feed when the conditions make it the easiest for them to locate their prey. They don’t want to put anymore work into getting their next meal.
So, the time of year, weather conditions, and types of body all matter and determine when catfish feed the most. It’s important to know that catfish feed during the day and night, but if the day is hot, they may be inactive. They may hunt during the nighttime, but they may not.
Is Catfishing Good During the Middle of the Day?
The hottest parts of the day are in the middle of the day, running from 1 PM to 4 PM if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. During this time of day, catfish, along with other predatory fish, seek cover, sinking low into the body of water where the light will not penetrate.
Catfish may also hide under submerge logs, stumps, docks, bridges, or any other type of cover. Cats look for deep structures that give them the best spots to stay cool. You often can find some trophy class catfish here.
So, catfishing is generally not good in the middle of the day. This is why grandpa got out to the lake or river as soon as he got coffee brewed in the morning – that’s why those predator fish are out seeking a bite to eat.
However, that’s not always the case.
If the day is very cloudy or overcast, it’s possible that the fish activity may be more sporadic throughout the day rather than having defined peak times.
That’s why some fishermen love fishing in the rain! Rain cools off the water temperature, causing catfish to be on the move, seeking out insects and larvae. Rain stimulates catfish to hunt because they need their whiskers more in muddy water.
FAQs about the Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish
What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish in a Lake?
Headed out to your favorite lake to land a catfish? The best time to fish is before the sun gets directly overhead; otherwise, the catfish will dive deep and be hard to find. Fish the early morning hours or before the sun fully sets for the day.
Lakes are unique fishing grounds for catfish because the depths of the lake vary so widely. That’s why having a fish finder on your boat is a great idea because it helps you determine the depth where you want to try to find the catfish.
When you catfish in a lake, stage your baits at various depths to try to figure out where the fish may be located. Big catfish often feed in shallower water right along the bank, even in waters as shallow was one or two feet, during periods of low lights. As the water gets warmer later in the day, catfish move to the deeper waters.
What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Catfish in Rivers?
If you’re headed out to your local river to catch some catfish, the warmer months are your best bet between 6 AM and 10 AM or the last two hours before sunset.
You can increase your chances of landing a big catfish by fishing during a period of heavy rain because currents and water flow are high. Look for sandbars, creek mouths, and tidal jams to land the big catfish, especially if you’re seeking channel and flathead catfish since they use those areas for hunting.
What is the Best Time to Catfish from the Bank?
If you’re catfishing only from the shore, the best time to go fishing is around sunset until midnight, as long as the lake has gradual slopes.
Steep banks or prominent hills on one side typically indicates deeper holes near the shores. Catfish go deep into these areas, which are like holes near the walls, and they’re within easy casting range. If you find a good spot, you’re likely to find several catfish in one area.
If your lake has all flat land around it, fish at nighttime because catfish move into these shallow, flat areas before sunset and stay there throughout the night for feedings. During the day at these flat lakes, chances are the catfish are in the middle, way too far from shore if you’re trying to cast. They like to find deep holes to hide.
How Deep Should You Fish for Catfish?
Catfishing is unique because you fish for catfish with your bait on the bottom rather than suspended in the water. Catfish swim along the bottom of lakes and rivers, searching for food with their whiskers. It’s not common to find catfish in the middle of the water column.
How deep you should fish for catfish depends on how deep your lake or river is. In general, the suggestion is start fishing at the deepest point you can and gradually work to shallow water until you find the catfish.
Yes, it takes time, but it works!
However, this is why I suggest catfishing with several poles at one time. If you have more than one pole out at different depths, you increase your chance of finding the catfish.
What is the Best Month to Catch Catfish?
The best month to catch catfish varies based on where you live, but if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, May is considered the best time to catch catfish. It’s late enough in the year that you typically won’t have ice on the water, unless you live in a much more northern region, but it’s early enough that catfish start their more aggressive feeding patterns.
May, June, and July are great months for catching catfish. This is because these months have long days and warm water temperatures, and there are plenty of forage fish that catfish want to eat, like minnows, worms, larvae, and insects.
Do Moon Phases Affect Catfishing?
Research cannot prove one way or another if moon phases affect catfishing, but anglers have their own opinions. In my experience, moon phases affect catfish to some degree, but it’s different than other species.
For example, pike and bass rely fully on their vision to hunt, so they bite and hunt best during the full moon. The extra light allows these fish to find food much easier in the upper feet of the water column. On the other hand, during the new moon – aka no moon – phase, it’s much darker, so these fish tend to bite less often.
Catfish aren’t the same.
A lot of fishermen find that catfish bite less during full moons. Remember, these fish use more than their sight to fish. They bite on any given night, but I have the best results on darker nights.
Every angler wants to land the big catfish for the season, but we don’t have all day to sit by the water. So, use what you now know about the best time of day to catch catfish to increase your chances of landing the big one.